Bee Sweet Citrus and Wonderful Citrus, the U.S.’s largest citrus grower and the company behind Halos® mandarins, are using leftover wastewater from oil corporations to irrigate their citrus—while also using pink ribbons to sell them.
The use of oil wastewater for food irrigation is expanding rapidly in California, which is the U.S.’s third largest oil-extracting state and which also produces the bulk of the nation’s fruits and veggies.
As this type of irrigation is set to expand, we believe this is an urgent public health issue because of the potentially hazardous chemicals associated with all oil extraction processes.
Oil companies use hundreds of chemical additives during the oil extraction process—to drill, maintain and clean their wells. In addition, the oil extraction process releases chemicals that are trapped underground. So when oil is extracted from underground reservoirs, wastewater comes back up with it and can contain all sorts of chemicals. Oil wastewater used for food irrigation has been found to contain the chemical benzene, a known human carcinogen linked to breast cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Maximum Contaminant Level Goal for benzene in drinking water is zero, which means “there is no dose below which the chemical is considered safe.”
Check out our members who are raising their voices to call for an end to this practice:
And a new report by a group of independent scientists looked at the 173 identified chemicals used in the oil fields supplying wastewater for food crop irrigation in California and found that 10 of these chemicals are known or possible carcinogens, “43% of them can be classified as potential chemicals of concern from human health and/or environmental perspectives and require a more thorough investigation,” and 38% of these chemicals could not be “sufficiently identified for…hazard evaluation” because oil corporations are concealing them as trade secrets.
Using oil wastewater to irrigate our food has not been proven safe—neither for the health of the public nor for the health of farm workers, who are exposed firsthand to these chemicals. In fact, an expert panel is currently reviewing the use of oil wastewater for food irrigation for associated health risks—yet California’s top officials are still permitting companies like Bee Sweet and Wonderful to use it!
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.
Bee Sweet Citrus puts a pink ribbon on their Sweetheart Mandarin labels “to achieve prevention, and find a cure for breast cancer in our lifetime.” And Wonderful Citrus participates in an in-store cause-marketing promotion called Pink Ribbon Produce, aimed at “uniting the produce industry in the fight for breast cancer.”
Both of these companies claim to care about women with breast cancer and are using pink ribbons to sell their products—all while failing to protect farm workers and the public from the potential health risks of using oil wastewater to irrigate their citrus. We call this pinkwashing.
Recently, we delivered your signatures 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 called on Bee Sweet Citrus and Wonderful Citrus to stop using oil wastewater to irrigate their crops while using pink ribbons to sell citrus—a practice we call pinkwashing.
Read about the campaign’s highlights here.
Mr. Krause, the president of Wonderful Citrus, responded to those who have taken action. You can read our response to his letter here.
For more information, read our campaign brief by clicking below, or download the PDF by clicking here.
This campaign is endorsed by: