Organic Farmers Displeased with Whole Foods

Whole Foods needs to complete with traditional grocery stores, which are offering more organic items. Arguably, Whole Foods created the market, but stores such as Costco, which sold $4 billion of organic foods in 2014, are increasing their food selection and offer lower prices and one-stop-shopping.

Responsibly Grown is the company's new strategy of labeling foods "good," "better," or "best." 

Whole Foods Organic

Although Whole Foods claims to "Reward farmers who work hard to protect human health and the environment," organic farmers say they will no longer benefit from having a federal certified organic designation. According to an organic farmer quoted in The New York Times, "Becoming organic is a big investment of time and money. This ratings system kind of devalues all that - if you can get a ‘best' rating as a conventional farmer using pesticides and other toxic substances, why would you grow organically?"

According to The New York Times, the lines are increasing blurred: 

"Conventional growers can receive higher rankings than organic farmers by doing things like establishing a garbage recycling program, relying more on alternative energy sources, eliminating some pesticides and setting aside a portion of fields as a conservation area."

Matt Rogers, associate global produce coordinator at Whole Foods, says the program gives consumers more choice and encourages conventional farmers to move toward the organic standard, which currently doesn't include "water, waste, energy, farmworker welfare."

Discussion Starters: 

  • Do you consider Whole Foods' new rating system ethical? Use the Guidelines for Ethical Decision Making in Chapter 1 to form your opinion. 
  • What's your view of the Responsibly Grown program? Do you tend to side with Whole Foods' or the farmers' perspective?