On September 19th, California residents joined Center for Food Safety, Food and Water Watch, Daily Kos, and Climate Hawks Vote to deliver boxes of petition signatures to The Wonderful Company headquarters in West LA, urging the billion-dollar company to stop using oil wastewater to irrigate crops. Below is a recap of the event.
The Wonderful Company might not be a household name, but millions of Americans have enjoyed the company’s products, such as Halos™ mandarins, Wonderful Pistachios™ and POM Wonderful™ Juice. The $4 billion company was founded and is currently privately owned by Beverly Hills billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick. The Resnicks are widely known in Southern California for their philanthropic work and political contributions to both the Democratic and Republican Parties. But they are also major players in California water politics, leading some to dub them as the "Koch brothers of California water.“
It is less known that The Wonderful Company uses oil wastewater to irrigate their crops in Kern County, CA. We currently have very little information on the safety of this “water saving” practice. The main thrust of CFS’s campaign has been getting more information about the chemicals used in the process and whether they make it to the produce, and subsequently, the consumer. The purity of the end-product is not the only concern – we must also focus on the environmental and worker health issues stemming from exposure to toxic chemicals found in oil wastewater.
So what can be done? The Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) is the main agency that has the power to regulate the use of oil wastewater on crops, along with the local water district that is acquiring the water from the oil companies. The RWQCB claims to be addressing this issue, but the process is slow and very political.
Consumer pressure is an important tool to speed up the process for getting rid of the oil wastewater in our food system. This is why we decided to deliver our members’ petitions to The Wonderful Company in person.
The core of the action consisted of two parts: speeches and a theatrical petition delivery. We livestreamed the entire action — watch above! CFS’s Senior Attorney Adam Keats begins speaking at 4:10.
Statement from CFS’s Senior Attorney Adam Keats:
We are here to say that we know full well what it means to water our crops with toxic oil wastewater. It means chemicals, known and unknown, being flushed into our rivers and groundwater. It means chemicals, known and unknown, being sprayed on our food. And even if those chemicals slough off or get washed off before we eat those fruits, it means farmworkers breathing, touching, smelling, and tasting those chemicals. It means birds, fish, animals and bugs breathing, touching, smelling and tasting those chemicals.
We are here to say that we want nothing to do with this practice. We want nothing to do with the watering of food with oil wastewater, and just as importantly, we want nothing to do with the oil drilling that is creating that toxic water in the first place.
We are here to say that we know full well that using oil wastewater to grow crops is not water recycling—it is greenwashing the unnecessary use of massive amounts of water to extract oil and it is greenwashing the massive amounts of polluted wastewater that necessarily result from this toxic practice. It is greenwashing a toxic oil industry that simply should not exist—not here in California and not anywhere.
We are here to say that we know that the false logic on which this whole scheme is based necessarily resulted when our food production was taken over by corporations—when our family farms and community agriculture become Big Ag.
And we are here to say that we know that there is something that we can do about all of this. We know that we can stop buying these Big Ag products. We know that we can support farming practices that do not do more harm than good; that work in harmony with the environment rather than in competition with it. That support farmworkers with real living wages and a safe and healthy workplace.
We are here to say NO to Big Ag and its toxic stew of unsustainable crops, wasteful water use, and codependency with the worst and most harmful industry on this planet: the oil industry.
We are here to say NO to Big Ag polluting the environment, poisoning our food, and harming farmworkers.
Even though we delivered nearly 100K signatures that day, we will continue to put pressure on The Wonderful Company until Stewart and Lynda Resnick agree to stop irrigating our food with oil wastewater. Add your name! Tell The Wonderful Company: Don’t pollute our fruit!