Organic industry in shock as Whole Foods pushes new rating system that promotes chemical agriculture as better than organic

Conventional growers can receive higher rankings than organic farmers by doing things like establishing a garbage recycling program, relying more on alternative energy sources, eliminating some pesticides and setting aside a portion of fields as a conservation area.

“Whole Foods has done so much to help educate consumers about the advantages of eating an organic diet,” five farmers said in a recent letter to John Mackey, co-founder and co-chief executive of Whole Foods. “This new rating program undermines, to a great degree, that effort.”

Tom Willey, an organic farmer for some four decades in and around Madera, California, is one of many who believe the Whole Foods program is just a subtle attempt at shifting the cost of a market program onto food producers.

“The reports we’re getting from speaking to farmers around the country are that they are spending anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 to comply with this program,” Willey, one of the farmers who signed the letter, told the Times.