IEA vs Fairtrade Values

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has commissioned a new, controversial report on the Fairtrade Foundation. It cites that they are out of touch with the real needs of developing world coffee farmers. It suggests that, instead of sticking by their current objectives; refusing to accept child labour and genetically modified technology; they should instead focus on open, subsidy free international trade.

I think that their suggestion is a fair argument – get rid of the subsidies! The thing that got me about the report was this: “the Fairtrade Foundation’s refusal to accept child labour and genetically modified technology”. It states that these goals represented the “whims of Western Consumers” rather than the needs of farmers.

I think that the report has failed to consider the reasons why people buy Fairtrade products in the first place. The idea behind the ‘free-range’ and ‘organic’ products that we are all being encouraged to buy is that they are natural. There is such a big push for natural sugar, getting your ‘5-a-day’ and not eating junk food that would it not be the most hypocritical thing in the world for Fairtrade to allow (even support) genetically modified produce? It would totally undermine the government initiatives of getting us to think about where our food comes from.  Consider this, if people know that Fairtrade are doing nothing at all to combat/help child labour then it gives them another reason, on top of the price, not to buy it.

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