Whole Foods has recently established a “Responsibly Grown” program. It provides another set of standards for the produce and flowers that the retailer sells. The system rates both organic and conventionally grown produce. It considers energy conservation, water use and other “environmental and ethical factors” (including how producers treat workers). Adam Chandler (@AllMyChandler) makes this observation in a piece for The Atlantic:
…In other words, food no longer has to be organic to be “good.”
Some organic producers, in particular, are disappointed with the system, as they already pay fees and follow strict production guidelines. Could the Whole Food standards impact the organic designation nationally?
Standards set by a national behemoth like Whole Foods could have huge implications in countless markets. But given the shortcomings of the organic designation, will the Whole Foods system further complicate an already misunderstood standard or make it more meaningful?
Chandler reached out to Verena Seufert, a professor at McGill University, for additional insight.
“The organic label is a legally defined label that has a long list of requirements that the farmers need to follow,” said [Verena] Seufert. “Now this replaces that with a questionnaire that is not monitored by a third party, which the organic label is.”
“I could see the anger of the organic farmers, who pay the fees and follow these rules,” Verena Seufert pointed out, “only to appear beside conventional produce that is well-rated.”
Consumer demand is driving much of this change. Ultimately, how will consumers respond to the “Responsibly Grown” program? Will it serve their needs? An important piece.