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What The Heck Does The "Certified Transitional" Label Mean?
Pick up a packaged food and you'll see any number of labels and claims trying to convince you that it's worthy of your cash. And now, there's a new kid on the block: The Certified Transitional label, which represents a standard developed by Kashi in conjunction with the organic certifying body Quality Assurance International (QAI). Vague name? Check. Worth it? Let's find out.
So, what the heck does it mean?
Basically, it means almost organic, but not quite.
When a farmer decides to convert to organic practices, there's a 3-year transition period in which they must follow all organic practices, but aren't allowed to sell their crops as organic. This is to ensure that there's adequate time to rebuild healthy soil biology and produce nutrient-packed, toxin-free produce. Kind of a bummer for the farmer, but it makes sense.
MORE: The No. 1 Veggie To Always Buy Organic
Per this new standard, however, a crop can be sold as "certified transitional" instead of "conventional" during year two of the transition process, which is a full year after the farmer has ceased use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These certified transitional crops can then be sold to food companies, like Kashi, and implemented into things like cereals, crackers, and breads. For a food product to be certified transitional and bear the label, it must be comprised of at least 70% transitional ingredients.
MORE:The Scary Truth About GMO Labeling
Who does it benefit?
In theory, everyone. Certified transitional crops and packaged foods are really good for farmers. "Until now, there's been no market for crops in transition," says Nicole Nestojko, senior director of supply chain and sustainability for Kashi. "Despite following organic practices, farmers have to sell their crops on the conventional market, which can be a heavy financial burden."
But now, with the ability to differentiate these crops, soon-to-be organic farmers can be paid somewhere between conventional and organic prices. A perk that will hopefully draw more farmers over to the organic side, which is desperately needed—currently, only 1% of all farmland in the US is certified organic.
And the consumer? Because this standard makes it more enticing for farmers to go organic, there could be an increase in the amount of organic produce and products on the market in coming years, thus driving prices down. Something everyone can get behind.
The catch? This certification is new, meaning not many companies or farmers are on-board yet, so not many products feature the label. But that could change. "We worked with QAI to develop a protocol that would be open to any brand," says Nestojko. "And we're hopeful—we just launched in mid-May, and several other brands and retailers have already expressed interest."
Bottom line:Certified transitional is a promising label that likely denotes a quality product, and is helping ease the financial burden of soon-to-be organic farmers. Finding certified transitional foods, however, may be tricky—at least at first. So stay hopeful, and keep your eyes peeled for that green label.
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