Whole Foods Announces Program for The Conscious Consumer

Whole Foods, considered a mecca by many conscious consumers, unveiled a new rating system called “Responsibly Grown” this month. This is a strategy “to help shoppers make more informed choices.” This program focuses on some, but not all, of the critical impacts of some of our food choices. Anything urging people to think about sustainability in regards to food is a step in the right direction, and this is a start.

Whole Foods Market is launching the system by rating hundreds of both organic and conventional produce and flower products with key suppliers. It will affect 50% of their produce nationwide, reaching 100% over time. Now Whole Foods shoppers will encounter a lot more information about the difference between two otherwise indistinguishable fruits, vegetables and flowers. They will be color-coded as Good, Better and Best, and will be in addition to existing certifications for organic produce.

The “responsibly grown” rating will be based upon a wide range of criteria including:

  • Pest management, including prohibited and restricted pesticides
  • Farmworker welfare
  • Pollinator protection
  • Water conservation and protection
  • Soil health
  • Ecosystems
  • Biodiversity
  • Waste, recycling and packaging
  • Energy
  • Climate

The stated goals for the program include rewarding farmers who work hard to protect human health and the environment, prohibiting the most harmful chemicals, and providing shoppers with an at a glance rating for sustainable farming practices. It’s vital as well that they acknowledge “Pollinators are crucial to more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species, yet bee and butterfly populations are in serious decline. ” Unfortunately though, as noted by Kari Hamerschlag of Friends of the Earth, an environmental advocacy group, only four of the seven major pesticides shown to be harmful to bee populations were prohibited to achieve the “best” rating in the “Responsibly Grown” program.

Whole Foods says that suppliers will submit compliance information through an internal website. If the company spots any red flags, it may ask the farm for further documentation or perform on-site inspections.

Here’s the full list of qualifications Whole Foods has delineated for each ranking:

The move follows other programs Whole Foods already operates that promote (relative) transparency, including a rating system for meat, which is based on animal welfare . While it’s great that they are paying attention to animal welfare, how nice would it be if they would also address the environmental impact of not just our produce choices, but also our meat choices? What would happen if all products were also labeled with their water footprint? Can you imagine buying a pound of beef with a label on it telling you it took 4500 gallons of water to get there? Or how about its polluting effect on the air, land and water? Or how many acres of rainforest were cleared for grazing land to bring it to your shopping cart? Or how about government subsidies that mask the true cost of these foods?

Another scale Whole Foods already uses is for seafood, which is based on “sustainability.” Unfortunately that system doesn’t address the notion that, according to Dr. Richard Oppenlander in his book ”Food Choice & Sustainability“ for each pound of seafood sold, it costs our oceans 5 pounds of “bi-kill” which includes other fish, sharks, porpoises, endangered sea turtles and even whales. What would happen if these products were labeled with the true cost to our already overfished oceans? Would people opt to go back to the produce section or maybe the bulk bins to complete their shopping? I have to wonder, if people know better, will they do better?

It’s great that corporations like Whole Foods are drawing attention to the sustainability of our food choices. On a small planet with an exploding population, these are becoming increasingly important conversations for us to have. If conscious eating is something you care about, consider this: a vegan diet uses approximately 1/11th the resources of an omnivorous diet. If we’re all truly concerned about sustainability, perhaps we need to look deeper than the “Good, Better and Best” of our produce choices, to the true sustainability of all our food choices and entertain the earth saving impact of an animal free diet.

 

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91 comments

Elizabeth Brawn
Elizabeth Brawn3 years ago

good

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Angela AWAY
Angela K3 years ago

Thank you

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Roberto Meritoni
Roberto Meritoni4 years ago

Thanks

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Roberto Meritoni
Roberto Meritoni4 years ago

Thanks

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Elena Poensgen
Elena P4 years ago

Thank you

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Rose R.
R. R4 years ago

Bless Whole Foods (& all food co-op "stores" & health food "stores" everywhere). We could all be sick and dying prematurely without their presence. Bravo choice.

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Elena Poensgen
Elena P4 years ago

Thank you

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Elena Poensgen
Elena P4 years ago

Thank you

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Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper4 years ago

ty

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Jane R.
Jane R4 years ago

Will this cause their prices to go up?

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