THURSDAY in Cincinnati: Activists Protest Kroger Annual Shareholder Meeting Demanding Company Eliminate Toxic Pesticides from Supply Chain, Join the Fair Food Program

June 28, 2018

Florida farmworkers, Cincinnati residents, public health, beekeeping, and environmental advocates call on Kroger to protect farmworkers from toxic pesticide exposure

CINCINNATI, OH — On Thursday, June 28 at 10:30 am (local time), farmworkers from Florida, local organizers, students, public health, beekeeping, environmental, faith based and consumer allies will converge at Kroger’s annual shareholder meeting. Groups are calling on Kroger to join Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s, Walmart and Whole Foods in signing onto the Fair Food Program (FFP) and commit to eliminate toxic pesticides from its supply chain. The groups say Kroger fails to ensure protection of farm workers, public health and the environment.

WHAT: Protest of Kroger’s 2018 meeting of shareholders demanding that the food giant join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ award-winning Fair Food Program and commit to protecting farmworkers, bees, public health, and the environment by phasing out toxic pesticides including chlorpyrifos, glyphosate and neonicotinoids and increasing domestically produced organic offerings.

WHERE: Music Hall, Music Hall Ballroom,1241 Elm Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202

WHEN: Thursday, June 28 at 10:30 am

VISUALS: Banners, posters, bees, advocates handing out flyer to shareholders.

Yesterday, Kroger’s announced a new commitment to phase out sourcing of live garden plans in stores and garden centers that have been treated with neonicotinoids by 2020. Advocates argue that while the policy is a good first step - Kroger must do more to phase out pesticides in its supply chain on the food it sells.

Prior to the creation of the Fair Food program, farm workers in Immokalee were exposed to harmful pesticides and herbicides for decades, leading to health issues and birth defects among pregnant farmworker women. One of the most public cases was one in 2005 of three mothers, living within 200 feet from each other in a migrant labor camp and working for the same produce company, picking tomatoes in the same field. One mother birthed Carlitos, a child without arms and legs, another birthed Jesus, a child with Robin syndrome and another birthed Violeta, a child missing a nose, an ear and having no visible sexual organs.  Farm workers in Immokalee faced this reality prior to the creation of the Fair Food Program. Today, there is no doubt that farm workers outside of the FFP continue to experience similar cases. However, there exists a solution. By joining the FFP, Kroger can help expand the protections of the FFP to the farm workers in its’ supply chain.

Groups are calling on Kroger to phase-out toxic pesticides including chlorpyrifos, glyphosate and neonicotinoids. Chlorpyrifos is a toxic nerve agent pesticide that threatens the survival of bees and other pollinators and can cause damage to children’s developing brains, including reduced IQ, loss of memory and attention deficit disorders, as well as acute pesticide poisoning in adults and children. Agricultural workers, farmers, their families and rural communities are particularly vulnerable. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was set to ban all uses of chlorpyrifos nationwide last year, but the Trump Administration reversed that decision. Glyphosate has been classified by the World Health Organization’s IARC as a probable carcinogen. Recent studies demonstrate neonicotinoids affect estrogen production in women, are a leading contributor of bee decline and harm the environment.

This month Costco updated its pesticide policy to encourage suppliers of fruits, vegetables and garden plants to phase out the use of chlorpyrifos and neonicotinoids, which will reduce farmworker and pollinator exposure. In addition, last week, Hawaii signed a bill into law to ban chlorpyrifos.

To date, nearly 500,000 people have signed petitions to Kroger demanding it stop selling food grown with pollinator toxic pesticides and increase offerings of domestic organic food.

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The Fair Food Program is a groundbreaking partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers, and 14 major food retailers, including Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Walmart, heralded as “the best workplace-monitoring program” in the US on the front page of the New York Times. Participating retailers agree to purchase exclusively from suppliers who meet a worker-driven Code of Conduct, which includes protections from pesticide exposure. Retailers also pay a “penny-per-pound” premium, which is passed down through the supply chain and paid out directly to workers by their employers. Since the Program’s inception in 2011, buyers have paid over $25 million into the FFP. In 2015, the Program expanded for the first time beyond Florida to tomato fields in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and New Jersey, and in the 2015-2016 season, the Fair Food Program expanded to two new Florida crops, strawberries and bell peppers.

Friends of the Earth fights to protect our environment and create a healthy and just world. We speak truth to power and expose those who endanger people and the planet. Our campaigns work to hold politicians and corporations accountable, transform our economic systems, protect our forests and oceans, and revolutionize our food & agriculture systems.

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