Organic Farmers Object to Whole Foods Rating System

Matt Rogers, associate global produce coordinator at Whole Foods, said the program was an attempt to help consumers make choices, and he noted that by forbidding some if not all pesticides and awarding points for conservation and reduced water use, Whole Foods is raising the bar for conventional suppliers and inching them closer to organic standards.

“Organic is an incredibly deep standard, and at Whole Foods we celebrate that in very consistent, long-term ways,” said Mr. Rogers, who worked for more than three years to put the program together. “But the organic standard does not cover water, waste, energy, farmworker welfare, and all of these topics are really important, too.”

That means, however, the conventionally grown produce may end up with a higher rating. For instance, photos taken at a Whole Foods store in Capitola, Calif., and included with the farmers’ letter show a heap of conventionally grown asparagus from Mexico that is rated “best” for $4.99. Yet another photo, taken at a Whole Foods some 30 miles north in Cupertino, shows a pile of organic asparagus from Durst Organic Growers that is rated “good,” the lowest Responsibly Grown rating, for $7.99.

“This program is our reaction to a fast-moving marketplace that gives us an opportunity to engage on these issues with our supply chain in a way we haven’t been able to before,” Mr. Rogers said.

Supply chain? oh he means farmers and harvesters.

Organic Farmers Object to Whole Foods Rating System –

Ask away…

To follow up on Monday’s post on excellent questions NEVER to ask farmers at a market, here is a great site full of questions once SHOULD ask a farmer. I can envision these on a laminated card at the Welcome Booth or maybe on Facebook with a few listed weekly. Questions for farmers

Fair foods? I’d say not…

Maybe the national farmers market movement needs to do a top 10 food items list. That side-by-side comparison with this one would show once again how the industrial food system is obsessed with caloric count and additives versus alternative food’s obsession with taste and healthy foods.

Wacky Fair Foods

21 and up

Below, we showcase just 21 of the many recent policies and laws enacted by governments worldwide that are helping change the food system, promote sustainable agriculture, and eradicate hunger.

All the best,

Danielle Nierenberg
Nourishing the Planet Project Director
Worldwatch Institute

P.S. Remember to connect with Nourishing the Planet on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Flickr, where you will find infographics, quotes, original video, articles, and news that can’t be found anywhere else.

1. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed in 2010 with a focus on improving the nutrition of children across the United States. Authorizing funding for federal school meal and child nutrition programs, this legislation allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make real reforms to school lunch and breakfast programs and promote healthy eating habits among the nation’s youth. Read more about the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and 15 innovations making school meals healthier and more sustainable on the Nourishing the Planet blog.

2. The Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) was founded in 2011 to help improve the provision of services to farmers in the country. It focuses on adapting its policies to local needs, developing sustainable production systems, and providing farmers and consumers with education, techniques, and services to help supply Rwandans with better foods. The RAB has received praise for its efforts from organizations like the Executive Board of the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa.

3. Beginning in 2008, the Australian government committed $12.8 million for 190 primary schools across Australia to participate in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. Hoping to encourage healthy and nutritious eating habits in young Australians, the program works with primary schools to teach students how to grow, harvest, prepare, and share fresh food.

4. In 2007, the Love Food, Hate Waste campaign was launched in the U.K. by the government-funded Waste and Resources Action Programme. The organization helps reduce food waste by providing tips and encouragement to households across the U.K. and prevented 137,000 tons of food waste by 2009 alone. Find out five simple things you can do prevent food waste on our blog.

5. Argentina made legislative efforts in 2011 to limit foreign land ownership and protect domestic farmers. This regulation, which restricts foreign investors to a 1,000 hectare limit, prevents the establishment of massive, foreign-owned industrial farms and helps to create a domestic community of land owners and farmers with Argentine needs and interests, rather than profits, in mind.

6. The Liberian Ministry of Agriculture and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization are working together to support rural Liberian poultry farmers—most of whom are women. The project includes training and materials for rural farmers about raising and producing poultry, as well as for harvesting cow peas as a sustainable source of poultry feed. These policies have helped rural farmers earn higher incomes and increase their access to protein-rich foods.

7. In recent years, European countries including Italy, Germany, Slovenia, and France have all passed regulations banning pesticides known as neonicotinoids, which have been linked to declining bee populations. Bees pollinate a variety of crops and their decline could have disastrous impacts on food security. Learn more about how neonicotinoids are contributing to declining bee populations on our blog.

8. In 2011, the city of San Francisco passed the Urban Agriculture Ordinance, amending the zoning code to allow food production for personal and public use, provide guidelines and requirements for urban farms, and regulate sales of harvested products and value-added goods. This law has helped San Francisco become a national example of urban agriculture and a promoter of healthy, sustainable diets and communities.

9. Beginning in 2011, the state government of Bihar in India made a major initiative to subsidize farmers practicing organic vegetable farming and to curtail rampant use of agrochemicals on vegetable farms. By providing a subsidy of up to 75 percent to farmers, the Bihar government hopes that organic farmers will be able to get higher prices for their products as well as provide consumers with healthier, local foods.

10. As of August 2012, the USDA awarded $85,000 to the state of Minnesota to expand the number of farmers markets that accept food stamps. With this funding, they hope that low-income consumers, who usually lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables, will have better access to fresh produce and more nutritious diets.

11. The Carbon Farming Initiative, passed by the Australian government in 2011, awards carbon credit to farmers who store carbon or reduce greenhouse gas emissions on their plots. This credit can then be sold to people and businesses wishing to offset their emissions, which rewards farmers who utilize techniques that minimize or absorb greenhouse gas emissions.

12. U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White ruled in 2010 that 256 acres of genetically modified (GM) sugar beets be pulled from the ground and barred them from being grown in Arizona and Oregon. Agreeing with advocates opposed to GM crops, Judge White ruled that the USDA did not properly review the ecological impacts of GM sugar beets before deregulating them in 2005. With the concern that GM beets would contaminate organic varieties, this case was a success in the protection of organic vegetables against GM varieties. Find out more about court rulings concerning GM vegetables on our blog.

13. The Safe Food for Canadians Act was passed in June 2012, consolidating the powers of several previous food safety acts, including the Canada Agricultural Products Act and Meat Inspection Act, into one comprehensive piece of legislation. With the combined authority of these acts, the Safe Food for Canadians Act will implement tougher penalties for putting consumer health and safety at risk, strengthen food traceability, and institute a more consistent inspection regime for all foods in Canada.

14. A law was recently passed by the European Union concerning food information for consumers. The regulation, approved in 2011, amends previous legislation by enforcing nutrition labels on processed foods, origin labeling of fresh meat, highlighting allergens in the list of ingredients, and other protective measures. Through this law, European consumers will be given better information about the food products they consume, allowing them to make safer and healthier choices.

15. In 2011, the Oregon Legislature passed the Farm to School and School Garden Bill, appropriating funds for a competitive grants program in two school districts. These programs will help to stabilize markets for local food growers, increase the availability of healthy products, and teach students about where their food comes from. Check out another great initiative which is feeding and educating our youth on our blog.

16. New York City became the first American city toban the sale of sugared drinks larger than 16 ouncesin 2012. Affecting restaurants, sports arenas, movie theaters, and convenience stores throughout the city, the ban is an attempt to mitigate rising obesitylevels. Because sugary drinks are unhealthy, the ban aims toprevent New Yorkers from consuming an excess of calories and sugar.

17. Bolivian President Evo Morales signed a law in mid-2011 that set up funding for state-run seed and fertilizer production. Looking to end Bolivian dependence on foreign seeds and to protect biodiversity as well as native foodstuffs, the government plans to invest $5 billion by 2021, with generous credits to small farmers in efforts to ensure food security for Bolivians.

18. The government of Ghana is making major strides in regard to food security and sustainable incomes for its citizens. The Savannah Accelerated Development Authority, for example, created under the late John Atta Mills, has fostered sustainable agricultural methods in Ghana’s impoverished north. Under the administration of President John Agyekum Kufuor, Ghana prioritized national agricultural policies and cut hunger from 34 percent in 1990 to 9 percent in 2004, an achievement which earned President Kufuor the World Food Prize in 2011.

19. Starting in 2011, Denmark became the first nation in the world to levy a tax which directly targets saturated fat in foods. At an extra US$2.85 per kilogram of food with more than 2.3 percent saturated fat, the tax is designed to curb the consumption of saturated fat, which is linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity. Read more about Denmark’s fat tax on our blog.

20. From 2007 to 2011, 26 African nations, including Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, and the Republic of Congo, signed the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Compact. The aims of the Programme are to boost African productivity in the agricultural sector and provide African nations with greater food security. As part of these goals, the Programme plans to make the continent a net exporter of agricultural products, distribute wealth equitably to rural populations, and employ environmentally sound production strategies to promote a culture of sustainable management of natural resources across Africa.

21. The USDA passed the Access to Pasture Rule in 2010, which contains clear and enforceable regulations concerning access to pasture for organic livestock. Mandating that livestock must be able to actively graze on a daily basis, the Access to Pasture Rule not only ensures that livestock operations are healthy and more sustainable, but holds organic livestock production to pasture-based rather than factory farming-based production standards.

“A market and a sentiment are not a movement”

Love this article from Sunday’s NYT which was sent to me by a non-foodie friend. As always, I appreciate Pollan’s clarity and honesty, but I do disagree that this election season is a litmus test for our work.
The present administration has not made localized healthy food systems a core part of its mandate yet and as much as I appreciate the First Lady’s resolve and leadership on good food, lets be honest: it’s not the only flag (or even the main flag) that they are flying. As for initiatives, ballot referendums in California have yet to have serious impact on the rest of the nation. Trust me-I worked on Ohio’s Issue 5 back in the 1990s that was modeled on California’s labeling law of cancer and birth defect-causing ingredients: talk about a bloodbath.
I also say that the issues centrally addressed by this referendum are exactly what we are NOT about: refashioning the industrial food system at its edges. Our work is life and death on every front and about creating an alternative food system that by its very life means death to poisonous, fake foods controlled by a few dozen monolithic corporations. (Asking them to refashion their products for approval is like Al Capone being asked to use a 6 shooter rather than a Tommy gun-everyone would still be in danger and he would still have become richer and more powerful.)
I’d say that the true test of this system as an election kingmaker will be when there are actually candidates that stump for office using localized healthy food systems for all as their mandate. Unfortunately, that has little chance of happening on its own.
The other way we can test this system is when we actually reach across race and class lines and age groups to find one day that the majority of the country has 1) successfully shopped at a farmers market more than once 2) went to a school that regularly served healthy food that was culturally recognizable 3) honors farmers and harvesters by refusing to vote for developments that drive up prices of farmland or waterfront property and 3) choose brands that don’t pollute, use dangerous ingredients or undercut workers to bring you the best price on a product.
Then, the mandate in DC will not depend on the weak resolve of a privately funded politician, but on the goodwill of the electorate. And yeah, until then, it’s a damn good article about movements.

“One of the more interesting things we will learn on Nov. 6 is whether or not there is a “food movement” in America worthy of the name — that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system. People like me throw the term around loosely, partly because we sense the gathering of such a force, and partly (to be honest) to help wish it into being by sheer dint of repetition. Clearly there is growing sentiment in favor of reforming American agriculture and interest in questions about where our food comes from and how it was produced. And certainly we can see an alternative food economy rising around us: local and organic agriculture is growing far faster than the food market as a whole. But a market and a sentiment are not quite the same thing as a political movement — something capable of frightening politicians and propelling its concerns onto the national agenda.”


Food organizers march in support

Another way that Community Food Security Coalition supports the movement. When the conference can link and throw attention to worker rights or immigrant issues or food sovereignty issues.
In our market context, I believe we need to consider these issues more often and think of how we can support other parts of the movement that are not clearly tied yet to farmers markets.

Trader Joe’s March

Fair trade; yes? no? not yet? too late?

As a market organizer that created and ran a fair trade market in New Orleans for 5 years, I researched the idea heavily, many times while sitting at my neighborhood fair trade coffeehouse, Fair Grinds. I did find the fair trade argument thin in places, as it seemed to be more about a fuzzy mostly environmental rating on a bag and less about the part that a market organizer would focus on: that it offers more direct relationships with farmers and allows for a fairer accounting of labor and resource use. The painstaking knowledge of what it takes to farm and to survive in colonial regions is often reduced to a sepia toned photo of a farmer and a name on a sign. What is also interesting is that fair trade has not spread past commodities such as coffee and chocolate. Where is the fair trade wheat or sugar for example? And as more and more distributors enter the game, everyone it seems has at least 1 fair trade coffee on the shelf, often with very little paperwork or knowledge to support it. So, it seems to me to be have developed as more of a brand for consumers than a new values-based set of relationships. I will say, I continue to support my fair trade coffeehouse and purchase it when I can find it.
This article explains some of the weaknesses that it has as a movement, but I will say, their argument that it lacks a “single issue” focus is, in my mind not one of them. In any case, I appreciate the article and the magazine that published it.