教育消費者對於社區食品、生態標記的重要性 | 台灣環境資訊協會-環境資訊中心

教育消費者對於社區食品、生態標記的重要性

2002年01月03日
作者:德瑞克‧瑞柏;李眉君 譯,徐怡德 審校

對美國公民而言,個人的選擇代表了我們是怎樣的人,不論是投票給代表我們的政治人物;或是在更常見的場景 -- 超級市場裡,面對一排又一排的商品,我們以選擇與購買行為來定義彼此的為人。

大家都說,談到環境,我們能做的最重要抉擇就在食物:吃了什麼、怎麼吃的、以及從何而來。

這個說法的真實性,目前有兩個相關的環境運動支持 -- 社區食品系統,以及生態認證標準,它們有著共同的核心點:消費者。

「社區食品系統」強調的是當地土產的栽種、銷售及消費,而「生態認證」則欲藉由核准標記來證明哪些產品對環境友善;兩者都倚賴個體消費者所做的重大決定,來驗證它們成功與否。

顧客在超級市場選擇來自永續漁場的鮭魚片、或是購買當地栽培的農產品,只要不選較便宜的進口商品,這些選擇累積起來,就可匯集成小市民的判決。

所以不用訝異各界要角在「俄勒岡永續論壇」(Oregon Sustainability Forum)中都說,對消費者的教育是最最重要的,唯有如此才能讓消費者做出明智的決定,並充分了解他們的選擇所帶來的衝擊有多大。

「海洋管理委員會」(Marine Stewardship Council)的吉姆‧韓福里說:「消費者在海鮮市場的消費行為很複雜,可能比其他領域都還要複雜。所以你必須提供消費者簡化的選擇題:甚至簡單到以 『好/壞錯』把海鮮分成兩種就好。…人們在超級市場裡沒時間慢慢做研究和靈魂探索的工作。」海洋管理委員會是一個非營利團體,專責替全世界符合永續發展的 漁場認證。

該委員會花了兩年發展認證計劃,重點在於把標準放寬,以便應用到全世界各種大小的漁場。這個組織的五年期限認證書由獨立的第三認證團體賦予,目前已有六個漁場獲得。

韓福里指出,因為海產是從公共財資源「海洋」中捕獲的,所以其評量標準與地面物產有些不一樣,主要是強調「監管鏈」(chain of custody)的承諾。

「海洋給我們的最大挑戰是要維持一個可行的監護鏈系統,可以讓我們追蹤產品從捕獲到消費的整個過程,步驟又不能太複雜、讓人負擔過重,」他說,「這個計劃必須要達到一定程度的可行性,否則一切努力只會付諸東流。」

「認證森林產品委員會」(Certified Forest Products Council)的傑夫‧華特爾表示,上述關切也適用於其它的認證計劃,甚至超越食物的範疇;該組織目前發出近 24 張林業認證書。

「監護鏈是絕對必要的,」他說,「如果你無法追蹤產品,那麼要如何為產品的來源林地申請賠償?」

華特爾也指出,生態認證計劃不應該馬上貼上「永續發展」的標籤,事實上,這只是企業責任增加所帶動的現況改變趨勢之一,伴隨著消費者的環保觀念覺醒。

「森林認證運動面臨的最大問題是,誰的標準最高、還有消費者會相信誰?要贏得公眾的信任,將有一場混仗要打。」他說,「最後問題還是會落到消費者頭上:他們願不願意共同負擔成本、是否樂意改變消費行為?」

到今年底,波特蘭的新季節公司總裁布萊恩‧羅特認為,消費者所知越多,對於自己購買的商品就會越有自覺、考慮越詳盡,至少對食品是如此。

「人們其實很渴求當地栽種的有機產品,這方面我們做得蠻成功的,」他說,「但除了『忠實信徒』以外,我們對『有潛力的』客戶的開發還要再加把勁。行銷正是擴展業務的關鍵,我們要告訴顧客選擇土產的好處,希望能創造出本地栽培食品的需求。」

羅特的商店定期在報紙上刊登全版廣告,宣傳購買本地栽培食品的環保好處;不過店內也出售一般商店的商品,但是兩者價差不大,希望藉此吸引顧客轉向購買比較健康的當地食品。

不過新季節公司面臨的競爭越來越多,市場正以史無前例的速度統合。羅特指出,超級市場的所有權落入少數幾家全國性公司的手中,全美國食品消費金額的十分之一進了美國菲利浦莫里斯煙草公司的口袋,因為它也擁有食品公司。

雷瑞格‧悉金斯是一家波特蘭餐廳的老闆和廚師協會(此為全國性的廚師及餐館老闆網站,致力於提倡永續性烹飪)的成員,他指出,大公司的強力促銷使得全美人民相信,一年四季的任何時候,他們想到什麼食物就該吃得到什麼食物。

「我們得絞盡腦汁來應付這種過度行銷的手法,」他說,「我們應該好好享用當季的食物,已經過季的,就根本不應該有需求。」

羅特和悉金斯都強調,食品界從銷售到生產的空前整合現象下,最大的受害者是小農民,他們在食品零售市場中的佔有率逐漸下滑,最終導致入不敷出。這些農民被迫轉業,造成重大影響:小型農村社區的結構受到重大的打擊。

農民們又怎麼說呢?一位資深農民兼國王郡的農業委員會成員鮑伯‧葛瑞森說,我們損失了一個極大的機會,罪魁禍首則是 西北部的食品輸出中心。這個『機會』是該區的食品消耗量,估計光是華盛頓一州就達120億美元,而依照美國農業部的計算,平均每人每年花2,700美金在 食物上頭。

「我們被一隻怪物市場環繞,卻沒人想到起身對付它,」他說,「為什麼要爭奪國際市場,然後輸出我們的食物?我們必需把本地農業放到經濟發展前景裡。」

依照波特蘭當地食品聯盟 (Food Alliance) 的史考特‧艾克索所言,社區型食品系統的運作,就是在社區層面。然而,食品工業和其市場分配的現象,使得一個更廣大的地區模式難以推行。

「我們試著處理目前存在的農業工業,但我們無法著眼於區域性的食品系統,」艾克索說道,「工業並不是以這個方式存在和運作的,舉例來說,胡德郡的一個農夫就能種出夠一整個奧勒岡州人民所吃的洋梨,而我們(波特蘭)的農夫絕對不只一位。」

艾克索和食品聯盟關注農民們是否持續改善種植方式,以符合特定的環保標準,以及社會、勞工標準。這麼廣泛的觀點使得該組織檢驗的近50座農場中,只有約四分之一是真正有機的,這引起了有機農民共同體的關心。

他說,「有機代表殺蟲劑控制良好的系統,…但我們著眼的觀點遠遠超越有機。改善環境才是我們的最終目標。」

食品聯盟把重點擺在行銷方面,已有35家商店與他們簽約,出售貼有該組織標記的產品。但是我們已有眾多的食品標記 (包括有機),再加上食品聯盟標記,會不會造成消費者的困惑-到底這張標記代表什麼東西?而這正是艾克索相信生態標記運動已經失敗的原因。

「呈現清楚易懂的訊息給消費者,這一點在許多方面都已失敗。」

這是生態認證標記面臨的難題,越來越多消費者要求「對環境友善」的商品,也有越來越多企業想要變成「綠色」企業,消費者必須慢慢理清生態標記的迷宮、做好研究,再做出最明智的抉擇。

農業與貿易政策研究所(Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy)的馬克‧瑞奇說,「假冒的生態標籤不斷演進,會引起政府介入,結果因為官僚體系增加,導致最終產品價格提昇。…唯一有用的機制是社會反應。 這需要每個人都去傾聽、嘗試理清每個人都適用的解決辦法。這並不簡單,畢竟在這個過程中我們都還只是生手,絕對還有很長的路要走。」 (2001.09.21)

Consumer Education Crucial for Community Food, Eco-Labels
by Derek Reiber

PORTLAND -- For citizens in America, individual choices define who we are collectively as a people. Whether it be in the voting booth, choosing our representatives in government, or more often, in the maketplace, where we're constantly presented with a vast array of consumer goods, we identify ourselves and each other based on our choices and purchases.

It's been said that when it comes to the environmental, the most important choice we can make is with our food -- what we eat, how we eat, and where that food comes from.

The truth of that statement is borne out when examining two related environmental movements -- community food systems and eco-certification standards -- that share a similar nexus point: the consumer.

Community food systems, which emphasize the growth, distribution, and consumption of locally produced foods, and eco-certification, which attempts to put a stamp of approval on products to signify they're environmentally friendly, both depend on the crucial decisions made by the individual consumer for their success.

Whether a shopper purchases a salmon filet that comes from a sustainable fishery or picks locally grown produce at the supermarket over imported, and often cheaper, produce -- all these choices come down to decisions made by individuals.

So it's no surprise to hear some of the key players in each arena -- speaking during the Oregon Sustainability Forum -- say that education of consumers is of paramount importance, in order to make sure that consumers make informed decisions and know full well the impacts of their choices.

"Consumers in the seafood arena make a complicated consumer purchase -- perhaps more than in other areas. So you need to provide them with simplistic choices, even something as simple as a 'good/bad' card that labels what type of seafood is OK and what isn't," said Jim Humphries of the Marine Stewardship Council, a non-profit group that works to certify fisheries around the world as sustainable. "People just don't have time to do research and soul searching while in the supermarket."

The Council's certification program took two full years to develop, with the emphasis on making the standards flexible enough to be applicable to any fishery in the world, big or small. The organization's five-year certifications -- applied to six fisheries so far -- are carried out by independent, third-party certifiers.

Humphries noted that because seafood is harvested from a common property resource -- the ocean -- it requires a little different approach than land-based programs, with a focus shifted toward what's called 'chain of custody' compliance.

"Our biggest challenge for the marine arena is to maintain a viable chain of custody system -- one that can track the product from the catch to consumption -- that won't become too overburdened or overcomplex for those involved," he said. "It's important to get a level of viability for that program otherwise it'll get blown out of the water."

But similar concerns hold true for other certification programs as well, even those that don't deal with food, according to Jeff Wartelle of the Certified Forest Products Council, developer of one of the nearly 24 forestry certifications currently being crafted.

"Chain of custody is absolutely essential," he said. "If you can't track the product, then how can you make a claim about the forest conditions from where it came?"

Wartelle was also quick to point out that eco-certification programs shouldn't immediately be labeled as 'sustainable.' Instead, they are part of an incremental change away from the status quo, driven by an increase in business accountability coupled by a rise in environmental awareness among consumers.

"The really big questions facing the forest certification movement are who is going to have the highest standard, and who will the customers believe. It's going to come down to a battle on who's going to win on credibility," he said. "Ultimately, it's going to fall on the customers: will they be willing to share the load, and is there a willingness to change their purchases?"

For Brian Rohter, president of New Seasons Markets, which will have four stores operating in the Portland area by year's end, he's banking that as customers learn more, they will only become more aware and thoughtful about their purchases, at least when it comes to food.

"We've been successful because people have a thirst for locally grown, organic produce," he said. "But you have to make an effort to reach out to the 'potential' customers, beyond the 'true believers.' And marketing is key to that outreach. We're in effect creating demand for locally grown foods by educating our customers about the advantages of choosing local."

Rohter's stores regularly run full-page newspaper ads touting the environmental advantages to buying locally grown foods, but also carry products found in mainstream grocery stores, with comparative pricing, to encourage consumers to make the transition toward local and more healthy foods.

But New Seasons faces an increasingly competitive market, and one that is consolidating at an unprecedented rate. Rohter noted that supermarket ownership is falling into the hands of fewer companies nationwide, and that ten cents out of each dollar spent on food in the US goes to one company -- cigarette-maker Phillip Morris, which also owns a host of food companies.

Greg Higgins, a Portland restaurateur and member of Chef's Collaborative, a nationwide network of chefs and restaurateurs who promote sustainable cuisine, points out that the marketing forces marshaled by such powerful companies has made Americans believe they should be able to have any type of food they want at any time during the season.

"We really need to come to grips with the over-marketing that's out there," he said. "We should celebrate the foods that are there during the seasons, instead of what isn't there. If it's out of season, the demand shouldn't be there."

Both Rohter and Higgins contend that the real victims of this unprecedented consolidation in food production and distribution are small farmers, whose share of the food retail dollar ends up below their costs of production. These farmers -- forced to opt for going out of business -- has larger effects -- the fabric of small, rural farming communities is negatively impacted.

From the farmer's perspective, Bob Gregson, a longtime farmer and member of the King County Agriculture Commission, said a staggeringly large opportunity is being lost, and the culprit is the export-centric nature of food production in the Northwest region. The 'opportunity' is food consumption in the region, tallied at $12 billion for Washington alone, and based on US Department of Agriculture figures that the average person spends $2,700 per year on food.

"We have a monster market sitting all around us, and no one is addressing it," he said. "Why fight the international market and export our foods? We need to bring local agriculture into the economic development outlook."

According to Scott Exo of the Portland-based Food Alliance, community-based food systems work on exactly that, a community level. However, the reality of the food industry and its distribution makes expanding to a broader regional approach difficult.

"We're trying to deal with the agriculture industry as it presently exists. And in that context, we can't emphasize a local or regional food system," Exo said. "The industry just isn't set up that way and it won't work that way. For example, one grower in Hood Country can grow enough pears for the whole state of Oregon, and that's just one grower."

Exo and the Food Alliance concentrate on growers showing continual improvement in meeting specific environmental standards, as well as social and labor standards. Such a broad view also means that only about one-quarter of the nearly 50 farms approved by the organization are organic, which raises the concerns of some in the organic grower community.

"Organic is acknowledged as a good system for pesticide control," he said. "But we endorse a broader view than just organic. Improvement in the environment is our final goal."

The Food Alliance focuses on the marketing side, with a collection of 35 stores signed on to carry produce with the organization's label. But the confusion that may arise in consumers who see the Food Alliance label -- as well as the myriad of other food labels, including organic -- may be confused about what substance is behind the label. And that's where Exo believes the eco-labeling movement has failed.

"Getting consumers the message clearly and easily has broken down in many respects," he said.

And when it gets down to it, that's the conundrum facing eco-certification labels. With a growing demand among consumers for 'environmentally friendly' goods and an increasingly desire by business to appear 'green,' it's going to be up to the customer to sort through the maze of eco-labels, do the research, and make the informed choice.

"The evolution of fraud in eco-labeling, which can in turn spawn more government involvement, can raise the cost of the end product because of increased levels of bureaucracy," said Mark Ritchie, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. "The only mechanism that we have is social response. It's going to take everyone listening and trying to figure out solutions that will work for everyone. It's not going to be easy -- after all, we're all still infants in the process, and we've got a ways to go."

※ 原文翻譯自TIDEPOOL