“Our farmers are becoming better educated about the use of agrochemicals and environmental protection. With Fairtrade, you can’t just think about selling your products without considering how you produce them and who benefits. Fairtrade helps you look at agricultural work as an integral whole, comprising human, environmental and economic aspects.”
Bernardo Jaen, CEO of Asoproagroin (pineapple growers cooperative)
To be certified “Fairtrade,” producers need to meet standards in four core areas: social development, economic development, labour standards and environmental development. Environmental development – maintaining good environmental protection and developing sustainable agriculture – is thus a vital part of Fairtrade.
The Fair Trade Labelling Organisation (FLO) sets basic minimum standards for small producer groups, whatever they are growing. In general, these take the form of an expectation that producers “protect the natural environment and . . . make environment protection a part of farm management”
At the time of certification, producers must be complying with “national and international legislation regarding the use of pesticides, handling pesticides, the protection of natural waters, virgin forests and other ecosystems of high ecological value, erosion and wate management.” They are banned from using several classes of pesticides that are considered particularly dangerous.
After certification, producers are expected to work towards “progress requirements” This involves implementing a system of “Integrated Crop Management,” which “minimizes the use of fertilizers and pesticides and partially and gradually replaces them with organic fertilizers and biological disease control.” FLO also encourages producers to work towards organic certification.
Certain products, particularly those whose cultivation has historically been environmentally problematic, have additional “product standards.” Banana Link (www.bananalink.org.uk ) Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org ) and others have long protested the abuse of agricultural and environmental standards on many banana plantations.By contrast, the environmental regulations for Fairtrade products give specific requirements for the establishment of protective buffer zones, diversification, erosion control, water resource protection, use of chemicals and treatment of waste. With respect to agrochemicals, the rules forbid (among other things) the use of herbicides (other than in exceptional cases), aerial spraying of fungicides over residential areas and bodies of water, the use of pesticide-impregnated plastic bags, and particular chemicals for post harvest treatment.
(all quotations from standards taken from those published on the FLO website, www.fairtrade.net )
What about the environmental impact of bringing Fairtrade goods to the UK?
A number of people have noted that importing Fairtrade products consumes considerable energy, given the distances involved. With “food miles” rightly an issue, this raises questions.
One possible approach is that taken by Christian Ecology Link’s LOAF campaign. CEL advocates buying food that is
L ocally produced,
A nimal-Friendly, and, where a product cannot be grown locally,
By these standards, Fairtrade products such as coffee, tea, cocoa and bananas would be recognized as a “best” option. Products such as Fairtrade apples and plums, however – while favoured over nonFairtrade imports – would be regarded as second-best to locally produced fruits.
Others feel that the opportunity for small farmers in developing countries to lift themselves out of poverty outweighs the environmental costs.