Pinkwashing Citrus Companies Using Oil Wastewater to Irrigate Oranges--While Using Pink Ribbons to Sell Them

BY ALYSSA FIGUEROA

If it wasn’t unjust enough that big agricultural businesses are using oil wastewater to irrigate their crops, some of them are now using pink ribbons to sell their produce!

Meet Bee Sweet Citrus and Wonderful Citrus, the U.S.’s largest citrus grower and the company behind Halos® mandarins. These two huge companies are using leftover wastewater from oil corporations to irrigate their oranges—while also using pink ribbons to sell them.

Here at Breast Cancer Action, we call this pinkwashing. In 2002, BCAction coined the term pinkwashing to describe when companies claim to care about women with breast cancer by putting pink ribbons on their products, but then these same companies fail to protect public health. Every October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month (or as we like to call it: Breast Cancer IndustryMonth), BCAction’s Think Before You Pink® campaign takes on pinkwashers.

This October, our “Toxic Isn’t Tasty” campaign is calling on Bee Sweet and Wonderful to stop pinkwashing and stop using oil wastewater to irrigate their citrus.

Bee Sweet Citrus puts a pink ribbon on their Sweetheart Mandarin labels, and Wonderful Citrus participates in an in-store cause-marketing promotion called Pink Ribbon Produce. Companies use pink ribbons to gain customer loyalty and increase their sales. After all, pink ribbons are profitable. But companies shouldn’t put their profits before our health.

Instead, Bee Sweet Citrus and Wonderful Citrus should uphold their stated commitment to women with breast cancer by not only  ending their use of oil wastewater, but also by using their power to ensure that oil wastewater is not used to irrigate any of our food.

There are many powerful players in this oil wastewater issue. In August 2016, our members joined with 350,000 concerned people who wrote to California Governor Jerry Brown, urging him to end the use of oil wastewater for food irrigation. To date, he has failed to do so. In the absence of strong government action, we’re calling on these two giant citrus companies to do the right thing. These two companies are huge stakeholders in this issue.

Wonderful Citrus is the nation’s largest citrus grower and is a subsidiary of Wonderful Company, a privately held $4.8 billion company owned by billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick.

Bee Sweet Citrus is another giant agribusiness that ships throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and several Pacific Rim countries including Japan. Bee Sweet Citrus’ Farm Department Manager, Keith Watkins, is Vice President of the Cawelo Water District.

These two companies have the power to take an important stand for women’s health.

But they need to keep hearing from all of us. Since we’ve launched our campaign last week, our members and other concerned people across the world have taken action by writing to the presidents of Bee Sweet and Wonderful. And they’ve been feeling the pressure. 

After just one day, Bee Sweet Citrus blocked people from sending them letters about these concerns. Even though Bee Sweet uses a pink ribbon on their products and claims to care about women affected by breast cancer, they apparently have no desire to actually hear from them. (But have no fear: your voices will be heard and your letters will be delivered by us!)

While Bee Sweet doesn’t want to hear from us, Wonderful Citrus President David Krause wants us to hear from him.  If you take action on our campaign, Mr. Krause will send you an email in an attempt to protect the interests of Wonderful Citrus. In his email, Mr. Krause admits that Wonderful Citrus uses oil wastewater to irrigate their citrus and then tries to defend it. You can read our full response to his attempt to pivot on this issue on our blog.

Ultimately, we know that the use of oil wastewater to irrigate crops has not been proven safe for the public or for the farm workers who are exposed firsthand to these chemicals. That’s why there’s a food safety panel that’s assessing the health risks associated with it right now!

We hope you’ll join us in keeping the pressure on them. Take action now, and then take the Toxic-Isn’t-Tasty-Ten-Friend Challenge by getting 10 friends to join you.

By raising our voices together, we can and will make change. Tell these pinkwashers that there is nothing sweet or wonderful about citrus irrigated with oil wastewater!
 

Alyssa Figueroa is the Campaigns Coordinator at Breast Cancer Action, a national grassroots education and activist organization working to address and end the breast cancer epidemic.