With the U.S.-based Community Food
Security Coalition holding its annual conference in Vancouver this week, I
can’t think of a better way to establish food or any other kind of security
than ensuring that hungry people, wherever they live, get enough to eat and
While there are more than enough
people without enough in our own backyard to shame us all, poverty and hunger
in developing countries reach an even greater magnitude by about a
Unless you’re up for volunteering
with Oxfam or Habitat for Humanity on a project in a less fortunate part of the
world, one of the easiest and most effective things you can do to tip the
balance more equitably is to buy fair trade goods.
If you don’t have the fair trade
habit, now is a good time to start. October, that time of accelerated
purchasing for all things scary and merry, from Halloween to Christmas, has
been dubbed fair trade month in the U.S. It’s a timely concept worth putting on
our radar screens, too.
You’ve likely seen a fair trade logo
on a label or ad, or on a shop window sign or website. But most of us don’t
really understand what it means in all senses of the word.
If you want a formal definition,
Wikipedia offers one in spades: Fair trade is an organized
promotes equitable standards for international
social policy, whether or not the goods carry one of the recognized logos such
as “Fairtrade” or “Fair Trade Certified”.
Fair trade labeling indicates that
certain standards have been met through a system of monitoring and auditing.
The marks act like a guarantee, but some unlabelled products may still be
fairly traded despite their lack of certification by an appropriate agency.
Fair trade is rooted in notions of
sustainability and conscience. Trade, not aid, is a common mantra. Suppliers
are often organized into unions or cooperatives with a more direct link to the
consumer. Many of the middlemen, who often earn a ridiculously high portion of
the profits, are eliminated. The bottom line is that people who don’t happen to
live in a privileged country are able to earn a fairer income for their work.