Bonsai Dreams #9 – “Open Source” Trade
I was living in Japan from 1989 to 1991 and during that time I had the privilege to create and establish the first nationwide Japanese Organic Certification organization (currently operating as JONA ) with the help of macrobiotic food companies, Mitoku and Muso. I learned the ins and outs of the entire organic certification process from creating standards, inspections and certifications to becoming familiar with the worldwide organic movement that operates under the umbrella organization and United Nations NGO known as the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).
I was greatly impressed by the meticulous detail that went into ensuring a paper trail on all organic ingredients. The level of information that inspectors and certifiers gathered and documented was phenomenal. One could track an organic ingredient from a product on a store shelf all the way back to the exact plot of land in which it grew as well as where the seed came from.
The internet and computer systems were just coming of age at that time also and I envisioned that sometime in the near future a vast database would be created where one could access all this information online. I further envisioned that organic supermarkets, like Whole Foods, would have computer kiosks where customers could scan the bar code of any product and get the complete organic background of that product. It would be the ultimate consumer service bringing together the best of the information technology to the organic food industry.
Well, it’s been nearly 20 years since I left Japan and what I had imagined still hasn’t come to pass for the simple reason that our free market competitive economy does not and will not support such a system. Simply put, companies are not willing to reveal their sources to anyone and therefore all the wonderful detailed information that is gathered by the organic certification industry is kept hidden from everyone but them. Knowing this many years ago, I then predicted two things:
- Organic Certification could never gain the full confidence of concerned consumers and that lack of trust would be exploited by unscrupulous companies and
- The only chance of a future for a food industry that has any integrity will be a system of full disclosure and that such a system could, by its very nature, revolutionize the global free-market economy.
As our global environment continues to takes it toll and as the world become increasingly skeptical of big business there will come a breaking point where consumers will have had enough. The only future trustable source of food will be one that is completely transparent and discloses everything. This is “Open Source Trade”.
I envision the following:
Open Source Trade is website and database where companies voluntary list all the detailed information of their products and operations including not only where ingredients come from, what seeds were used, what plot of land, when it was harvested, how it transported and processed and so on, but also, how it packaged, what is the carbon foot print, whether or not the farmers and workers are being paid fairly, and even, how much the company is profiting. All of this would be available by simply scanning or inputting a bar code into a website. Beyond this the product would have nutritional information, recipes, and any historical information relating to the product. Add to this, voluntary ratings by consumers on the products, by employees of the company and even by competitors who offer similar products. The result would be a comprehensive information base that would promote transparency, sustainability, social equality and economic justice above all. Companies with integrity and nothing to hide would benefit from this while those with something to hide, that compromise on quality, or treat workers and suppliers poorly, would be exposed by their lack of participation.
All of this can start with one small website and with one or two companies having the courage to voluntarily step forward and disclose their business. The Food Industry (and perhaps all other industries ) will never be fully trusted until such a system of full disclosure is in place. Once in place, this Open Source Trade (named after “open source” computing) will transform the global economy from one that is secretive and competitive to one that is cooperative and transparent. It will still be a free market economy but it will be one that is fully and truly market driven by consumers instead of by the secret manipulations of the corporate elite.
Are you ready for this? Would you like to help me make “Open Source Trade” become a reality?