At GBCFC the Local Food & Sustainability Coordinator (LF&S) is the main person responsible for ensuring that our Product Buying Guidelines are up to date and also that all new co-op vendors (which includes our local and regional DROPP farmers, ranchers and producers) meet those guidelines too. LF&S audits several areas of our stores internal purchasing and facilities to ensure that we are utilizing the most environmentally friendly and sustainable methods available to us. LF&S coordinates all annual farm tours, writes articles and posts about local food and sustainability initiatives at the co-op and works directly with the NCG on their co-efficient sustainability measuring program.
In the summer of 2016, LF&S drafted a new and improved version of our Product Buying Guidelines:
The Great Basin Community Food Cooperative, The GBCFC, is dedicated to serving as an access point for nutritious, wholesome, socially just, environmentally sound, locally grown, locally produced, organic, non-GMO, and delicious goods. Our purpose is to promote our local food system and to serve as a sustainable cooperative model for access to wholesome food. We are a full service grocery store providing produce, dairy, grocery, fresh and frozen meats & seafood, bulk foods, wellness items, beer & wine, prepared foods, and general merchandise. We will always purchase from local farms, local businesses, and larger independent companies whose practices are socially just and environmentally sound whenever possible. Our goal is to provide wholesome and nutritious food with affordable options while fairly paying farmers and producers and honoring the true cost of good food and its intrinsic values. This requires our buyers to carefully balance their purchasing power to find the best products available for the most affordable prices for our members and customers. Our goals also require that locally or regionally grown or produced product sales do not subsidize non local products and are sold at the lowest price possible while meeting department benchmarks as well as honoring requests of our local farmers and producers to the best of our ability.
We will not knowingly sell products that:
- Contain artificial preservatives, flavors, sweeteners, or colors
- Contain synthetic hormones such as RBST and RBGH
- Contain high fructose corn syrup
- Contain monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Contain hydrogenated oils
- Are produced with unfair, unsafe or inhumane labor practices
- Use animal testing
- Use hormones or preventative use of antibiotics
Our store strives to provide GMO-free options whenever and wherever possible. Our preferred method for doing this is by sourcing certified organic products, which are inherently non-GMO as a requirement of organic certification. When organic is not an option, we will always choose non-GMO products when comparable options are available. We are committed to the removal of GMO foods from our food supply, but are not able to entirely eradicate GMO products from our store. To educate consumers and allow them the freedom to make their own choices, we voluntarily label all products at the co-op as either being “GMO-free” or “likely contains GMO ingredients.” A product is considered to be GMO-free when it is either 1) certified organic, 2)Certified non-GMO by the non-GMO project, 3) Has written documentation of GMO-free status provided by the manufacturer/farmer, or 4) Does not contain any high risk GMO crops as described by the non-GMO project: http://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/high-risk/
If a product cannot meet one of these four criteria, it is assumed to contain GMOs, and is labeled as such. All GBCFC purchasers inspect all potential new products for GMO status, and labels them accurately when they are brought into the co-op.
PRODUCT PREFERENCE HIERARCHY
As we do our purchasing, preference will be given to products according to the following guidelines:
Processed, Packaged, & Bulk Food: Local Organic > Regional Organic >Local DROPP-approved> Regional DROPP-approved> National Organic > National “All Natural”
Farmed Foods: Local Organic > Regional Organic>Local DROPP-approved >Regional DROPP-approved > National Organic >International Organic
We define “local” goods as those sourced from within our watershed (click here to learn more and see expanded image), which we define as the drainage of our three closest rivers: the Truckee, Carson, and Walker Rivers. Our watershed is the geographical lifeblood of our community, connecting our actions and practices with our neighbors, and when you factor in the myriad growers and producers that fall within its realm, we arrive at our local “foodshed” of shared resources, space, and techniques. Anyone who grows or produces food in our foodshed and ships or delivers directly is defined as local. The only exception is for beer and wine, who are required by law to sell through a distributor, and as such, any beer or wine produced within our foodshed is considered local.
We consider a product to be regional when it is grown or produced within a 200 mile radius of the GBCFC, but is not located within our previously defined local foodshed, and is sold direct to the co-op by the producer.
DROPP (Distributors of Regional and Organic Produce & Products) approves local and regional farms or products that are grown or produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers, toxic pesticides, genetically modified seed, or other toxic substances. We use the NOP (National Organics Program) list of approved and banned substances for organic certification as our guidelines. (For a complete list of approved and banned substances, check here: https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/national-list). The producer’s application must be accepted by our local food distribution center, DROPP: www.dropp.coop. All DROPP-approved producers must be initially inspected by the GBCFC LF&S Coordinator, and are subject to future inspections at the discretion of the GBCFC.
Our product merchandising will attempt to represent the values of our cooperative as well as the strategies laid out in this document. Preference will be given to products that have one or more the following characteristics:
- Produced locally according to the GBCFC’s definition of local; if more than one local product is available we will base our decisions on the product preference hierarchy as well as take into consideration:
- length of time the producer has been supplying us
- quality of service, product, and pricing
- the distance between the operation and the store.
- Are produced by an independently or privately owned company rather than a publically owned company.
- Produced Regionally
- USDA Certified Organic
- Biodynamic Certified
- Fair Trade (when applicable)
- Produced/Grown in the USA
- Produced with environmentally sustainable practices
- Produced by a Certified B corporation
DEPARTMENT SPECIFIC STATEMENTS
Our produce department is proud to be GMO Free and at no time will sell any crops that have a high risk of being genetically engineered. The GBCFC Produce Department will provide shoppers with certified organic and sustainably grown produce, seeds, seedlings, soil nutrients, plants, and flowers. We will always source locally first to reduce our food miles, to support the local economy and environment, and provide local and regional farmers and producers a place to sell their goods.
The Produce Department Buyer will consider a producer’s product based on good appearance, good taste, nutritious quality, and reasonable pricing. The buyer must find the best possible product for the most fair and sustainable purchase price that will sell well in the store and provide the lowest sale price possible to our customers while meeting produce department benchmarks. The GBCFC Produce Department will also honor and encourage lasting relationships with local farms by giving purchasing preference to those we have bought from with success for the longest amount of time.
The GBCFC Produce Department will source organic and DROPP-approved local products whenever possible. In this process we will make every effort to include all local farmers. Continued and long lasting relationships will be based on the following requirements:
- Documentation: If a grower is certified organic, evidence of that certification must be provided. If a grower is not certified organic, a list of sustainable growing practices used in the operation must be provided via our DROPP application: www.dropp.coop
- Openness to an initial and potential future site visits that will demonstrate adherence to DROPP-approved status.
- Consistent supply, delivery times, invoicing, and country of origin labeling
- Dependable communication between the farmer and the co-op including agreed upon pricing that will pay the farmer or producer the best price possible while providing affordable options for our shoppers
As we conduct our business, we will:
- Offer only certified organic products when ordering from regional, national or international sources unless comparable organic choices are not available.
- Keep strong and long lasting relationships with local farms and farmers.
- Give preference to sustainable and organic products, including bananas that are labeled as Fair Trade.
- Provide accurate signage, labeling, and twist ties. Signs will include organic or DROPP-approved, Country of Origin, Town of Origin, and Farm Origin when possible.
The GBCFC’s Grocery department will offer high-quality and sustainable products in each of its categories. We will continually evaluate our current and future product selection based on store food policies. We will attempt not only to flourish, but also to raise awareness and educate our customers about health and environmental concerns through our merchandising and product selection.
As we conduct our business, we will:
- Source as much local and regional food as possible.
- Give preference to organic products over natural products whenever possible.
- Merchandise local and organic products prominently when possible, with clearly visible signs and marketing materials designating them as such.
- Sell bulk items and offer environmentally friendly packaging options for those items; we will transition to bulk offerings when available and prioritize creating the necessary infrastructure to support this.
- Only sell organic, non-GMO verified, or low-risk GMO products in the bulk section of the grocery.
- Give preference to minimally packaged and sustainably produced products.
- Make every effort to source Fair Trade Certified products whenever possible.
- Adequately create and update signage to reflect product’s local, organic, non-GMO, vegan, paleo, or gluten-free status.
MEAT & DAIRY
The GBCFC’s meat and dairy buyers will provide products that are the freshest and healthiest options available to us.
As we conduct our business, we will:
- Source local DROPP-approved and organic products whenever possible.
- Offer certified organic and grass-fed, grass-finished meat and dairy products.
- Offer only products that were not produced with the use of synthetic hormones such as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) and recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH).
- Offer products that are produced without regular doses of antibiotics.
- When available, we will always offer certified organic or DROPP-approved options of dairy, eggs, and meat products from operations that do not feed their animals high risk GMO products unless they are verified non GMO or the producer has provided written documentation on steps taken to avoid GMO contamination.
- Reach out to support local producers to support and build the local meat and dairy part of our food system.
The world’s oceans are being over-fished and their ecosystems are being harmed by destructive fishing practices and open-system fish farms. The GBCFC’s seafood buyer will source only sustainable seafood options. The GBCFC will partner with organizations that work to promote sustainable fishing practices. Preferentially purchase seafood that is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a non-profit independent certifier of fisheries: https://www.msc.org/about-us/standards
As we conduct our business, we will:
- Refrain from purchasing farm-raised seafood unless the producer can verify using written documentation that the creatures are fed non-GMO feed.
- Use Monterey Bay Seafood watch to preferentially choose “green” seafood choices, and never purchase “red” options: http://www.seafoodwatch.org/
- Preferentially purchase seafood that is MSC certified.
- Preferentially purchase seafood that is as traceable as possible, preferentially from small fishing fleets operating in sustainable fisheries with low-impact fishing methods (long-line, seine, pole-and-line).
The GBCFC’S prepared foods department is committed to serving a hearty selection of freshly prepared foods including hot and cold entrées, to-go food, bakery items and catered options. The selection will feature the full spectrum of foods including wholesome, local, sustainable, organic, minimally processed healthy foods, items that prove popular, and alternatives to commonly allergenic foods.
As we conduct our business, we will:
- Endeavor to meet a variety of diets including raw, vegan, paleo, and gluten-free options.
- Provide all options without the use of GMO ingredients.
- Properly label all food with ingredients and their organic status.
- Use local and organic produce and products whenever possible.
- Consider all recipes for their sugar, fat and sodium contents as well as flavor and consistency.
- Constantly seek packaging, containers, and utensils that reduces the prepared foods department’s impact on the environment and work toward creating a deposit system for high quality reusable packing, containers, and utensils.
- Plan a changing menu, cook and prepare food in line with seasonal produce availability.
PERSONAL CARE, SUPPLEMENTS, NON-FOODS, & GENERAL MERCHANDISE
Our Non Foods department aims to always provide clean and pure options for the products carried in the department. Non-Foods buyers will meet the following criteria for products:
- Give preference to locally produced products. We will provide options made in the USA when available.
- Give preference to products that are produced sustainably and promote social equity, environmental stewardship and cooperative values.
- Give preference to products that promote fair and just labor practices that include fair wages, willful employment, and third party evaluation.
- Preference to post consumer recycled whenever available. They will also be free of potentially harmful additives and treatments when possible.
- Free of artificial fragrances and colors.
- Reusable and once expired, compostable.
- Recyclable, and/or biodegradable.
PERSONAL CARE & SUPPLEMENTS
The wellness department at The GBCFC is committed to providing customers with health and beauty products that are not tested on animals and that are made with plant-based ingredients. We will offer carefully selected body care products, whole food and organic supplements and a wide selection of vitamins. We will also source locally when possible.
As we conduct our business, we will:
- Offer products that are free from heavy metals, artificial fragrances or colors, etc.
- Offer a vast array of USDA Organic and Non-GMO supplement options.
- Offer a selection of whole food and organically grown nutritional and herbal supplements, locally or regionally manufactured when possible.
- Provide products that honor a holistic approach to wellness and healing.
The Business of Buying Organic
There is a near quadrupling of the organic food market that’s taken place over the past decade. In 2000, when the National Organic Program regulations were finalized, it represented $7.8 billion in annual sales; in 2012, consumers purchased $28 billion in organic products or 15% of the overall grocery market share, and Walmart is the largest buyer of Organic products in the World. So ‘big business’ has caught on … Companies like Coca-Cola in the early 2000s, bought juice maker Odwalla and Pepsi Cola owns Naked. Countless other big food conglomerates have added organic companies or product lines to their portfolios. These same companies are investing because of business opportunity not necessarily because of ideology. Organic purchases at the very least equate to more sustainable farming practices, but many of the companies below have contributed to campaigns in the weakening of Organic standards (because it would save money) and to block labeling legislation (most commonly because they own other companies that rely heavily on subsidized, inexpensive GMO ingredients).
In June of 2015, our own Department of Agriculture shut down the Nevada Organics Program…you can read the article that our GM wrote and the Reno Gazette Article published at that time: http://www.rgj.com/story/opinion/voices/2015/05/13/nda-failing-local-organic-producers-certification/27261897/
Fortunately, from the ashes Basin and Range Organics (BAR O) formed Nevada’s first private organic certification & inspection agency. BAR O has exceeded what the Dept. of Ag used to offer in terms of certification, allowing producers who are raising certified organic livestock and eggs to now hold that label when selling their goods to consumers. This allows for better transparency within the food system and a higher return for the producer. https://basinandrangeorganics.org/
It is becoming increasingly important that we look for the seal of organics as many people think that the NON GMO movement is both misleading consumers and diluting the organic movement. On the flipside, some people think that it is providing greater product awareness and affordability. This debate is a passionate one indeed and SHOULD be had given the world of difference that it takes to produce ORGANIC FOOD vs. NON GMO FOOD. Very recently our August 2016 quarterly newsletter came out and one member (who we applaud both for speaking up and caring enough to do so) wrote us a well-researched letter stating that the article that we published on our co-op’s yellow NON GMO tags was misleading.
In her words: “My chagrin with your take on GMOs is the following: it’s misleading. It’s misleading to tell a consumer that a non-GMO project verified product is inherently better. A commodity product that has been grown from non-GMO seed can still have a slew of pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, etc. thrown on them and still qualify for the label…(continued) I hold the view that non-GMOs are already labeled…it’s called Organic. Not enough consumers know that all Organic products are inherently non-GMO. I think that this rallying cry around labeling GMOs has actually taken away from the Organic movement – it confuses the average consumer. I think a better course of action, though unpopular, is to promote your organic (and local!) products and farmers. If you’re telling consumers that supporting non-GMOs is supporting a model that utilizes fewer pesticides/herbicides, etc., it’s just not true (I’m sure sometimes it is, but not as a rule).”
NPR published an article this week questioning the very same issue. The article asked whether or not the NON GMO movement is actually hurting organic farmers and producers: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/08/03/487905333/organic-food-fights-back-against-non-gmo-rival
We here at the co-op think that NON GMO food production has a lot of the same negative environmental implications and human health factors (both for workers and those consuming the products) since it’s still okay to dump on the chemicals as long as the seed hasn’t been genetically altered…but the debate will most likely remain until consumers push past GMO labeling and demand Organics in favor of more sustainable farming practices and the ingestion of fewer toxic chemicals.
The State of Vermont was able to get a law passed requiring the labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods (GE)…however, just this past summer that law was nullified to a certain degree by “The Darkest Act” being signed by the president and passed in July 2016:
DARK (DARKER, DARKEST) BILL, S.2609 (read entire text of bill here: http://www.agri-pulse.com/uploaded/GMObill.pdf) This potentially disastrous bill has so many things wrong with it that we don’t know where to start. But here are just a few of the big problems:
- It would nullify Vermont’s labeling law, due to go into effect July1, while prohibiting any other state labeling legislation. Then two years would go by before any kind of label would be required. No penalties for non-compliance by companies.
- It would allow industry to use QR codes, yet-to-be-defined symbols, or toll free numbers, rather than clear, easy-to-read labels stating that a food is genetically engineered.
- Perhaps worst of all, this bill would drastically narrow the definition of GE foods requiring labeling so as to exclude the most widely engineered foods on the market today!
- This difficult-to-read and confusing piece of legislation contains just about everything Big Food and Big Ag could every want!
As you are probably aware, “Big Ag” was the monetary force behind this bill. These “Big Ag” companies now own a lot of the “Organic” food supply and they continue to purchase more and more independent companies each year. See the 2016 Organic Industry Structure Chart on the next page. You can Google previous versions of this chart, dating back over a decade…pretty incredible to see how things have grown and changed.