Q&A: Organic Certification

Ashley Cheuk
August 11, 2009
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Keith Olcott is Customer Service Manager at Equal Exchange - and our Organic Certification Coordinator. Ashley Symons is Content and Social Media Coordinator at Equal Exchange

Ashley Symons: First of all, why does organic certification matter?
Keith Olcott: Certification is the next best thing to buying all of your organic products from a neighbor. It provides the eyes and ears to make sure that products are produced in accord with organic standards. The USDA organic seal is the best guarantee for people who want to eat healthy foods grown without the use of toxic pesticides, GMOs, and growth hormones such as rBGH.

AS: What are your responsibilities as the Organic Certification Coordinator at Equal Exchange?
KO: We have to renew our certification every year, which includes reporting any updates to our production system, as well as undergoing an annual inspection. More recently, we've been involved at the federal policy level because of our increasing participation in the National Organic Coalition (NOC), which we are a member of.

AS: Why is participation in the NOC important for EE?
KO: Just as we strive for integrity and advocate for small farmers in the Fair Trade arena, we do the same in the organic arena. Over the past few years, we have learned that we really have to pay attention to initiatives coming out of Washington that may have dire consequences for our farmer partners, and for Equal Exchange. The NOC provides a place for counsel and support, and gives us a serious multiplier effect in Washington. For example, the NOC has a part-time lobbyist in Washington that works on issues with us.

AS: What can we do as consumers to support these initiatives?
KO: Join us! It is a tough slog in Washington and we can use all the help we can get when the time comes to make our case with legislators. The change in administrations has provided a unique forum for advocating our values. Watch the Equal Exchange blog for action alerts. Vote with your food dollars to support organic and small farmers. In the words of the retired cartoon character, Pogo: "We are faced with insurmountable opportunities."

Additional Resources:
Equal Exchange blog
National Organic Coalition
National Organic Program
National Organic Standards Board