Farmers seeking to transition from conventional growing methods to organic farming will now have their own label to indicate they’re “in transition.” The Certified Transitional label is a partnership between organic certifying agent QAI and Kashi, the Kellogg-owned breakfast brand.
"The health of people and the health of our planet are inextricably linked," David Denholm, CEO at Kashi said in a statement. "[W]e want to promote solutions that benefit everyone working to move organic farming forward. We believe championing farms in transition will make organic foods more accessible and support a more sustainable food system – for all of us."
Organic farming currently makes up about one percent of total U.S. farmland while demand for organic products is at an all-time high. “[F]armers looking to transition to organic face real barriers,” Kashi said in a press release, “including shouldering financial uncertainty during the three year transition period required to be eligible for USDA Organic certification.”
Transitioning to organic has never been an easy process, "farmers must invest in new infrastructure, create new business plans, and even obtain new crop insurance and financing. That all starts day one when they begin converting to organic, but they don't see the financial benefit of organic prices for three years," said Brad Hennrich, President at Hesco/Dakota Organic Products, a specialty grain company. "Certified Transitional provides a revenue opportunity and roadmap for farmers looking to transition that simply didn't exist before."
In conjunction with the program launch, Kashi is also debuting a new cereal, Dark Cocoa Karma Shredded Wheat Biscuits, made with Certified Transitional ingredients.
But “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert questions the new label. “Do we want (or need) yet another label on our foods?,” he writes in Forbes. “The list goes on and on with more products adding labels like USDA Certified Organic, Certified Gluten-Free, Non GMO Project, Certified Vegan, Facts up Front, and No Artificial ‘anything’ to the fronts of already crowded packages.”
And similar to other confusing food labels, the Certified Transitional label only requires that 51 percent of ingredients be in the transition phase, but consumers could be misled into false assumptions--and potential lawsuits for the brands boasting the misleading labels.
There are other issues with the label as well, says Lempert, “The reality is that very few farms actually transition their entire farms to organic,” he writes. “Most take a portion of their acreage and transition while growing conventional crops, or have their fields adjacent to other farms that may be using synthetic pesticides and other practices that are not allowed in USDA Certified farming practices.”
In other words, our farming system is complicated, and a new label designation might complicate it further.
But Kashi and QAI remain hopeful and enthusiastic about the new label. "Certified Transitional connects farmers, processors, brands and consumers together in a virtuous cycle that supports the transition of more acreage to organic practices," said Sarah Krol, Global Managing Director, QAI, Inc., an NSF International company. "For the first time, brands can offer Certified Transitional products to consumers which in turn allows consumers to support farmers as they transition fields to organic – we hope to see many more Certified Transitional products on shelves."
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Green wheat image via Shutterstock