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Banana producer to trademark 'ethical' label

Published: 6:31PM Sunday October 14, 2012 Source: ONE News

Banana producer Dole is attempting to trademark its controversial "ethical choice" label, prompting concern it will no longer be obliged to prove what the sticker claims.

New Zealanders spend $142 million every year on bananas, and the move by the world's biggest producer of the fruit has sparked fears among some that the sticker's status will change from a claim to a name.

The ethical choice sticker is produced by Dole itself, and is not awarded by an independent organisation, such as Fair Trade.

In June the Commerce Commission warned Dole that its label could mislead shoppers and may be in breach of the Fair Trade Act, giving the impression that its bananas are certified by a third party and are more ethical than its competitors.

At the time, Dole assured it had removed all ethical choice advertising from stores across New Zealand..

But in the past few days, ONE News reporter Lisa Owen managed to buy bananas with the label on them.

"Why would they risk misleading people? Being part of an ethical company is striving not to mislead New Zealanders," said Greensense Marketing Advisor, Kath Dewar.

And ONE News has learned that Dole has lodged a trademark application for its ethical choice brand.

The new label includes the addition of a slogan: "Supporting Dole's ethics initiatives."

"If they trademark it their trademark is protected and they will escape scrutiny and potential challenge on whether or not it is ethical because it has been through a trademark and they own the trademark," said Oxfam's Barry Coats

In the Philippines, Dole does support education and social programmes where it has banana plantations.

It also says it strives to provide a fair and healthy environment for workers.

Dewar said customers unhappy with Dole's stance can protest by buying another brand and making their views known online.

"Let Dole know, put it on their Facebook page, let them know on Twitter if they are not happy," she said.

Meanwhile, Fair Trade has lodged an objection to Dole's ethical choice trademark application.

Dole did not respond to requests from ONE News for an interview.

What do you think about Dole's ethical choice label? Vote on the ONE News homepage and have your say on our Facebook page.