Whole Foods Market and Xerces Society: Life without pollinators would be a lot less sweet

FREMONT, Calif. 2016-Apr-15 — /EPR Retail News/ — Life without pollinators would be a lot less sweet. That’s the message Whole Foods Market and the Xerces Society are delivering this month as part of the duo’s “share the buzz” campaign to raise awareness around the plight of pollinators, and to inspire shoppers to be part of the solution.

One in every three bites of food comes from plants that depend on pollinators, and with pollinator populations declining at alarming rates, the availability of ingredients in many of the baked goods people enjoy every day is being threatened.

To showcase the vital role pollinators play in the global food supply, Whole Foods Market’s Fremont, California store gave shoppers a startling preview of what their bakery choices would be if pollinators vanished. The before-and-after photos are disturbing – as are the findings:

  • 97 percent of the dessert choices featured in the bakery department would either disappear or would be significantly altered; only 32 of 1,057 items remained in their original form.*
  • With key ingredients such as chocolate, coffee, almonds, berries, carrots and even vanilla relying on pollinators for production, hundreds of desserts – from specialty treats like macaroons and tiramisu to everyday favorites like chocolate chip cookies – would be history.
  • Dairy-based dessert options would be scarce. Pollinators are vital to crops that feed cattle, including alfalfa; without them, there’d be no more cheesecakes, crème brulee, thickly iced cakes, puddings, creamy tarts or éclair fillings. Even the most basic choices like plain white cupcakes that require dairy ingredients would be limited.

“Sweet tooth or not, life without dessert would be tough to swallow,” said Eric Mader, pollinator program co-director for The Xerces Society. “But with one-third of the world’s food crops depending on disappearing pollinator species, that may one day be a reality. The good news: it’s not too late. With support from Whole Foods Market and its shoppers and suppliers, our organization is working with farmers nationwide to help them create wildflower habitat and to adopt less pesticide-intensive practices, which will help pollinators thrive.”

With shoppers’ support, Whole Foods Market and its suppliers have donated more than $547,000 to the Xerces Society since 2012. These funds have helped create or improve more than 186,000 acres of pollinator habitat in the U.S., with tens of thousands more acres in development.

“This campaign is all about inspiring people to take small steps that make a big difference for these small heroes of our food supply,” said Lee Kane, mission and culture coach for Whole Foods Market. “Even simple strategies like shopping organic or planting native wildflowers can tip the balance back in favor of our pollinators.”

Customers can also “share the buzz” by choosing Responsibly Grown outdoor potted plants, or by purchasing pollinator-friendly products from brands that are supporting the Xerces Society’s conservation efforts, including:

  • Cascadian Farm – The organic cereal, snacks and frozen produce brand protects pollinators through research funding and organic farming.  Brand packaging features “Bee Friendlier” codes that consumers enter on bee-friendlier.com, which trigger 25cent donations to pollinator conservation efforts of their choice.  The company also recently announced a new commitment to plant thousands of acres of pollinator habitat on supplier farms by 2020.
  • Blue Diamond – This almond product maker protects pollinators by donating to research on bee health and by planting flowering ground covers around its almond orchards.
  • Whole Foods Market’s limited edition 365 Everyday Value® Pollinator-Friendly Almonds and Almond Butters – Whole Foods Market launched its pollinator-friendly almond products to directly support a pilot program developed by the Xerces Society, and Nevada Ranch in Le Grange, California, which is working to integrate native wildflower habitat and improved pesticide protection in large-scale almond production.

Find product information, kid-friendly educational activities, videos spotlighting lesser-known pollinators like moths, butterflies, fireflies and hummingbirds, and more at: wfm.com/pollinators.

*The only dessert items that remained unaltered were soy-based vegan “cheesecake” and coconut macaroons. Vegan oatmeal raisin cookies, vegan peanut butter cookies, plain mini cheesecakes, angel food cake, vegan white cake and lemon sticky toffee pudding also remained, but in very limited quantities or with recipe alterations.

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Beth Krauss

Source: Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market launches produce rating system Responsibly Grown

New, exclusive ratings prohibit use of many hazardous neurotoxins on fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers; focus on transparency

AUSTIN, Texas, 2014-10-15— /EPR Retail News/ — Today Whole Foods Market launches Responsibly Grown, an industry leading tiered produce rating system that assesses growing practices that impact human health and the environment. The new rating system labels fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers as “good,” “better” or “best” to help shoppers make more informed choices in the produce and floral departments, and it prohibits some of the most hazardous neurotoxins still allowed in agriculture.

Prohibited pesticides include several organophosphate insecticides, which recent studies indicate can impair neurological development in children born to mothers exposed in diet or by working in agriculture and living in nearby communities.  A full list of prohibited and restricted pesticides may be found on the Responsibly Grown web page.

“After three years of research and planning, Responsibly Grown is the result of our collaboration with suppliers, scientists and issue experts to continue our strong commitment to organic, while embracing additional important topics and growing practices in agriculture today,” said Matt Rogers, global produce coordinator at Whole Foods Market. “We are excited to broaden the conversation to recognize additional growing practices and drive more transparency in the industry.”

To earn a “good” rating, a farm must take 16 major steps to protect air, soil, water, and human health.  Growers must also comply with the Responsibly Grown pesticide policy, which restricts growers to using only U.S. Environmental Protection Agency registered pesticides, regardless of the country of origin.  In other words, farms outside the U.S. cannot supply Whole Foods Market with fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers grown using pesticides not allowed in the U.S., with very limited exceptions including for crops not grown in the U.S. Growers also cannot use biosolids or irradiation and must commit to GMO transparency.

“I applaud the courage and conviction of Whole Foods Market, and its growers and suppliers, for taking decisive action on more than a dozen high-risk pesticides. The next generation of Americans will be the primary beneficiaries of this bold step,” according to Dr. Charles Benbrook, research professor and program leader for the Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Washington State University.

A “better” rating indicates advanced performance and a “best” rating indicates exceptional, industry-leading performance in a scoring system covering multiple 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)

The first-of-its-kind program seeks to reward growers for existing accomplishments and raise the bar to encourage continuous improvement while minimizing additional burdens for growers.

“Being truly sustainable means more than just not using harmful chemicals. Energy conservation is a big focus for us so we installed solar panels on the packing house at our Pennsylvania farm which accounts for 20 percent of energy consumption on the farm,” said Tom Beddard, founder and grower at Lady Moon Farms that has a “best” rating for their vegetables.  “We incorporate many different practices with a promise to put more into the soil than we take out, ensuring more fertile farms and making the earth a safer place for all of us. We’re proud to share these practices with Whole Foods Market shoppers through Responsibly Grown.”

Pollinator protection is another major focus of the program that is likely to resonate with Whole Foods Market shoppers.  Responsibly Grown addresses the primary threats facing pollinators including high risk pesticide use, loss of habitat, and disease spread from managed bees to wild pollinators.  Four of the most common neonicotinoids currently allowed in the U.S. will be prohibited for growers to reach the Responsibly Grown “best” level. Many growers, scientists, environmentalists, and beekeepers are concerned about the impact of these pesticides on bees and other pollinators.

“As a result of this program, we are already hearing from fruit and vegetable farmers who are creating wildflower-rich habitat for bees, and working to reduce or eliminate pesticides on farms from New Jersey to Iowa to California,” said Eric Mader, assistant pollinator program director for The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “This type of action is the first and most important step in reversing the ongoing decline of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.”

Whole Foods Market is launching Responsibly Grown by rating hundreds of products with key suppliers, more than 50 percent of produce nationwide.  The goal of reaching 100 percent ratings of all fruits, vegetables and flowers will be achieved over time.

Shoppers interested in learning more about Responsibly Grown can visit wholefoodsmarket.com/responsiblygrown.


Matt Rogers

Global Produce Coordinator

Matt works on standards and sourcing for the Whole Foods Market produce team supporting policy and compliance on social, environmental and food safety issues.