Boycott Florida’s Tomato

Previously, I wrote about a fascinating new study I read on NPR.com. The gist of the research claims organic tomatoes are stressed from natural pests, so they produce more nutrients.

The NPR article also included quoted disputes by Harry Klee, a tomato researcher from the University of Florida.

When I noticed he was from UFL, my very first thought was how can he possibly understand healthy tomato growth when his home-state produces tomatoes grown in sand by slave labor?

Klee’s current research (according to his UFL page) is improving conventional tomato flavor (or lack thereof), by studying the genetic and chemical make-up. Ugh! That’s just what we need. Another scientist wasting millions to “fix” a problem by changing genetics, instead of admitting that it’s actually distorted agricultural practices that caused the problem in the first place!

When will Big Food ever realize we already HAVE perfect tomatoes? They just aren’t supposed to grow on Florida factory farms.

Getting back to Florida, and why I boycott most of their produce.

Florida is the 2nd largest producer of tomatoes in the United States. But due to extremely poor soil, (*cough cough* sand), their fertilizer & pesticide use is through the roof.

Worse, Florida is tied to agricultural “slavery”. Human workers forced to live in poverty, earning next to nothing, while being exposed to dangerous levels of toxins from chemicals, used to grow tomatoes.

That’s why, months ago, I vowed to never knowingly purchase/eat another tomato from Florida again, organic or otherwise.

Change Is Good

Thankfully, since the public has become more aware of the horrors of tomato farming in Florida, there have been changes.

Large food buyers have promised to purchase tomatoes only from growers who agree to comply with the code of conduct. The buyers pledged to pay a penny-a-pound premium for every box of tomatoes they purchased from participating growers, who will hopefully pass the increase to their workers. This could mean that each worker will earn .80 (up from .50) for a box of tomatoes.

According to the Fair Food Program at CIW (Coalition of Immokalee Workers):

Yum Brands (2005), McDonald’s (2007), Burger King (2008), Subway (2008), Whole Foods Market (2008), Bon Appetit Management Company (2009), Compass Group (2009), Aramark (2010), Sodexo (2010), Trader Joe’s (2012), and Chipotle (2012) are participating in the Fair Food Program. All ten companies have agreed to pay a premium price for more fairly produced tomatoes, and to shift their Florida tomato purchases to growers who comply with the Fair Food Code of Conduct.

///What I want to know is why it took so long for Chipotle and Trader Joe’s to come on board??! Not cool!

See more at: The Other Side of the Tomato

Isn’t it crazy that we still need to worry about fair-wage (like “fair-trade”) standards in the United States!? How could something like this happen here?

Anyway, I’m glad situations are starting to change for Florida workers, but I still avoid purchasing most produce (strawberries, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, etc) from Florida. Besides the extra fertilizer and pesticide load, I still don’t trust that all farms are doing the right thing when it comes to their farm workers.

If everyone stopped purchasing out-of-season produce from Florida, then our fractured food system would have to change! It’s the little steps that count. Vote with your fork!

Links:
Why supermarket tomatoes taste
http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-09-02/opinions/35494934_1_florida-tomato-growers-tomato-industry-immokalee-workers
TomatoLand book from Amazon.com
http://www.npr.org/2011/08/26/139972669/the-unsavory-story-of-industrially-grown-tomatoes
http://www.theperennialplate.com/blog/2012/03/the-other-side-of-the-tomato/

Also check out the (heartbreaking) video over at Lupe Gonzalo: Episode 96 of The Perennial Plate from The Perennial Plate on Vimeo.

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