The creation of this standard has been somewhat controversial and has
raised many questions within the organic community. To answer these questions, Organic Processing hosted a roundtable discussion with several committee
members along with representatives
Amanda Raster is the manager of sustainability standards de-
from SCS and the Leonardo Academy.
velopment for the Leonardo Academy, an organization that de-velps sustainability strategies, metrics and standards. She is
currently leading the effort to develop the Sustainable
Agriculture Practice Standard.
Jim Pierce: The interest of the Food
Trade Sustainability Leadership Association is to make sure the standards are
OP: Why is there a need for this standard
and what is the overall goal?
Amanda Raster: Right now there are a number of sustainable agriculture initiatives out there and growers are often asked to meet the requirements of multiple standards. This national initiative could serve as an umbrella that
encompasses the best environmental metrics and measurement tools that exist.
Overall, having a sustainability standard with a national scope would be an effective way to drive changes in the marketplace.
Linda Brown: Also, with the large number of sustainability initiatives and certifications in the marketplace there is a potential for increasing consumer confusion. The word “sustainability” faces many of the same challenges that “organic”
faced in the past. For years preceding the establishment of the National Organic Program (NOP), there were a variety of definitions for the term “
organic.” At some point, it became clear that the proliferation of competing
legitimate. The organic community
has dealt with a lot of eco-labels like
“grass-fed,” “free range” and “natural,”
which are non-regulated and ultimately confusing. These indirectly or
directly take away from the legitimacy
of organic. We wanted to make sure
that the end product of this effort is
not just another easy way for conventional companies to greenwash production practices.
Linda Brown is the executive vice president of Scientific
Certification Systems (SCS), an independent third-party
certification service. She was a key leader in developing the
draft for the ANSI Sustainable Agriculture Practice Standard.
definitions was not pushing organic agriculture forward and there was an effort
to standardize. The same needs to be done to define sustainable practices,
some of which are covered by the organic regulation, but many of which are
not currently included in any official national regulation.
OP: For the volunteer committee members at this roundtable discussion, why did each
of you think it was important to be involved the development of this standard?
John Foster: It’s a real priority for me, as well as for Earthbound, to make sure
that whatever comes out of this process is supportive of the hard work and dedication that the organic community and industry has done in the realm of sustainability. In a nutshell, I want to make sure that this complements organic
standards instead of competing with them. I think there’s plenty of room for
both. What organic has done is key to sustainability, but I also recognize that organic isn’t everything and there is a need for something else that addresses issues the organic regulation doesn’t cover.
Bama Athreya: My focus is on workers’
rights. We have for some years now
been very friendly with the organic
community because of the fact that organic does address health and safety
issues that workers face in terms of removing the exposure to pesticides.
However, when the organic regulations were created there wasn’t any
formal definition of workers’ rights.
Even when workers’ rights were
grafted on, there was no capacity to
implement them. The reality of the
organic regulation was that it was
more about the production than the
people producing. We were attracted
to the development of the fair labor
practices and community benefits that
were included in the ANSI standard.
We felt this might be a good place, by
no means the only place, to remind
people that defining sustainability
should also include the ethical treatment of workers in the production
Grace Gershuny: As a representative of the Organic Trade Association, it’s in
the interest of the organic industry to make sure that organic is represented in
creating this standard. There also needs to be a very clear distinction between
“organic” and “sustainable,” so that the two terms don’t become muddied or interchangeable.
OP: In addition to labor rights, what
other elements of sustainability have been
discussed within this standard that are
not currently addressed by the NOP?