Proposed “Certified Sustainable” Label Could Cause Confusion for Consumers

Labels are important, especially when food shopping. But, with the proposition of a new sustainability certification by the National Sustainable Agriculture Standards established under the regulations of the American National Standards Institute, foods that have been grown with chemicals and pesticides would be categorized and labeled as sustainable. The Leonardo Academy, an environmental think tank located in Wisconsin, has been mediating the discussion of this certification.

The labeling would lead people to believe that they are purchasing organic foods when really those foods have been genetically modified. The discussion of this certification standard began in 2007 and originated with strong organic principles and as a means to address workers’ issues and social rights. But now, environmental advocates, such as Jeff Moyer, who is a member of The Leonardo Academy and chair of the National Organic Standards Board, said in a Rodale article that organic principles have been downplayed and the emphasis is on satisfying the chemical agriculture lobby. The overall concern is that this could be a green washing campaign supported by agriculture business.

Moyer also said in the article, that he is concerned that consumers will be confused by the “certified sustainable” label, thinking it means the same as a USDA Organic label. He also said there is a lot of input from agriculture businesses in the developing of the sustainable-agriculture standards.  If this certification is approved, it would give the sustainable label to foods that have been grown with pesticides and chemicals.

This term sustainable is usually associated with organic and green practices. Critics say they have a problem with the approval of this label being that consumers are already perplexed by what competing labels mean. Another apprehension is that the misleading logo will attract consumers who are looking for healthier foods away from organic foods. 

The sustainable certification could be approved by 2012.