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by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:05:54 PM EST
DEVELOPMENT-WORLD: What Is So Fair About Fair Trade?
PARIS, Sep 15 (IPS) - Fair trade is held up as promoting fair prices for producers and guaranteeing social and environmental standards. These ideas are neither new nor controversial. But the recent boom in fair trade has drawn attention as standards and models multiply while authentication mechanisms lag behind.

Artisans du Monde (``Artisans of the World''), a federation of 170 French fair trade outlets, estimates that Europe accounts for 60 percent of the fair trade market. In 2000, it reckons, one in 10 French consumers had heard of fair or equitable trade.

In 2007 the figure jumped to eight out of 10. In 2006, 42 percent of French consumers in fact purchased a fair trade product.

According to the French Platform for Fair Trade (Plate-Forme pour le Commerce Équitable, or PFCE), a collective of 39 organisations, the sector's European turnover amounted to 1.25 billion euros in 2006, and fair trade sales have jumped by 20 percent every year since 2000.

At the other end of the chain, Artisans du Monde estimates that fair trade benefits 1.5 million small producers, the vast majority of whom are from developing countries. But what makes fair trade so fair to them?

Most fair trade organisations, whether buyers, importers, distributors or certifiers, operate under a self-imposed charter. Respecting a number of criteria will earn producers the right to use a network's label and grant their product access to a fair trade distributor's shelves.

But charters are as diverse as operators. Umbrella organisations such as the International Fair Trade Association, which claims 300 members, have a hard time unifying operational standards.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:43:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... and not only fair-trade: it is common to many NGO areas of activity...

DEVELOPMENT-WORLD: What Is So Fair About Fair Trade?

But, whatever the definitions, the charters and the organisations' role in the chain, both the PFCE and Minga admit that certification is the weakest link in ensuring that trade is indeed fair.

Both networks rely on self-evaluation. There is no independent verification that producers do in fact abide by a network's charter and principles.

In order to join Minga and have its products sold by the association's outlets, a producer must fill in a questionnaire with about 400 questions.

``We also encourage a participatory system of verification where a member organisation visits another and evaluates economic, social and environmental practices,'' says Besson.

For Maisonhaute, it is unthinkable to systematically verify production standards on the ground in developing countries: ``Given the number of producers and the distances to cover, the cost of travelling to each location would be unbearable.''

This allows the Adam Smith Institute, a British think tank that promotes free trade and is one of fair trade's harshest critics, to denounce what it sees as a marketing initiative rather than a new model for economic justice.

``Just 10 percent of the premium consumers pay for fair trade actually goes to the producer. Retailers pocket the rest,'' the Institute claims in a report titled ``Unfair Trade''.


Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 03:41:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Still and all, what have the free-traders of the Adam Smith Institute got against "marketing intitiatives"? What are they complaining about?

Oh, that everything "distorts" markets... Except for the wealthy and powerful dominating trade on their own terms?

I can't rid myself of the impression that, if producers were getting, not 10%, but just 1 or 2% more for their products through an "undistorted" market system, we'd be hearing a lot about how global free trade with added trickle-down is "lifting millions from poverty".

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:33:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
i hear you.  i think it comes down to fear.  the free-traders are afraid of the potential of fair-trade to displace them.  so they'll use any specious argumentation to knock other models of doing business.

the best ways to respond to the accusation are to (1) make verification thorough, (2) provide evidence that fair-trade producers, even if they are only getting 10%, are still getting significantly more than what they would otherwise get through "free trade", and (3) convert as much as the supply chain from "free trade" to "fair trade", and do it verifiably.

Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire

by marco on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:38:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I quite agree. I'll add that the restriction of fair trade contracts to cooperative-type structures (as exemplified by one of the French groups mentioned in the article) is also an important point (imo) in favour of fair trade, and a further guarantee that producers are reasonably more likely to be getting a fairer deal as well as being part of a structural process that will offer them a better future.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 07:22:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I don't know if any of Artisans du Monde's salespeople is paid. But I know at least that a great many AREN'T.

So it already means that more of the value stream goes to the producer.

Now, they say that 10% of the extra price goes to the producer (that may be, I have no idea). Any guess as to how much of the price goes to the producer in a standard distribution ? I can't remember (I did read it once) but I reckon we are talking around 1-2%. So if they get 10% of the difference, it probably means they double or treble their income. That's quite major -and the true metric for the effectiveness of such schemes.

So what they are saying is that retailers that can't have the kind of economies of scale, or pressure on all intermediate actors as major stores (and therefore probably higher costs), still end up giving hugely more to the producer, while more or less ensuring that workers are treated decently and that crops are grown in a reasonably environmently friendly way.

I guess that, from them, it counts as criticism.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:42:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thats a pretty bad article on fair trade. Leaving aside the singular focus on France, a large part of fair trade products do work under unified operational standards and do not "rely on self-evaluation."

My girlfriend (who some of you met in Paris this weekend) currently works for the certification organisation for the Fairtrade brand in Bonn, FLO-CERT.

She has also been talking about the problem with certification, but with a slightly different take on it. FLO-CERT do send inspectors to all producers and traders applying for Fairtrade certification, as well as yearly inspections of everyone after certification.

The problem thought, is that to keep all the actors in the system "fair", rules and regulations are constantly sharpened and the size of the control apparatus is growing. Which increases cost.

This again increases the certification cost, driving down wages at the production end and increasing product cost at the consumer end. So their constant challenge is to make an "airtight" certification and control system that ensures their standards at the lowest possible cost to producers and consumers.

Personally I don't think fair trade is the magic bullet to solve world inequality, but I am pretty sure it helps. But I also would be very uneasy about trusting any fair trading standard that only relied on self-evaluation.


For Maisonhaute, it is unthinkable to systematically verify production standards on the ground in developing countries: ``Given the number of producers and the distances to cover, the cost of travelling to each location would be unbearable.''

This allows the Adam Smith Institute, a British think tank that promotes free trade and is one of fair trade's harshest critics, to denounce what it sees as a marketing initiative rather than a new model for economic justice.

This "he said. she said"-pieces is unfair both to the Fair trade organisations as well as to the Adam Smith Institute. (Unless the "institute" is unaware that a significant portion of fair trade actors are actually inspected regularily.)

by Trond Ove on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 08:13:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Live Earth show to help boost solar energy: ENN

MUMBAI (Reuters) - India will host the next Live Earth concert to raise funds for lighting homes with solar energy in places where people do not have access to electricity, organizers said.

The December event will see rocker Jon Bon Jovi and Bollywood's biggest superstar, Amitabh Bachchan share the stage, and is described by organizers as one of the biggest events held in India.

The concert will be held in India's financial capital Mumbai on December 7, Live Earth founder Kevin Wall said in Mumbai.

"(Former Vice President) Al Gore asked me whether we could do this in India, and I said yes," Wall told Reuters in Mumbai. "This is going to be huge."

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:50:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Warming World In Range Of Dangerous Consequences
The earth will warm about 2.4 degrees C (4.3 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels even under extremely conservative greenhouse-gas emission scenarios and under the assumption that efforts to clean up particulate pollution continue to be successful, according to a new analysis by a pair of researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

That amount of warming falls within what the world's leading climate change authority recently set as the threshold range of temperature increase that would lead to widespread loss of biodiversity, deglaciation and other adverse consequences in nature.

The researchers, writing in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, argue that coping with these circumstances will require "transformational research for guiding the path of future energy consumption."

"This paper demonstrates the major challenges society will have to face in dealing with a problem that now seems unavoidable," said the paper's lead author, Scripps Atmospheric and Climate Sciences Professor V. Ramanathan.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 04:17:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It may turn out that we cannot afford to reduce particulate pollution except in concert with reductions in CO2.  Else we accelerate warming.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 09:44:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A 'novel' chemistry to make fuel from sugar
By Patrick Barry  Science News
Web edition : Thursday, September 18th, 2008

It's not alchemy, but it might sound like it: a new way to transform sugars from plants into gasoline, diesel or even jet fuel by passing the sugars over exotic materials.

This chemical trick uses nano-sized particles to produce plant-based gasoline that can be used in existing vehicles in place of petroleum-based fuels. But because they would be made from corn, switchgrass or other plants -- which absorb carbon dioxide as they grow -- the fuels would emit less net carbon dioxide than normal gasoline.

"You have a conventional fuel that happens to be made from sustainable sources," says James Dumesic, a chemical engineer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who led the research, which appears online September 18 in Science.

-Skip-

...ethanol is made by fermenting plant sugars in large, microbe-filled vats for hours or days, much like brewing beer. The new process could be simpler because it does not require keeping microbes alive, and it can convert the sugar into fuel in a matter of minutes, the team reports.

Another method for making gasoline from plant sugar exists, but it requires very high temperatures and other energy-consuming steps, making the process inefficient. The new technique requires little energy input and can convert most of the energy in the sugar into useable forms.

While the process is not yet ready for large-scale production, Dumesic's team was able to convert about 65 percent of the energy in the sugar into gasoline using their laboratory-scale process. Most of the lost energy ends up in gases such as ethane and propane, which if captured could serve as a replacement for natural gas.

An alloy of the precious metals platinum and rhenium triggers the first step of the conversion. Dumesic and his colleagues deposited 2-nanometer-wide specks of this alloy onto surfaces made of pure carbon. When a liquid mixture of water and plant sugar flows over the platinum-rhenium particles at the right temperature and pressure, the metal atoms act as catalysts to cleave chemical bonds in the sugar, releasing oxygen and leaving behind a mixture of molecules containing carbon and hydrogen -- the principal elements in gasoline and diesel.

"It's completely novel chemistry," comments Manos Mavrikakis, an expert in theoretical catalysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who did not collaborate with Dumesic on the new conversion process.

The molecules produced by Dumesic's catalytic reactions can be used directly to replace petroleum feedstocks that the chemical industry uses to make plastics and other materials. Or, the molecules can pass through another step of previously known catalytic reactions to produce the final fuel.

Cost of the metal catalyst could be an issue, Mavrikakis notes. "The question is how much platinum and rhenium will we need to produce the fuel we need?" he says. "These are among the most expensive metals."

Studying how the metals trigger the needed chemical reactions could enable scientists to replace the platinum and rhenium with less expensive materials, Mavrikakis suggests.

Conversations with an uncle who worked at the Monsanto refinery in Texas City  from the '50s informed me that the petroleum industry has long been using platinum as a catalyst.  At least catalysts are not consumed, if things are run properly.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 10:03:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Science or alchemy?

They are clearly indicating that they know neither the why nor the how...just that this magic dust made of an exotic material dug from pits in the southest of africa does things described by fancy words...and eventually they will might be able to back-engineer the process to find out how to do it more efficiently

...maybe...

if the rain gods are placated, and the wind gods aren't on vacation.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 03:26:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While the process is not yet ready for large-scale production

Afew MAGIC WAND Technology™ isn't quite ready yet either.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:00:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Please report back when you have a "proof of principle" demonstration.  I have a stainless steel magic wand that came out of the LA aerospace industry in the 50s, but it doesn't work either.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 10:52:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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