Food Systems: Certifications, Labels, and Measures of Sustainability^

^Sustainable Food Systems Track course

Instructor: Dr. Amanda Caudill

Fulfills requirement: Food Systems (FS) OR Case Study (CS)
Day: Tuesday
Dates: April 3, 10, 17, 24, May 1 (Module 3, 5 sessions)
Time: 6:10 – 8:10 PM
Room location: Schermerhorn Extension 652
Course number: ENVB 0424 N
Call number: 82195

Course Description
New course!

As our human population is steadily increasing, we are faced with the question of how to successfully grow a sufficient amount of food without destroying our environment and natural resources. Agriculture is often thought of a natural land use, but it is not necessarily environmentally-friendly or sustainable. In fact, agriculture is associated with a number of environmental issues such as destruction of habitat, pollution and degradation of natural resources due to pesticides and agrochemical use, and production of greenhouse gases. In addition to environmental implications, food systems have impacts to farmer and worker livelihoods and well-being.

There is a wide range of farming methods and systems—each with their own level of impacts. How do we know which ones are more sustainable? Food labels and certifications attempt to provide guidance for consumers as to which products are sustainable – but each has their own standards and measure of sustainability. Do these labels mean anything or are they just a marketing ploy? How is sustainability measured in food systems? In this course, we will explore the myriad of food labels and certifications such as Organic, Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, All Natural, Local-grown, GMO-free, and Free Range. We will seek to understand what is meant by “sustainable” and investigate the metrics used to measured sustainability. We will take a critical look at our food system to understand the challenges and nuances in defining and measuring sustainability and discuss what role, we as consumers, can play.

About the Instructor

Dr. Amanda Caudill is a coffee research scientist and an alumnus of Columbia University and the The Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability (EICES) Executive Education program. She recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. She has worked with coffee sustainability from seed to cup and has lived and worked in the coffee-growing regions of India, Costa Rica, and Mexico. She is interested in sustainable agriculture as a means to provide wildlife habitat, foster ecosystem services, and conserve biodiversity while simultaneously providing for human livelihoods. She is the owner and creator of Blue Leaf Travels – Curated Coffee and Culture Tours. Blue Leaf provides weeklong eco-tours in Costa Rica that are a balanced mix of coffee farms, monkey-filled rainforests, cultural activities, and some rest and relaxation on the beach (www.blueleaftravels.com).