Since 2005 we have been working closely with our supply partners to achieve organic certification. Today, we sell some conventional Forbidden Rice® but all other rice is certified organic. We are very proud of this accomplishment. 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.
None of our suppliers had ever exported rice before we began working with them, so we have worked together extensively to develop infrastructure to meet USDA and FDA standards of quality, and to achieve organic certification.
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 in many cases we have either covered or subsidized the initial cost.
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. This is what happened in Madagascar. The farmers needed to build bunds. To help them defray the cost Lotus Foods paid organic premiums for the rice grown on the bunds, but which we could only sell for a lower price as conventional. In this way, farmers could build the bunds and the rest of their rice was able to qualify for organic certification.
Lotus Foods itself is certified organic by International Certification Services, Inc. (ICS). You can learn more about our selection by visiting our organic rice section.
The trading partnership between the small family farmers who grow our rice and Lotus Foods is based on a dialogue of respect and transparency that seeks to provide a means of economic support through access to a global and expanding marketplace. We are committed to supporting the rights and livelihoods of smallholder farmers and ethical sourcing. As a mission-driven triple bottom line company, we are proud of the relationships that we have built with our suppliers and the support we have been able to provide to them and their families.
At present, we work with IMO (the Institute for Marketology (IMO) and their Fair for Life program to certify our Indonesian Volcano Rice. Click here to learn more about IMO’s social and fair trade programs. In Cambodia and India we work with FairTSA.
We all know that Fair Trade is good. It means farmers aren’t exploited and get a higher than market price for their product. Not so well known is that many Fair Trade programs have broader social and environmental goals that cover human rights, use of natural resources and community development. The role of Fair Trade certifiers is to ensure that there is traceability from source to consumer. To learn about how your purchase of Lotus Food rice is contributing to community development in Cambodia read more here.
2015 Commune Hall in Kampong Chhnang, which was financed through the Social Development Fund created through Fair Trade price premiums paid by Lotus Foods. Photo: C. Bredehoeft
At this time, there is NO genetically modified rice in commercial production in any of the countries where we operate. Given that part of our mission is to preserve traditional rice biodiversity, we are watching carefully developments related to GMO rice. It is our belief is that everyone deserves an informed choice about whether or not to consume genetically modified organisms. For this reason, we partner with the Non-GMO Project to verify our products. The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit multi-stakeholder collaboration committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices. They are North America’s only third party verification and labeling for non-GMO food and products.
Terroir (which countries to remove and add?) Leave for now. I will suggest substituting them with stories about farmers and place.