Misconception Number 23: Consumers don't know or understand certification and labeling, so they can't trust the organic claim.
Summary of Counter-Arguments:
|- Among all available certification labels for food, the organic label appears to be the most identifiable and credible.|
- Consumers in major organic markets know several of the basic organic requirements and understand the most important implications.
Details of Counter-Arguments:
Many different certification schemes are now operating in all production sectors, as an attempt to offer additional guarantees to consumers about the product or the mode of production. Among the various certification schemes available for food and other agricultural products, the organic certification system is one of the most credible labels. This is due to the following reasons.
Although the organic certification system is one of the most complex for food products, consumers understand the important implications and can and do trust that products sold under this label are subjected to standardized requirements.
- While consumers have difficulty understanding the complexity of different and competing standards (such as those guaranteeing a “sustainable production system,” “integrated management,” or simply “certified controlled quality”) the concrete implications of organic standards are the most easily grasped by consumers. Most consumers in developed countries currently know several of the basic requirements associated with organic certification, at a minimum, such as chemical use restrictions, animal welfare considerations, or the restriction of GMOs. The objective is not that all consumers know the complete details of organic standards, but that the organic label assures consumers that the products are produced in accordance with a set of standards for which they understand the principles and that these standards cover all the important aspects of production and processing. In comparison, standards of the other certification schemes mentioned above are less clear to consumers. Moreover, private or public organic standards are accessible by anyone, as they are usually posted on the Internet or available upon request.
- The term “organic” or its translation in other languages is protected in the world’s largest markets (to date approximately 70 countries have a national organic regulation). It is a specificity of the organic certification scheme to have such a key word protected in national regulations. “Organic” claims on products are backed up by a law and an enforcement system, whereas other terms (such as “sustainable” or “natural”) can be featured on packaging without the producer having to comply with a specific set of requirements. This gives credibility to the organic label because consumers understand that “organic” is defined by law and enforced by public authorities.
- Products labeled as organic do not only have to be produced and processed according to national organic regulation requirements, they also have to be certified by a certification body officially accredited (often by public accreditation authorities). These multiple layers of control guarantee that inspection and certification of the organic operators are being done in a truly objective way, by an independent third party.