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Concerns about coffee initiative

Fred Foldvary
Monday September 23, 2002

To the Editor: 


The Berkeley coffee initiative featured in the Sept. 20 issue, requiring retailers to sell only organic, shade grown, or Fair Trade coffee, may end up hurting the coffee farmers it is intended to protect. A better alternative would be to inform buyers of unfriendly coffee and that it may be harmful to the environment and unkind to small-scale coffee growers. Educated consumers would then have a choice and many would choose the friendly coffees. The initiative would mostly result in higher prices for brewed coffee, often with the buyer not knowing why. 

The informational approach could spread to other cities and make many people aware of the problem. The coercive approach, though, could be rejected by other cities as just another example of Berkeley's proclivity for intervention. By rejecting the educational approach, the coffee initiative treats Berkeley residents as heartless louts who would spurn friendly coffee if informed and given a free choice. When we force people to do good, it destroys the development of a good conscience. By voting in this initiative, we will never know how well voluntary methods would have worked. 



Fred Foldvary