Thursday, July 24, 2014

Friends of the Everglades requests Whole Foods to stop purchases of sugar produced in Florida … by gimleteye

Today the Palm Beach Post reported on the request to Whole Foods by Friends of the Everglades to stop purchases of sugar produced in Florida because Florida sugar violates Whole Foods' core values.

Earlier this year, Whole Foods CEO addressed an audience in Palm Beach County. "Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb said at Lynn University Wednesday that business can be the “greatest change agent” in society. Robb said the 33-year-old company practices “conscious capitalism” and has always wanted to contribute to the community and protect the environment, but has expanded its core values in recent years… We are purpose-driven,” Robb said, according to the Palm Beach Post. "We are here to make a difference in the world. We are willing to stretch, willing to take a risk."

The Friends' letter, in part, states:

"The byproducts of sugarcane cultivation on 700,000 acres in the EAA are highly damaging to the Everglades ecosystem. Soil used to produce sugar in the Everglades Agricultural Area has not been conserved. It is severely depleted. Water management practices – influenced by industry -- have been the subject of federal lawsuits by environmental groups. If the industry does “promote healthy ecosystems”, it is only to the degree required by the results of litigation. ... Although Florida’s sugar producers could implement effective BMP’s (best management practices), for instance by drastically limiting soil amendments that promote methyl mercury in the Everglades, instead it protects its privilege by externalizing these costs."

Although there are many reasons to object -- including the trillion dollar public health cost associated with excess consumption of sugar and the gross excess of the Farm Bill that enriches some of the wealthiest corporate farmers in America -- this campaign is about Whole Foods, a respected corporation that has built a billion dollar franchise on a promise to consumers that its products are driven by core values.

There has been no response yet by Whole Foods to the Friends' request. Click 'read more' for the text of the Palm Beach Post report.

Whole Foods asked to stop selling Florida sugar
Posted: 6:32 p.m. Wednesday, July 23, 2014
By Susan Salisbury - Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Friends of the Everglades, an environmental organization based in Coral Gables, is asking Whole Foods Market to stop purchasing sugar produced in Florida and to remove the products from its stores.
The group’s letter says that the byproducts of sugar cane cultivation on 700,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area are “highly damaging to the Everglades ecosystem.”

The Whole Foods Market in the University Commons on Glades Road in Boca Raton.

Palm Beach County is the heart of Florida’s sugar cane industry. The state’s three sugar companies, U.S. Sugar Corp., Florida Crystals Corp., and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, have 393,545 acres in production in the county, according to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office.

Whole Foods spokesman Jeremy Jones said Wednesday that the grocer will look at the issues from all angles. “Meanwhile, we don’t have further comment other than we evaluate the products we sell based on our quality standards and organic products in the U.S. are certified to meet the USDA’s standards,” he said.

U.S. Sugar spokeswoman Judy Sanchez said Wednesday that Friends of the Everglades is wrong about sugar in Florida.

“Due to Florida’s strong environmental protections, Florida sugar is produced under the most environmentally-sound farming practices, more protective of the environment than sugar produced anywhere else in the world,” she said.

The group’s letter addressed to “Whole Foods Regional Procurement” includes a statement from Whole Foods’ website about what organic means. The letter is signed by Alan Farago, Friends of the Everglades’ president.

“Organic agriculture is a production method that emphasizes the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality. Organic food products are produced using: Agricultural management practices that promote healthy ecosystems and prohibit the use of genetically engineered seeds or crops, sewage sludge, long-lasting pesticides, herbicides or fungicides,” the Whole Foods statement says.

“Florida-produced sugar does not meet these standards,” the FOE letter states.

The letter specifically mentions West Palm Beach-based Florida Crystal’s certified organic sugar.

Gaston Cantens, Florida Crystals’ vice president of corporate relations said the organic sugar is produced strictly in accordance with government rules and is verified by a third-party organic certification agency. “Any statements to the contrary are uninformed and irresponsible,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “We are proud of our commitment to organic sugar and of being the only producer of organic sugar 100% made in America.”

Farago spoke Wednesday about why the organization is writing now.

“I’ve been a loyal customer, as are other members of the Friends board, and it really seemed to all of us that it was time to call attention to this inconsistency between a market that we regularly shop at because of its ethical underpinnings and the presence of Florida sugarcane.”

“We are very troubled about a billion dollar supermarket chain that one is following based on corporate values that are contradicted by sugarcane produced in Florida.

There certainly are many aspects to sugar industry in Florida that are of deep concern to Friends and the environmental community. This is a very narrow effort based on an inconsistency on brand we value, which is Whole Foods, and a product that we know is grown in blatant disregard of Whole Foods’ core values.”


Anonymous said...

You didn't expect the corporate sugar PR people to say that they were doing anything wrong, now, did you? I'll bet Whole Foods won't stop buying Florida sugar, either. What are you going to do then, Alan?

Anonymous said...

whole foods is no saint, they are just a business who pretends to care about the environment and people - ask some folks who work there how happy they are. Whole foods used to be a different company - and you expect them to stop carrying all products with this? come on. they are just a corporate store - dont buy the hype!

Anonymous said...

Way to go Friends! If WF doesn't respond, you should request a meeting at their corporate offices. You can also start an online petition.

Anonymous said...

You guys who think whole foods care have GOT to be kidding! they are no more enlightened than any other supermarket.... its all hype... .and a good business model. learn some more about what really goes on there (and arguably years ago it was different!).