More foreign produce is entering the U.S. than ever before. And with the entry of foreign-grown fruit and vegetables is growing demand for "country of origin" labeling. Proponents of the labels contend illegal pesticide residue shows up three and a half more times on the imports than on domestically grown produce.
The call for country of origin labeling may well be part of a broader consumer demand for food quality assurances. More and more consumers want to know the source of the food, where and how its grown and in some cases by whom.
Evidence of this concern can be found in the phenomenal growth of a sector of agriculture that was once a backwater, but is now becoming part of the mainstream
From cotton … to milk … vegetables … and meat alternatives such as soy … organic product sales grew 38% this past year. The Organic Trade Association says the 38% growth rate surpasses the estimated 20-to-25% annual growth for the organic market in general.
The introduction of a national brand pushed organic milk sales sharply higher. But an Organic Trade Association survey of 156 manufacturers of organic food and fiber products shows the highest sales growth rate for 2001 -- at 94% -- occurred for those who produce meat and dairy alternatives and soyfoods.
It is a broad trend that excites the soyfoods industry.
Nancy Chapman, Executive Director, Soyfoods Association of North America:
"Soy foods growth has just been phenomenal. It started probably about five years ago with increased recognition from the populace."
1998 only about 17% of the population knew about soyfoods. 2000, 25% of the population knows about it.
The growth not only in soyfoods but in all organic products … is due to a shift in sales venues for products from "natural" food stores to include conventional mass-market grocery stores. The Organic Trade Association survey says in 2001, 45% of the sales were from such mass market outlets. That compares to 31% in 1998.