Today, Whole Foods Market has rolled out a revolutionary rating system for fruits, vegetables, and flowers called "Responsibly Grown." The company says its goal is to provide consumers with information about how produce and flowers are grown, and with what chemicals, so that they can make more informed choices.
The scoring system places the produce of suppliers into three categories: "good," "better," or "best." Whole Foods told the Associated Press 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.
According to Whole Foods' press release, the score depends on a farm's performance in a wide range of topics in each of these key categories:
- Pest management (e.g. using beneficial insects to control pests)
- Farmworker welfare (e.g. providing protective equipment for workers)
- Water conservation and protection (e.g. using efficient irrigation techniques)
- Enhancing soil health (e.g. adding compost to soil; planting cover crops)
- Ecosystems and biodiversity (e.g. planting wildflowers to restore natural bee habitat for pollinator protection)
- Waste reduction (e.g. recycling plastics used in the field)
- Air, energy and climate (e.g. solar panels for renewable energy)
Ken Cook, the Environmental Working Group's president and cofounder praised the company in a statement was particularly positive about Whole Foods' approach to pesticides:
The long-standing line among most American produce retailers amounts to "our produce meets government pesticide standards." Instead, Whole Foods is saying, in essence, "government pesticide standards are not good enough for our customers –– not good enough for their health and not good enough for the environment that they want to protect through responsible shopping."
As of late, a handful of major food brands –– including Walmart and McDonald's –– have been making a big push toward transparency. Customers want to understand the process by which their food is created, both on a farm and in the kitchen.
We applaud the attempt at transparency and hope that this movement not only continues to spread throughout American produce retailers but also encourages farmers to improve their growing practices.
To find out more information about Responsibly Grown, check out its page on the Whole Foods website.