These days a lot of folks are switching to organic produce, and that includes things like teas. In line with this trend, the move to have that organic status be certified is also growing. This leads to some questions:
- Growers, do you really need that organic status certification for your agricultural product?
- Consumers, do you need it when buying organic produce?
In both cases I would say it is often not needed.
Why Certification Came About
The call for organic produce turned into a frantic labeling of products as organic in the marketplace to get people to buy them. It soon came to light that not all of these products were raised in a way that could be in line with what most people thought of as organic. Plus, standards for this type of agriculture had not been established. People were doing whatever they thought was appropriate. As is usually the case in such situations, an over-reaction took place, with a call for anything labeled as organic to go through rigid and expensive testing.
This certification for organic produce is sad to see for several reasons:
- Lack of trust – caused to fakery by some growers in labeling products as organically grown (the resulting lack of trust among consumers was addressed by this call for certification, leading to a side industry charging high prices for testing).
- Lack of standards – some are calling for standards for specialty teas, but what about clear standards for organics that can be met and proved that they have been met without expensive testing?
- Shut out of the market – the cost to get certified can be a heavy burden on small growers barely getting by, with fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars (often their entire income from a crop).
- Unnecessary costs for consumers – when cruising some other tea vendors’ sites, I noticed some tea blends where lots of other ingredients (spices, flowers, fruits, etc.) that have been added in with the tea leaves are having to show as organic-certified. The cost of certification has to be passed on to you, the consumer, so those products end up costing about 20-30% more, often with no assurance of better quality.
Getting Away from That Need to Certify
There are legitimate situations where certifying something as organically grown is a waste of time and money. The basic issue is trust, and that is what needs to be restored in the mind of consumers. The issue of fake organic products is certainly a real one and a legitimate cause for concern, as is any fakery, especially where teas are concerned (they are often consumed at least in part for their healthful properties). Lack of standards helps lead to that lack of trust, also. So what is a solution here that would be inexpensive for small growers to implement and showing our trust in them? Well, I have a thought in that area…
Proposal: Supplier’s Guarantee of Purity
Simple. Effective. Have the supplier issue a signed guarantee of purity showing that he/she knows that the growers follow organic standards for the ingredients. (Quite frankly, we only deal with suppliers we trust and that we are sure already know this, but we understand that you might want some assurance.)
Often suppliers know the growers better than anyone. They know how the various ingredients are cultivated. And they know the financial burden (a wall closing them off from the market) such certifications can be. And I, for one, think this attitude can make the world a little bit better place to live in.
Your thoughts welcome (as always)!