Time to push for USDA certification of "sustainably grown"

09/12/2012 08:16:00 AM
Tom Karst

A more formal standard is needed for a "sustainably grown" label. Some have suggested the lines between conventional and organic produce will eventually blur. Perhaps that day would come sooner with a USDA certification of "sustainable" farming practices.

Because of cost and confusion, retailers should not be involved in setting their own standards for sustainable growing methods.

I think a "sustainably grown" U.S. Department of Agriculture certification/label should be a goal for our major trade associations during the next decade. Determining the parameters of what "sustainable" means will be a matter of debate, of course. I think that in the end. a "sustainably grown" certification will result in enhanced transparency. Consumers who buy USDA-certified sustainable produce will see the inputs applied to the produce and the  "continuous improvement" plan for each farming operation.

Under the sustainable certification model, growers and the entire supply chain should be able to add value to their produce without adding as much cost as strictly organic growing methods. With the recent Stanford University study finding no substantial nutrition or food safety advantage to organic, there appears to be an opportunity for sustainable farming methods to step into the gap in the public consciousness.

Here is a poll question about the issue:

Would USDA certification/labeling of "sustainable" farming practices for fresh produce bring value to the supply chain and to consumers? Why or why not?

I think it is time for a USDA certified "sustainably grown" label. What's your view?


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Jeff Pieracci    
San Jose Ca  |  September, 12, 2012 at 01:09 PM

I don't know about the rest of you but I am getting tired of the buzz words and causes. Anyone still growing today in California, putting product in commerce, has passed the intitial sustainability test I'd say! Is anyone using DDT or leaving the water on all night?.....Sorry i'm cranky. I just spent 3 hourd doing my News Letters and Local 150 List...whats next a Sustainability List, who's naughty and not playing nice! Agh! Jeff

Tom K    
Lenexa  |  September, 13, 2012 at 11:10 AM

Jeff, I liked your thot about passing the initial sustainability test by just putting product in commerce. If sustainability does become a bigger issue, wouldn't you want just one standard/certification from the USDA rather than retailers asking for their own audits and scores? Tom K

Levi    
USA  |  September, 18, 2012 at 09:05 AM

The whole issue is who defines "sustainability". For instance is the multiple cultivations to control weeds in organic "more sustainable" than herbicide applications in an herbicide resistant gmo sweet corn? Or how about in forestry and logging, is selective harvest more sustainable than clear cutting when selective harvest can remove the species of high value and leave only poor quality and low value species for future harvests? If the consumer drives the definition, then you're letting the least informed parties make decisions that have wide ranging impacts.

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