TRANSCRIPTS - Chad Dobson
Dobson is Director of the Consumers Choice Council,
a non-profit association of environmental, consumer, and human
rights organizations dedicated to protecting the environment
and promoting human rights and basic labor standards through
What are some of the success stories you have seen around the world
with the introduction of labeling programs?
in this country were starting now with the Forest Stewardship
Council. Home Depot has now said that they will only carry their
products and I think were on the verge of seeing significant
change because of the work that FSC has done. In this country maybe
the most successful labeling programs have been the organic ones
and theres been a 20% growth in the last few years, per year,
on organic consumption. As you know, when the Food & Drug Administration
tried to give us weak standards on organics there were nearly 300,000
Americans who contacted the FDA and the Agriculture Department and
said they needed them to be strong. So I think organics is strong,
were beginning to see stuff on Forest Stewardship Council.
You just mentioned the organics industry has seen a 20% growth rate
since the labeling program was introduced. Has this made it possible
for more farmers to switch over to organic farming practices?
because of more price, theres better price for their product,
so that that has happened here. We see it in other countries, in
fact more than here because some other countries have government
support for that transition. You know, it takes maybe about three
years to go from a farm that is producing non-organic to get certified
organic, and sometimes even longer so that transition can be difficult.
A number of European countries support farmers that do that, and
they do it because its better for the environment as well.
And if youre trying to meet environmental legislation, going
organic is one way of doing that. But farmers do get a better price
for their product by doing organic and its important.
Do you believe consumer demand for a product could create a positive
incentive for industry to change the way they supply a product?
of the polling weve seen says that consumers are interested
in environmentally friendly and sensitive products. They are willing
to buy them and in fact are willing to search for them and pay above
the general price. And we believe they mean it and are willing to
do that, and so we see that when they know how things are labeled,
theyre willing to consume them that way.
What has this made possible for companies in terms of their operating
companies that are aware of this and take the consumer seriously
I think are moving actually to create more environmentally friendly
products and make sure that theyre out there so the consumers
can get them.
What kind of clout do you believe consumers can wield in changing
the ways the fishing industry operates?
I think that we know that in seafood consumption theres an
enormous amount that happens through restaurants and also in stores,
and that Im quite clear that when consumers know how things
are being produced and how problematic they are environmentally
that theyre willing to ask for and get better products that
are produced in those environmentally-friendly kinds of ways.
Do you believe consumers are interested in the impact of how the
products they are buying are being produced?
I think that consumers are interested in how things are produced,
interested in protecting their oceans, and willing to pay more for
it in the market to get that kind of product. We find the consumer
demand is creating incentive for the industry to change the way
it operates and to deliver to the consumer the products that they
need and want.
Do you believe certification or labeling efforts such as those the
Marine Stewardship Council is intending to create helps to give
consumers a choice in what kind of production methods are used to
create food products?
Marine Stewardship Councils initiative is an important contribution
in helping consumers find the products that they need and in helping
industry develop those products for the consumer.
In general, what clout do consumers have in helping to shape the
market for their food products?
think consumers have an opportunity and in fact a responsibility
to help and protect the environment and to exercise their interest
in these issues and they can do it by the way that they buy and
consume every day. And the market is fueled in fact by consume preference
and its very sensitive to that, and those people who care
about these issues can, by what they do every day of their lives,
help protect the environment and our planet.
Do you have a sense of how important independent certification bodies
are to consumers versus industry self-certification?
have said numbers of times that they want to have an independent
certification for products, that they prefer that over industry
self-certification. And so things like the Forest Stewardship Council
and the Marine Stewardship Council are important additions to make
sure that consumers know how things are produced and that they trust
The MSC says their certification effort is meant to supplement existing
laws and treaties that promote responsible fishing practices. They
are aware that enforcement of regulations worldwide is inconsistent
and believe that a market-driven tool such as the labeling scheme
is necessary. What is your opinion?
think that its important that consumers exercise their responsibility
in helping the environment and that they understand that we cant
always depend upon governments to do that, and in fact there is
some difference from one country to the other about enforcement.
So that the individually consumer doesnt need to depend on
government, they can themselves by going to the supermarket do that.
Based on the work your organization has done, have you noticed a
difference in the way consumer spending dollars are helping to influence
the way industries operate?
are beginning to exercise their dollars and to help protect the
environment. I think we still have a long way to go in this country
more education needs to take place, the labels have to be
clear, we have to use more money in marketing our products as environmentally
friendly but that its a beginning thing and its
a powerful tool, and were moving in the right direction.
think that consumers need to think about where the food is .. where
the food comes from that they consumed. That we in this country
somehow have gotten to a point where we think that fish comes or
milk comes or whatever it is comes from the store, and that we dont
have relationship between production and consumption, and Im
hoping that the next generation or this generation spends a little
more time understanding what the effects of the environment of production
are and that they really can make a difference by being more sensitive
about what they buy and what they use.