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No GMO Labelling in California

Posted 13 November 2012 by Anastasia O'Rourke to Ecolabel News | No Comments |

Controversial Proposition 37 was voted down this week by Californians. This proposition would have required food and beverage manufacturers inform to consumers of the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on the product’s label.

It was a close vote – some 52.9% were against, 47.1% for it, indicating widespread support for labeling and also a growing awareness and interest in the origins and impacts of our food system.

According to the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), consumer beliefs affected the outcome, namely that:

  • some consumers say “I don’t understand it so I don’t care”
  • some consumers fear that labeling GMOs would increase the cost of food
  • some consumers believe that GMOs are necessary to feed the world’s population.

Given these numbers, we can expect a rise in popularity of the “Contains no GMO’s” variety of claims and labels…or on the flipside, of the “contains GMO” grassroots-guerrilla kind (see Label It Yourself).

FTC Releases New Guidance for Ecolabels

Posted 2 October 2012 by Anastasia O'Rourke to Ecolabel News | No Comments |

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released their long-awaited update to the Green Marketing Guides yesterday.

Given the influence of US markets, these guidelines will have implications for companies, ecolabels, certifiers and advertisers worldwide, and future posts will provide some more context and analysis.

A new section can be found on pages 10-15 that addresses ‘certifications and seals of approval’. Where the 1998 guide covered the topic only via an example, in this iteration a new section is devoted to the issue “given the widespread use of certifications and seals and their potential for deception”.

The five guidelines related to certifications and seals of approval are:

(a) It is deceptive to misrepresent, directly or by implication, that a product, package, or service has been endorsed or certified by an independent third party.

(b) A marketer’s use of the name, logo, or seal of approval of a third-party certifier or organization may be an endorsement. Therefore, they should meet the criteria for endorsements provided in the FTC’s Endorsement Guides.

(c) Third-party certification does not eliminate a marketer’s obligation to ensure that it has substantiation for all claims reasonably communicated by the certification.

(d) A marketer’s use of an environmental certification or seal of approval likely conveys that the product offers a general environmental benefit (see § 260.4) if the certification or seal does not convey the basis for the certification or seal, either through the name or some other means. Because it is highly unlikely that marketers can substantiate general environmental benefit claims, marketers should not use environmental certifications or seals that do not convey the basis for the certification.

(e) Marketers can qualify general environmental benefit claims conveyed by environmental certifications and seals of approval to prevent deception about the nature of the environmental benefit being asserted. To avoid deception, marketers should use clear and prominent qualifying language that clearly conveys that the certification or seal refers only to specific and limited benefits.

The more detailed “Statement of Basis and Purpose” supplement works through how and why this route was taken, with a description of the draft text, a summary of the types of comments received (and the fun bit – how organisations specifically commented), followed by their analysis and final guidance.

The New York Times offers an assessment and summary here. Now that the new guidelines have been issued, attention will likely turn to both how environmental claims can be best integrated into decision making based on this new guidance, and how enforcement is likely to unfold.

Organic means Organic at Whole Foods

Posted 25 September 2012 by Anastasia O'Rourke to Ecolabel News | No Comments |

We’ve long been impressed with just how many ecolabels you can find at Whole Foods (aka ecolabel-land). But once you stepped from food to the personal care aisle, if you were paying attention, it seemed that some of the rules started shifting around. Organic was sometimes USDA Organic and sometimes not, and the rules for % ingredients were also kind of jumbled.

Recognizing this issue two years ago, Whole Foods has been diligently working with their suppliers to correct this situation and start to bring some greater cohesion to the jumble of claims.

And a Whole Foods press release today announces that now all personal care products are in compliance with the company’s guidelines requiring all personal care products making a front-of-label organic claim to be certified either to USDA organic standards or the NSF/ANSI 305 organic personal care standard. More specifically, the policy mandates:

  • Products making an “Organic” product claim − Must be certified to the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) standard for organic (>95%) products.
  • Products making a “Made with Organic [Ingredient]” claim − Must be certified to the USDA’s National Organic Program standard for Made with Organic (>70%) products.
  • Products making a “Contains Organic [Ingredient]” claim − Must be certified to the NSF/ANSI 305 Organic Personal Care Standard.
  • Products listing an organic ingredient in the “Ingredients:” listing − Organic ingredient must be certified to the USDA NOP standard.

Good news for consumers, good news for those suppliers meeting these two standards, and for both of the USDA and NSF/ANSI standards working to identify better personal care claims.