A ship gone off-course
In a food system riddled with a lack of clarity, transparency and trust, we need all hands on deck to steer our ship in the right direction. When it comes to our grocery aisles and the food system in which we live and are nourished, there’s no lack of causes to champion. We need people fighting against over-harvesting of the ocean and the exploitation of global south food producers. We need people advocating for fair working conditions and just animal rearing practices. We want eyes on seed stewardship and ecosystem conservation.
Everyone plays a part
The best labels in our grocery store tackle unique problems in our food system. You’ll find Fairtrade addressing social and economic sustainability, advocating for fair labor practices, safe working conditions and adequate waste disposal. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) monitors science-based requirements for wild-caught fish, ensuring aquaculture products are traceable and sustainable. And, you’ll see the Non-GMO Project protecting the natural food supply, offering transparency and much-needed consumer education about the ingredients that go into our food.
With a sea of labels tackling specific problems with our food industry, the take-home message is this: Each of us has a part to play, and each part is necessary. We need each other. Individual third-party certifications move our food system towards sustainability and accountability in our areas of focus. We can’t do this in a vacuum or in a one-stop-shop effort; we depend on our individual strengths to support, compliment and advance each other's work.
Fairtrade America's Kate Stritzinger beautifully describes our essential interconnection:
“Our broken food system cannot be fixed in a silo. The business of feeding people across the globe is inherently complex – bringing together humans across the planet as both creators and consumers, crossing countless sectors and industries, and affecting ecosystems everywhere in between. While we might all work on different parts of this interconnected web, we believe deep collaboration with partners like the Non-GMO Project and Marine Stewardship Council are crucial in our collective efforts to create long-lasting, sustainable change.”
Loose labeling laws and justifiable skepticism
However, there is justifiable skepticism about marketing claims in the grocery aisles. Brands can promote themselves with all manner of self-made claims. All natural! Sustainable! Climate-smart! Food-labeling laws in the United States allow for a hefty serving of bravado and marketing double-talk, making it hard to know what to trust and what to disregard.
Third-party certification on the scene
Third-party certifications are essential for backing up product claims. Third-party labels hold brands to an objective standard which products must meet. These organizations provide tangible benefits to people and the planet through their programs and services. When you purchase a product with the Marine Stewardship Council's blue fish, the Non-GMO Project's orange Butterfly seal, or the Fairtrade mark, your choice supports the continued work and impact of an organization you care about. That's why it's critical to ensure that consumers know the difference between fact and fiction, accredited label or self-made claim.
Partnership in action: "Little Labels, Big Impact"
Every year, the Non-GMO Project partners with other organizations to educate the public about the third-party certifications behind our labels. We call this campaign Little Labels, Big Impact. The Non-GMO Project team is honored to work with such visionaries to rebuild a food system we can believe in.
“Working together with the Non-GMO Project and Fairtrade America has been so valuable to educate Americans about the rigor behind food certification labels, and the impact of third-party certification on the environment and workers. Together our “Little Labels, Big Impact” campaign is empowering shoppers to buy products that align with their values, which is increasingly important in this day and age where people are concerned about where their food comes from and how it was harvested.” – Jackie Marks, senior public relations manager at the Marine Stewardship Council
Keep an eye out in your favorite local grocery store to learn more about this partnership!
By Madi Burke, guest writer. As a writer, explorer, and incessantly curious person, Madi Burke has always felt passionate about the natural world, our lived environments, and how to create more equitable systems that bring people closer to the nourishment and quality of life that comes with an integrated relationship to the earth. After receiving her undergraduate degree in sociology and speech communications, Madi went on to lead cycling trips in national parks, support nonprofit development, and now gets to help organizations tell their story as a freelance writer and brand manager.