The 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 forbids the use of some hazardous neurotoxins still allowed in agriculture.

The upscale grocer is launching Responsibly Grown by rating more than 50% of its produce suppliers nationwide. The programme will reward growers for existing accomplishments and encourage continuous improvement while minimising additional burdens.

Whole Foods Market global produce coordinator Matt Rogers said: “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.

“We are excited to broaden the conversation to recognise additional growing practices and drive more transparency in the industry.”

Rating system

To earn a ‘good’ rating, a farm must take 16 steps to protect air, soil, water, and human health and must comply with the Responsibly Grown pesticide policy – which means using only US Environmental Protection Agency registered pesticides regardless of the country of origin.

A ‘better’ rating indicates advanced performance and a ‘best’ rating specifies exceptional performance in a scoring system covering multiple issues in each of these categories:


  • Pest management 
  • Farm-worker welfare 
  • Water conservation and protection 
  • Enhancing soil health 
  • Ecosystems and biodiversity 
  • Waste reduction 
  • Air, energy and climate 

Lady Moon Farms is one of the suppliers to earn a ‘best’ rating for its vegetables. The company’s founder Tom Beddard said: “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% of energy consumption on the farm.”

Whole Foods hopes to rate 100% of its fruits, vegetables and flowers in the near future.

Lois Vallely

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