To Hem or to Haw – Is Ethical Labeling Necessary?

In “Fair Trade Goods from Danger Zones: Is the Label Necessary?” Leon Kaye refers specifically to olive growers in conflict-ridden Palestine as a group who would benefit greatly from the foreign purchase of their goods.  As it turns out, there are SA8000 certified olive farms in Palestine; and Zaytoun, a community interest company, was the first in the olive oil industry to receive the Fairtrade Foundation mark.  However, small farmers in other conflict areas may not be able to afford to be certified, or just may not know about the benefits.

“These goods may not always sport a trendy feel-good “fair trade” label, but their purchase allows the Diaspora to help their homeland financially.” – Kaye

Now I’m not saying that everyone should go out and switch from Italian olive oil to Palestinian olive oil, but I am saying that consumers should take their time when shopping at the supermarket and pay attention to information like the product’s country of origin.  Labels and certifications are helpful in steering consumers in the right direction, but if people are well-informed about what is going on in the world, their own knowledge should be sufficient to purchase a good based on its country of origin.

When I go to the supermarket from now on, I plan to buy at least some of my food from places that, to the best of my knowledge, will benefit the most.  Perhaps I will choose to buy apples grown in upstate New York, or dried fruit from Uganda, or even olive oil made in Palestine.  Either way, I can make a difference by being a more conscious-consumer.

As Kaye put it: Is “hemming and hawing” over whether or not goods from troubled, conflicted countries have the fair trade label really worth the angst?  I guess that’s up to each one of us to decide for ourselves.

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