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MNB reported yesterday about a new California law that bans labeling seafood as “organic,” a move made because the bill’s supporters believe that state and federal standards are inadequate for organic seafood and aquaculture. We noted with some admiration that a Sacramento retailer, New Leaf Community Markets, not only disagrees with the law, but has come up with a solution that appears to be perfectly legal. From now on, seafood that would have been labeled as organic back in the old days (2005) is being labeled by New Leaf as “Organic Everywhere But California.”

Well, we got the following note from New Leaf’s Sarah Renfro, who corrected us on one point and offered some context for the decision:

“I been a regular reader of Morning News Beat for several years – I am so please to see our small chain mentioned! Just a side note, we are based in Santa Cruz, California (not Sacramento). Anyway, I want to give you and your readers a little more background into our thinking about our ‘Organic-Everywhere-But-California’ Prawns.

Governor Arnold recently signed a bill that stops ‘all deceptive organic labeling until a legitimate U.S. Department of Agriculture run organic certification program is in place.’ Unfortunately though, this bill stops ALL organic labeling of seafood, not just ‘deceptive’ labeling.

“It’s up to each of us to learn about where our food comes from and to make informed choices. At New Leaf Community Markets, we read labels and carefully select the products that make it to our shelves. It is important to know the specifics of how and where a product is produced in order to make a judgment about its integrity and choose whether to purchase it or not. All consumers need to practice this, and legislation can only ‘protect’ us so far before it becomes a restriction from the very information we need to make good choices.

“When it comes to organic seafood, we do believe it is possible for contained aquaculture to be managed organically. Our pond-farmed prawns from Ecuador are certified organic by Naturland, a European certifier as well as by the International certifier IFOAM. We know how these prawn farms are managed and that they are inspected by recognized international third-party certifiers according to defined standards.

“Our ‘Organic-Everywhere-But-California’ may be an ‘offbeat’ solution – but hey, we’re from Santa Cruz, it goes with the territory!”
KC's View:
It makes our day when people like Sarah Renfro say they read and like MNB.

The larger issue here is that New Leaf – no matter where in California it happens to be located - is serving as the consumer’s agent, not the manufacturer’s mouthpiece. That’s an important distinction, because it creates a real bond of trust between the retailer and the customer.

The retailer is being intelligent, it is treating its shoppers as if they are intelligent, and therefore can offer a more enlightened and satisfying shopping experience.

Good for them.