Based on mutual respect and a commitment to a broad definition of sustainability, we have developed partnerships with the small family farmers that grow our rices. Almost none of our suppliers had ever exported rice before we began working with them. We have worked together extensively to develop infrastructure to meet USDA and FDA standards of quality.
Many of our rices are grown in remote regions on pristine lands using no chemical inputs. A number of these rices are already certified organic, while others are in the process of becoming certified, and still others we are working to help develop a certifying program in its country of origin. Certification is more complicated than most people realize. There must be established internal control standards for organic rice, good farm-level tracking and record-keeping systems in place, and an internationally recognized certifying body that can carry out the inspections on farmer’s fields. The cost of inspection and certification are generally outside the scope of individual rice farmers as well as most cooperatives.
So while some of our rice farmers are even more "organic" than certified farms, they cannot claim to have grown their rice organically. International certification standards are quite rigorous. For example, although a farmer strictly adheres to organic principles, if his or her field is adjacent to or downstream of a field where chemicals are applied they will be disqualified. This means more expensive barriers such as bunds or channels need to be built, for which they might not have adequate labor or money.
Our Bhutanese Red Rice is a good example of this difficulty. The rice is grown on fields that have never had chemical inputs and irrigated with pure glacier water. The Bhutanese use time-honored techniques for growing the rice, which includes using compost to build the quality of the soil. Since there is no certifying agency in Bhutan, attaining organic certification will be very expensive. With a new democratic elected government in place, we can now begin discussions with the Minister of Agriculture as to how we can all work together to accomplish this important certification.
Another barrier is the organic regulation that requires an organic product be grown on land that has had no chemical inputs for three years. Thus, along with keeping detailed records and documentation, before obtaining the certification the farmer is usually selling organically grown rice for a non-organic price. A product that is being grown organically but doesn’t yet have the certification is considered "transitional." Our Indonesian Volcano Rice and Madagascar Pink Rice are both in their third year of transitioning to organic status. Additionally, these rices are grown utilizing SRI methodology, which goes further than organic in its conservation and wise use of resources.
Nonetheless, organic certification remains a critical yardstick for consumers to make judgments as to how healthful the product is and its impact on producers and the environment, so we are doing our best to work with our suppliers on achieving organic certification. In some countries it is also important in fueling the national organic movement as a whole.
That said, a number of our products are certified organic. What that certification means is that our rices are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Additionally, all of our rices, whether organic certified or not, are non-GMO.
All of our organic rices are certified by Quality Assurance International (QAI)
An emphasis is placed on cultivating the quality of the soil. Healthy soil is a major factor in both nutrient value and taste. While it is difficult to control all of the variables that contribute to improved nutrition, some recently published studies in peer-reviewed journals have shown organic foods to have higher nutritional value.
You can learn more about our selection by visiting our organic rice section.