The next time you find yourself in Whole Foods' fresh produce aisles, you'll find that much of the research you wanted to do on how your food is grown has already been done for you.
Whole Foods began implementing a program Wednesday that rates fresh produce in its grocery aisles based on pesticide, water and soil use, and its impact on human health and farmworkers. The upscale supermarket chain said it is rating fresh produce on a scale from "good" to "better" to "best" with the intention of informing shoppers about the way fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers are tended and grown.
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In addition, Whole Foods said it was prohibiting some insecticides that can impair neurological development in children. “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.
Farms that participate in the program have to take steps to protect air, soil, water and human health, and only use pesticides registered EPA in order to earn a "good" rating. The "better" and "best" ratings indicate improved performance in those categories.
Whole Foods says the program will encourage farmers to recycle plastics, install solar panels, plant wildflowers to restore natural bee habitats, and more efficiently irrigate their fields, for example. About half the produce sold in Whole Food's stores will carry the labels, the New York Times reports.
Whole Foods has been struggling to compete with cheaper food sources like Walmart, which recently announced its own organic food program. The company's stock has dropped more than 30% this year, though its earnings have been stable.