Certified Transitional

Continuing a conversation about labels, not surprisingly another one to add to the mix.  "Certified Transitional," a somewhat vague term that certainly takes some digging to figure out what it means.  Great intentions, I think, but alas more consumer confusion.  Likely good for the environment, possibly better for increasing organic offerings and perhaps decreased economic hardship for the agricultural community. 


It's a new term, and in the news recently because of the certifier's partnership with Kashi (owned by Kellogg's since 2000).  The goal is to ultimately increase producers using organic rather than conventional methods; the challenge remains, however, in that it takes a few years to convert crops and costs money to adopt and get new equipment.  At the same time, farmers can't yet market their products as organic during this transitional time.

That's where CCOF's Certified Transitional program steps in.  In their words, they do they following:

"CCOF will verify your compliance to the organic regulations helping to prepare you for full organic certification. An operation is eligible for the CCOF Certified Transitional program if:

  • The land has been free from prohibited materials for at least one year.
  • The operation is actively enrolled with CCOF under an approved Organic System Plan (OSP).
  • The USDA organic standards are met except the requirement for land to complete three years free from prohibited materials.

Operations may apply with CCOF at any point during the three-year transition period. Once enrolled in the program, a transitional operation will undergo annual inspection and review. Certified transitional products may not be labeled, sold, represented, or modified by the word “organic.”

What made news this week was the following:

"Kashi purchased the first-ever crop of Certified Transitional ingredients – hard red winter wheat – for use in new cereal Dark Cocoa Karma Shredded Wheat Biscuits, which was created to showcase transitional ingredients. The product rolls out to select grocers and natural food retailers nationwide early next month."

It's unclear how widespread "Certified Transitional" will become, and whether the foods we find ourselves buying will bear this logo.  I'm not convinced it will change purchasing habits but perhaps it will peak consumers' interest in learning more about a particular brand.   Maybe, if shoppers end up having any idea what it means, it'll be viewed as a welcome, socially conscious move ultimately creating more brand loyalty.  Let's revisit this in a year or two, taking a deeper look at whether farms who would have otherwise resisted the desire, end up changing over from conventional to organic.