"...Whole Foods has employed an expansion strategy that resembles Wal-Mart with its targeting of local & independent retailers with new store locations while steadily buying out competitors like Wild Oats... Whole Foods & UNFI's business model of centralized sourcing & prioritizing natural products over organic rewards large corporate farms & processors, to the detriment of local & regional small-scale organic farmers &..." brands.
SAFEGUARD ORGANIC INTEGRITY
WHY ORGANIC CONSUMERS AND FAIR TRADE ADVOCATES ARE PRESSURING WHOLE FOODS
Corporate Takeovers & Monopolistic Practices
The $25 Billion organic marketplace has enjoyed substantial growth for
over a decade, thanks to growing consumer consciousness and farmer
innovation. No longer a passing trend or simply a niche market, organic food
and farming are proving to be a viable alternative to the unhealthy,
unsustainable and unjust conventional food system. Unfortunately
unprecedented wholesale and retail control of the organic marketplace by
UNFI and Whole Foods, employing a business model of selling twice as much
so-called "natural" food as certified organic food, coupled with the
takeover of many organic companies by bottom line multinational food
corporations such as Dean Foods/Horizon
(http://organicconsumers.org/Organic/OrganicTop25Jul07.pdf), threatens the
growth of the organic movement.
Perpetrating "Natural" Fraud
Consumers are confused about the difference between conventional
products marketed as "natural," and those nutritionally and environmentally
superior products that are "certified organic." Retail stores like WFM and
wholesale distributors like UNFI have failed to educate their customers
about the qualitative difference between natural and organic. A troubling
trend in organics today is the calculated shift on the part of certain large
companies from certified organic ingredients and products to so-called
"natural" products. With the exception of the "natural" meat sector, where
there are limited voluntary guidelines, there is no definition of "natural."
In the majority of cases, "natural" products are greenwashed conventional
products, with "natural" label claims neither policed nor monitored. Whole
Foods and UNFI are maximizing their profits by selling quasi-natural
products at premium organic prices. Organic consumers are increasingly left
without certified organic choices while organic farmers continue to lose
market share to "natural" imposters. It's no wonder that less than 1% of
American farmland is certified organic.
Excluding Small and Family Farms
Whole Foods and UNFI's business model of centralized sourcing and
prioritizing natural products over organic rewards large corporate farms and
processors, to the detriment of local and regional small-scale organic
farmers and brands. Organic farmers must "get big or get out" to be able to
compete and have free access to markets. Many industrial organic farms and
dairy operations reflect the same abuses and problems of the conventional
food system: extremely energy intensive, systematic abuse of workers,
reduced food quality, and damage to biodiversity. And of course so-called
"natural" products, since they are actually in most cases conventional
products in disguise, are being sold at lower prices than genuine organic
products--thereby retarding the growth of the organic sector.
Organic and Local Food?
In light of the food system's significant contribution to the climate
crisis and the deepening economic troubles facing local food economies, it
is more important than ever to prioritize locally produced organic food.
Though Whole Foods talks a lot about supporting local food and producers,
the fact is that the vast majority of their products are not local, and much
of what they sell is sourced from a small number of industrial organic
operations in California, often owned by the same conventional food
conglomerates responsible for destroying the world's food system.
Organic Monopoly and the "Whole Paycheck" Phenomena
UNFI has undermined the growth of the organic movement by implementing
an unfair tiered pricing system that gives Whole Foods deep discounts while
other grocers, coops and independent retailers pay significantly higher
prices, in effect subsidizing UNFI for its reduced profits at Whole Foods.
With UNFI as the largest organic (but of course their sales are mostly
so-called "natural" products) food wholesaler and Whole Foods as the largest
organic (like UNFI most of its sales are "natural") food retailer, organic
consumers are assured higher prices, lower quality and fewer choices.
Cancer in a Bottle?
In 2008, the Organic Consumers Association exposed a problem which
particularly threatenss women - a large number of leading conventional as
well as "natural" and "organic" brands of shampoos, lotions, cosmetics and
household cleaning products which contained the carcinogen 1,4-Dioxane.
Included in the list of products were several Whole Food's 365 brand
products and many products in the UNFI catalog. While several dozen
companies have committed to eliminating the 1,4-Dioxane, neither Whole
Foods, nor UNFI, have endorsed OCA's Coming Clean Campaign:
nor have they called on the USDA to crack down on blatant labeling fraud
in the organic personal care and cosmetics sector.
#7 Corporate Consolidation of Organics
In the last decade, the organic marketplace has experienced hyper
consolidation, with numerous small to medium-sized farmers, manufacturers
and retailers being taken over by larger, profit-hungry corporations. Whole
Foods has employed an expansion strategy that resembles Wal-Mart with its
targeting of local and independent retailers with new store locations while
steadily buying out competitors like Wild Oats. UNFI has also grown rapidly
over the last decade, in part by aggressively taking over other
distributors, regional wholesalers and manufacturers.
Organics for Elites?
The organic food and farming movements were born out of the desire to
provide healthy and safe food to all. Whole Foods' business model: selling
overpriced conventional foods as "natural," with organics in a subordinate
role, is a recipe for maximizing profits rather than maximizing the growth
of organic food and farming. Worse yet, Whole Food's high prices have not
translated into larger profits for family farms or small-scale
manufacturers. Likewise, UNFI's growing market share and near-monopoly of
the organic and "natural" market has reduced the options for consumers and
independent retailers alike, undermining the growth of consumer buying clubs and the lower-cost alternatives.
UNFI and Whole Foods have a history of cutting workers' benefits. Both
have gone to extreme lengths to block their employees from choosing to
unionize. Whole Foods has long fought unionization of its retail locations,
largely ignored the demands of farm workers organizations, like the United
Farm Workers, and kept workers' wages consistently low by industry
standards. UNFI has repeatedly fought efforts by its employees to fight for
better pay, benefits and working conditions. Where workers have sucessfully
formed unions, UNFI has begun moving jobs to new, non-union locations.
WHY OCA BELIEVES THAT MOST "NATURAL" FOODS ARE A FRAUD
1. There is widespread use of GMO (genetically modified organisms) ingredients in so-called "natural" foods, including the "natural" brands that make up most of WFM and UNFI's sales.
2. So-called "natural" (non-organic) soy milk, including leading brands such as "Silk," are made with conventional soy lecithin, utilizing the hazardous chemical, hexane, as an extraction agent.
3. 90% or more of the vitamins and supplements now on the market labeled as "Whole Foods," "natural" or "food based" are spiked with synthetic chemicals.