One of the challenges of today’s world is fair trade, especially fair trade food. You probably know of the dreary conditions in which farmers toil to provide us with cheap food every day. Is cheap food sustainable and what does cheap food actually mean in terms of fair trade food? Have you also ever thought of what that cheap food comes at the expense of?
Worldwatch Institute posted a very touching yet absolutely realistic video on fair trade food and forced labor in Mexico. Yes, the same farmers that provide America with veggies and fruits. We all go to the supermarkets to do our weekly shopping and most of us rarely (if ever) think about where all that food came from.
What is the actual price of food in terms of labor cost and fair trade? Should we ignore the inhumane working conditions under which produce offer might have been harvested? What about the environmental impact in the long run?
Coalition for Immokalee Workers and Fair Trade Food
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is an organization fighting for better conditions for farm laborers. They have been building partnerships with major fast food establishments and grocery stores, such as Whole Foods.
CIW asks these large corporations to use their purchasing power to incentivize fair treatment of farm labourers. That happens through purchasing produce from suppliers that can prove they treat their labourers fairly as part of their fair trade food initiatives.
For example, Chipotle, a large American tex-mex chain, has been approached by CIW numerous times with invitations to join the growing list of large corporations taking a stand against unfair treatment of farm workers. But, Chipotle has turned down each and every one.
At first glance, the popular fast-food chain would seem like an obvious partner for CIW to work on fair trade food. It had a tie-in with the 2009 release of the film (watch below), Food INC, sponsoring free screenings of the film and distributing promotional material at all of its restaurant locations.
Chipotle’s CEO, Steve Ells stars in the NBC reality series America’s Next Great Restaurant and has received significant press surrounding his supposed goal to provide good fast food to American consumers with “integrity of ingredients.”
Is this fair trade food, though?
The restaurant’s website prominently features descriptions of the “naturally raised animals” that provide the meat for its menu. The meat Chipotle serves is from animals that are
- “raised in a humane way,
- fed a vegetarian diet,
- never given hormones and allowed to display their natural tendencies.”
Does it sound like fair trade food to you?
However, Chipotle refuses to work with CIW and other organizations that promote the rights of farm workers. For years, the company has declined invitations to join the other large corporations working with CIW to promote fair labour practices on America’s farms.
How to Help
Chipotle refuses to throw its financial weight towards the improvement of working conditions for farm labourers. At the same time, CIW provides many options for consumers to check out their website for ways to help.
For example, by sending a postcard to the corporate headquarters of Chipotle or others and other corporations that refuse to take a stand for fair trade and to learn more about the organizations that deserve your patronage – as well as the ones that do not.
We hope you care and take action. You also vote with your wallet, always remember that.
Credit: Excerpts from “Food With (Not So Much) Integrity”, Worldwatch Institute’s Blog Nourishing The Planet
Check out our articles on Organic Food or Local, or?, Pesticides and Food Safety, Control the World through Genetically Modified Food