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Fairtrade Food and Organic Food
What is the relationship between the two?

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Fairtrade food is not the same as organic food (fair trade is about how the people who grow and produce the food are treated); look for fairtrade logo certification. Healthy food tips: you can find organic fair trade foods at organic food retailers and organic food markets.

In addition to a shift to better nutrition through organic food, fairtrade food is also part of today's movement towards environmental sustainability.

Our approach to food is changing: it is an approach that considers nutrition and ethics over convenience and price. With this changing approach has come a need for labelling so that we, as consumers, can identify exactly what we are buying and eating. That's great, but it can also sometimes bring confusion.

One example is how organic foods and fairtrade foods relate to each other. It's a common mistake to assume that they are the same thing. To help clear up the confusion, the two are compared below. fairtrade logo

The main similarity is that they both offer significant benefits. The difference lies in who and what it is that receive these benefits. Fairtrade is used interchangeably with fair trade in this discussion.

We know organic food is truly organic when it is certified by an official and respected certifying body such as Soil Association.

In the same way, we know Fairtrade food is just that, by the presence of the Fairtrade logo. This can only be used when a food has been produced to the standards of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO). An overview of these standards can be found below.

What is Fairtrade food?

Fairtrade food is regulated and certified by FLO, an independent, non-profit organisation. Its main purpose is to improve the quality of life for people, especially those who produce Fairtrade food.

Many foods are sold at a price that enables Fairtrade producers (farmers and hired labour) to make enough to live on and continue production in return. This helps those who were formerly at a disadvantage due to being unfairly paid (low wages, low prices) for their produce.

Working conditions are also regulated to ensure that farmers and workers are given sufficient incentive to produce to as high a standard as possible. Hired workers must see increased revenues generated by Fairtrade reflected in their wages. They should also be represented democratically, preferably through membership of a union.


There are environmental benefits of Fairtrade (in addition to the ethical benefits). Fairtrade food production also entails some important restrictions in the use of synthetic chemical inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides.

In some cases this has led to farmers adopting wholly organic methods of production. Foods produced that meet the standards of both organic and Fairtrade are considered Fairtrade organic foods.

This is not the case with all Fairtrade farmers though. In many third world countries the cost involved in converting intensively farmed land to organic is too high. Synthetic and toxic chemicals used for years will remain in the soil too long for farmers to wait for it to meet organic standards.

Fair trade foods are not required to qualify as organic though. However, as you will see in the FLO section below, in order to be certified as Fairtrade, food production does have to meet certain standards that comply with that of organic production.

What is Organic Food?

The main difference between organic food and Fairtrade food is that organic food is produced primarily with the consumer and the environment in mind, rather than the welfare of farmers in third-world countries or any other country. I say primarily because, in fact, the benefits of organic food farming does help farmers in that it saves them from exposure to the health risks of pesticides and other toxic inputs.

Organic producers adhere to synthetic chemical-free standards to promote the safety of the environment and the people who consume that food.

It is fully acknowledged by government agriculture departments across the world that conventionally produced foods do contain chemical residues from soil inputs and crop sprayings. Organic foods do not contain these and are therefore healthier for people, animals and the whole environment.

Further, organic farming uses methods that enable sustainability. Rather than allowing conventional practices that run down the soil and eventually render it infertile, soil farmed organically is kept in good health. Soil structure, nutrition, and the local environment with which it interacts are all protected.

Naturally these farming techniques result in environmental health on a wider scale. For more in-depth articles on all aspects or organic food please explore our Organic Site-Map.

Organic and Fairtrade food

In the long term, organic and Fairtrade production may well come to be one and the same, should all FLO standards be met. Here is an overview of those standards extracted from the FLO Generic Production Standards document:

...The producers' organization ensures that its members protect the natural environment and makes environmental protection a part of farm management. The organization is expected to facilitate the development, implementation and monitoring of producers' operational plans with the aim of establishing a balance between environmental protection and business results through the use of a combination of measures including crop rotation, cultivation techniques, crop selection, careful use of inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides and, as relevant, shade production.

The organization ensures that its members minimize the use of synthetic and other off-farm fertilizers and pesticides, partially and gradually replacing them with non-synthetic and on-farm fertilizers and biological methods of disease control.

FLO encourages small producers to work towards organic practices where socially and economically practical.

Producers are encouraged to minimize the use of energy, especially energy from non-renewable sources. The organization is expected to maintain a management system consistent with its size in order to ensure organizational control of those areas for which it is responsible and to monitor production by its members through the use of recognized inspection and verification methodologies.

Please click here to see the full document.

Although there are some Fairtrade organic foods available today (such as organic fair trade coffee and organic fair trade chocolate), the ideal is for all foods to be so. This will only occur when Fairtrade farmers find that going fully organic is, as the FLO states, "socially and economically practical".

Let's hope it becomes so soon.

Read More:

Return from Fairtrade Food to Organic Food For Everyone.

Read about New Zealand Organic Food and India's Organic Food.

Or return to Organic Food Information

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