Whole Foods Market Drops Produce Grown With Biosolids

High-profile retailer creates more public suspicion of biosolids

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In an unfortunate turn of events for the clean-water industry, the organic foods retailer Whole Foods Market announced it will no longer carry produce grown in fields fertilized with biosolids. 

It happened after a Whole Foods shopper objected to the grocer’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy: The store didn’t ask, and the farmers didn’t tell. Thousands of activists followed suit, writing to the company with similar complaints. 

“Whole Foods’ prohibition against produce grown in fields spread with sewage sludge is a major victory for consumers,” says an article on PRWatch.org. Well, is it really? 

Under U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Product Regulations, certified organic food cannot be grown in fields that use biosolids. However, the vast majority of biosolids in the U.S. are applied not to produce but to animal feed crops and landscapes. 

And furthermore the U.S. EPA observes, “Years of research and practice have repeatedly demonstrated that biosolids recycling is safe and the food crops grown on land fertilized with biosolids are safe to eat. Only biosolids that meet the most stringent standards spelled out in the federal and state rules can be approved for use as a fertilizer.” 

And PR Watch ignores how well many consumers today accept Class A biosolids for use on their lawns and gardens. 

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago can vouch for the progress that’s been made. The district targets users with Field Days to promote the beneficial use of biosolids. “We’ve had a lot of calls from homeowners asking about using biosolids on their properties,” says Albert Cox, MWRD soil scientist. 

Of course, Whole Foods’ decision has more to do with business expediency than with science. Like any business, the company responds to what customers want. What’s unfortunate is that the decision, if widely publicized, creates more public suspicion of biosolids than the science seems to justify. 

It may be worth your while to have responses ready (such as those above) for customers or neighbors of yours who confront you with the Whole Foods story. In the meantime, it’s clear more work needs to be done on the public education front. 

How can we tell the much more positive story that needs telling? Send your ideas to brianaj@colepublishing.com.


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