Thursday, April 1, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 1, 2010
CONTACT: Student/Farmworker Alliance and Coalition of Immokalee Workers
Meghan Cohorst, Student/Farmworker Alliance (Immokalee), 239-503-1533, firstname.lastname@example.org
Angela Cisneros, Student/Farmworker Alliance (Florida Gulf Coast University), 239-200-1710
Richard Blake, Student/Farmworker Alliance (University of Florida), 813-767-8512
Students Call On Sodexo to Follow Suit as Aramark Agrees to Work With CIW
NATIONWIDE - April 1 - Responding to an escalating campaign waged by students on campuses across the country, Aramark has agreed to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to directly improve farmworker wages and working conditions in the tomato fields of Florida. The agreement comes a year into the Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA)'s "Dine with Dignity" campaign, which calls on major food service providers to take responsibility for the human rights crisis and grinding poverty faced by workers in their tomato supply chains. SFA's Dine with Dignity campaign has also helped to usher in groundbreaking agreements between the CIW and Bon Appetit Management Company and Compass Group. With the ascension of Aramark, Sodexo now stands isolated as the only major food service provider to not yet join this rising tide of social responsibility.
"This victory is a testament to the power we have as students and young people standing together with farmworkers. The agreement comes in the wake of several successful campus campaigns resulting in Student Senate resolutions calling on Aramark to work with the CIW, including at UF. Thanks to this movement, Aramark has come to understand that the voice and participation of farmworkers themselves are necessary and central components of any real change in the agricultural industry. Sodexo should take note, as all eyes are on them now," said Richard Blake, Student/Farmworker Alliance member at the University of Florida.
"Victory by victory, we're carving out a new world of fair wages, human rights, and dignity from the shameful history of exploitation in Florida's fields. Now that Aramark has come around, Sodexo doesn't have a leg to stand on. If corporations like Sodexo and Publix are to truly embrace social responsibility and guarantee to consumers that the food on our tables is not the product of human rights abuse, they must step up and follow Aramark and several other industry leaders in agreeing to work with the CIW," said Meghan Cohorst, Student/Farmworker Alliance.
"As the daughter of a migrant farmworker and student at an Aramark-contracted campus literally down the road from Immokalee, I had no choice but to be a leader in this fight. Even on a seemingly apathetic and conservative campus, we made a difference and garnered significant support amongst the student body for this campaign. SFA has once again played a crucial role in walking shoulder-to-shoulder with the CIW to another victory. Now, Florida's self-described community grocer, Publix, must come to the table and understand that farmworkers are also part of our communities and deserve to be treated with respect," said Angela Cisneros, Student/Farmworker Alliance member at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Farmworkers picking tomatoes for the corporate food industry toil from dawn to dusk for sub-poverty wages at a piece rate (40-50 cents for each 32-lb. bucket of tomatoes) that has not changed significantly in over 30 years. They perform this grueling, dangerous work with no right to overtime pay, no health insurance, no sick leave, no pension, and without the legal rights to form unions or to demand collective bargaining with their employers, stemming from New Deal-era exclusions of farm- and domestic workers from many of these basic labor and human rights. The CIW-led Campaign for Fair Food, in which SFA is a key catalyst, seeks to transform this reality by enlisting the resources of retail food giants to improve farmworker wages and harnessing their demand to reward growers who respect their workers' rights.
The Student/Farmworker Alliance (http://sfalliance.org) is a national network comprised of students and youth across the country organizing in close alliance with the CIW. During the course of the four-year Taco Bell Boycott, which ended successfully in the 2005 CIW-Taco Bell agreement, SFA members organized to remove or prevent Taco Bell restaurants and sponsorships from 25 separate high schools, colleges and universities. SFA has received national recognition for its work including the "2005 Campus Activism Victory of the Year" from Mother Jones Magazine and special honors from the Greensboro Justice Fund, American Rights at Work, Business Ethics Network (2005 and 2009), and the National Latino/a Law Student Association. SFA is also a founding member of the Alliance for Fair Food, a broad network of human rights, religious, student, sustainable food/agriculture, labor, and other organizations working in partnership with the CIW.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (http://ciw-online.org) is an internationally recognized, award-winning farmworker organization based in southern Florida. It has assisted the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI in successfully investigating and prosecuting 6 cases of modern-day agricultural slavery and has been recognized with the 2007 Anti-Slavery International Award and the 2003 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. The CIW's Campaign for Fair Food has won unprecedented support for fundamental farm labor reforms from retail food industry leaders.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 31, 2010
CONTACT: Cornucopia Institute
Mark Kastel, 608-625-2042
Wal-Mart in Trouble Again Over Organic Marketing Practices
Home Pesticide Manufacturer Misrepresenting Products as Certified "Organic"
CORNUCOPIA, Wis. - March 31, 2010- The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based public interest group that focuses on food and agriculture, today filed legal complaints with the USDA alleging that Wal-Mart, and a North Carolina-based company, HOMS LLC, are violating the USDA organic standards by using conventional agricultural oils, and other ingredients, in pest control products that bear the word organic and the green "USDA organic" seal. The pest control products in question are marketed under the Bio Block label (see front of bottle, back of bottle, and company webpage product screenshot).
A debate has been raging for years whether non-food products, such as pet food and personal care products, are included in the strict regulations that determine the use of the word "organic" on packaging. Most of those products at least had organic ingredients involved in their manufacture, whereas Bio Block pest control products contain not a single organically produced ingredient.
However, there has never been any question that the green "USDA Organic" seal can be used only by producers that follow the rigorous standards mandated by Congress and administered by the USDA's National Organic Program.
In addition to using the word organic prominently on its label, HOMS uses the USDA seal on at least one of its Bio Block products without specifying that organic ingredients were used, and without disclosing the identity of the organic certifying agent, which is also required by federal organic regulations.
"This amounts to, allegedly, illegally usurping the value of the organic label," says Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at Cornucopia. "The USDA Organic seal is meaningful to consumers and should not be used frivolously. This places ethical industry participants at a competitive disadvantage."
The Bio Block products that appear to violate the organic standards were discovered on the shelves of Wal-Mart stores, resurfacing concerns long held by The Cornucopia Institute, and others in the organic industry, that the giant corporation has failed to take the organic standards seriously.
For years, Cornucopia has criticized Wal-Mart for inventing a "new" organic-food from corporate agribusiness, factory farms, and cheap Chinese imports of questionable authenticity.
Wal-Mart's store brand organic milk, for example, comes from Aurora Dairy in Boulder, Colorado. In 2007, federal investigators found that Aurora had "willfully" violated 14 tenets of the organic standards, including confining their cattle to feedlots, instead of grazing, and bringing thousands of illegal conventional cows into their organic operation.
Inside Wal-Mart stores, Cornucopia researchers at the time discovered that the company was mislabeling conventional foods as organic, including yogurt, sugar, rice milk, soy milk and produce. Cornucopia notified Wal-Mart's CEO of the problems with in-store signage, but the corporation ignored these concerns until officials of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the USDA took enforcement actions against Wal-Mart in 2007.
"These instances of mislabeling are emblematic of the company's lack of investment in knowledgeable staff, its inexperience, and its questionable commitment to organics," says Kastel.
While Wal-Mart vowed to solve its false and misleading in-store signage problems, Cornucopia says it has failed to ensure that its store brand organic milk, and some of its other product offerings, come from ethical family farmer following the spirit and letter of the organic law.
Now the organic industry watchdog alleges Wal-Mart is once again marketing organic products fraudulently.
Cornucopia contends that it is not only up to farmers, food processors and certifiers to ensure that foods labeled "organic" are truly organic, but that retailers play an important role as well.
Retailers can and do invest in the resources necessary to ensure organic integrity in their stores. The Wedge, a member-owned cooperative grocer in Minneapolis, handled Bio Block pesticides very differently from Wal-Mart when recently approached by one of HOMS' distributors.
Since the Wedge has invested years in recruiting, hiring and training qualified staff, it came as no surprise that one of their buyers questioned the legality of Bio Block's labels.
The Wedge is one of about 275 cooperative grocers in the country, which collectively helped pioneer the growth in the organic industry. The Wedge was one of the first certified organic retailers in the country and has a full-time Organic Certification and Sustainability Coordinator, Susan Stewart.
"We take the confidence our members and shoppers have in The Wedge very seriously," said Stewart. "Our job is to protect the integrity of the organic label and the authenticity of the food and products we offer in our store."
Cornucopia states that this collaboration between farmers, organic processors and retailers, in partnership with the USDA, makes the organic label the gold standard in helping consumers choose safe and ethically produced food.
"As an organic industry watchdog, we make sure that stakeholders in the organic community, like The Wedge, are not placed at a competitive disadvantage by outfits like Wal-Mart that are attempting to profiteer from the trust consumers have in the organic label," stated Cornucopia's Kastel.
The full Cornucopia news release can be viewed at:
Seeking economic justice for the family-scale farming community. Through research, advocacy, and economic development our goal is to empower farmers - partnered with consumers - in support of ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.