Sunday, May 30, 2010

Food labelling

Food labelling matters, because it allows consumers to make informed choices. It also enables campaigns that put pressure on manufacturers: Fair Trade certification allows us to give support to those who pay workers better, while campaigns against palm oil face problems due to the difficulty in working out which products contain palm oil.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (Ministerial Council) are currently reviewing food labelling laws. The final report is expected to be out early next year.

Currently, there are many problems with Australia's food labelling system. "Made in Australia" labels can be misleading, food standards are often set at the lowest common international level, and the body responsible for food health and safety standards (including labelling) is torn between a public health focus and a focus on promoting commerce and international trade. If you'd like to learn more, there's a great Background Briefing program about the problems with our existing food labelling system and what's happening with the review here.

If you care about food labelling and want to know where your food comes from and what's in it, you can also make a submission to the food labelling review at the website.

Photo courtesy of The Labour Party.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Changing the food system

There's an interesting article over on Good magazine about why salads in the US cost more than Big Macs, and what can be done to change. It's a useful reminder of the political processes that shape the way we eat, and the links between individual food choices and the broader structures of food production. There are also quite a few other articles by the author, Peter Smith, that are worth checking out.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lifecycles Workshop: Food

Sign up now for the first Lifecycles workshop. Details below.

16 June 6:30pm-8:30pm

The Edmund Rice Institute for Social Justice
24 High St, Fremantle

The Bluestocking Institute's Lifecycles workshops help participants develop action plans around the issues that they care about. The emphasis for Lifecycles: Food will be on building a fairer, healthier, and more sustainable food system through actions that we can take in our own lives and communities.

Speakers at Lifecycles: Food will discuss different aspects of food production and consumption, including how and where food is grown, fair trade, and animal rights. There will also be time for participants to share their own experiences and knowledge.

For more information or to RSVP:
• visit the Facebook event page or
• email us at or
• call Sky on 0411 595 834.

Suggested donation $5

New Fair Trade Resources

As part of Fair Trade Fortnight (1-16 May) we added fair trade books to the Bluestocking Library, created a Fair Trade channel on YouTube, and added blog posts on fair trade events and videos (see below). Last but not least, one lucky Bluestocking member received a bag of fair trade treats. Throughout the year, we'll keep adding to our growing list of fair trade resources. Feel free to add more books, videos or events by posting a comment.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fair trade maybe, but what about the use of palm oil

Bluestocking member, Liza Beinart, originally wrote this letter to Tim Costello, Director of World Vision. I'm posting it here (with her permission) to highlight some of the challenges with fair trade labelling and certification.

Dear Mr Costello,

I read with interest the story in The Age about your meeting with Arnott’s about the use of child labour to produce cocoa in west Africa. Congratulations for advocating for such an important issue.

I wonder if you are aware that Arnott’s products contain palm oil. As I’m sure you know, palm oil is sourced from South-East Asia and palm oil crops have contributed not only to massive deforestation, but also to the loss of natural habitat for orang-utans, one of the world’s most endangered species. Palm oil is used in products such as tim tams and mint slice biscuits.

I raise this because I do not think that the removal of child labour from the production of cocoa for these biscuits necessarily means the products – or Arnotts for that matter – will have earned an ethical certification label that “ensure[s] products met agreed environmental, labour and developmental standards”. Ensuring that “the chocolate in these biscuits has been produced ethically” is not enough to make this an ethical product – Arnott’s would have to address their use of palm oil, the trade of which is causing devastating environmental and ecological damage, and basically wiping out the orang-utan population.

I understand that World Vision’s focus is not ecology but children (I work for a children’s rights organisation myself) – but I think it’s important to avoid stamping “ethically produced” labels on products simply because one aspect of the production is ethical. Ethical production is a multi-layered issue and we run the risk of letting companies off the hook lightly if we applaud them for only addressing one small part of the problem. Likewise, it runs the risk of misleading consumers to believe that they are buying “ethical” products, when in fact they are only buying a product that has responded to one ethical issue. Yes, they should get part credit, but not resounding approval with a label saying “ethically produced”. It’s like calling washing powder “environmentally friendly” because the box it comes in is made from recycled cardboard – even though it might be full of noxious chemicals that pollute our waterways.

I would be interested in your perspective on this.

Kind regards

Liza Beinart
Perth, WA

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fremantle: WA's first Fair Trade city

This Saturday Fremantle became WA's first Fair Trade city. This means that it has "passed resolutions in support of fair trade; implemented procurement of Fairtrade Certified products including coffee and tea; and would work with members of the local community to form a steering group to promote fair trade in their local area through businesses, schools, faith groups and other organisations".

For more on the story, read this article on FreoFocus or this discussion on Fair Trade Australia/NZ.

It's important to note that this didn't just happen: it was the outcome of lobbying from both within and outside the council. If you want a Fair Trade council, or a Fair Trade city, you can make a start by writing to your council members...Fair Trade Fortnight is a great time to encourage local government to make The Big Swap.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Days of Change, Western Australia

Western Australia's Days of Change program was launched this month. The program works by "providing a forum in which people can make public commitments to reduce their footprint, and then supporting them in making the changes to fulfil their commitments."

This is a great way to make a first step in shifting towards a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. However, I'd encourage you to also think beyond individual actions. As well as pledging to catch public transport or cycle more often, for example, you could also pledge to write a letter to your government representative asking for better cycle paths in your area. Individual action helps, but we also need to work to build better communities and put pressure on government.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bluestocking's Fair Trade YouTube Channel

Bluestocking now has a Fair Trade YouTube Channel, which you can find here. Some of the videos give overviews of Fair Trade, others are documentaries about producers who have benefitted from Fair Trade, others look at why consumers are making the switch. There are also a few campaign videos - I rather like this one:

It was also great to see that there are quite a few videos about Fair Trade that are made for school and university projects - I've included a few in the playlist.

If you have any recommendations for videos to add to our playlist, or comments to make on the videos we've included, please let us know!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fair Trade Fortnight

Oxfam's Fair Trade Fortnight 2010 runs from the 1st to the 16th of May. This year, Oxfam is asking you to take part in 'The Big Swap' by swapping as many of the products that you usually buy for Fair Trade products.

This might involve buying products such as tea or coffee from Oxfam or other Fair Trade suppliers (many grocery stores now carry Fair Trade products, too). It also might mean checking whether the clothes you buy are certified under a scheme like Australia's FairWear project.

Even if you're just swapping one of the things you buy for a Fair Trade product, you're helping to support the people who sustain you.