The Wonderful Company may not be a household name, but some if its products are nationally recognizable, like Halos mandarins, POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, Fiji Water and Telaflora, the flower delivery service.What isn’t well-known is that the Wonderful Company grows some of its crops in parts of California’s Central Valley where oil companies like Chevron dispose of oil field wastewater in agricultural irrigation systems.
Wonderful grows some of their Halos, pistachios, and almonds in areas where this oil wastewater ends up irrigating the crops. These products are then shipped around the country and around the globe, to store shelves and kitchen cabinets everywhere. Traces of cancer-causing chemicals like ethylbenzene have been found in the wastewater, along with a host of other toxic substances.
Shockingly, there are no regulations to require regular testing of the wastewater or the crops irrigated by it.
Chevron and other oil companies sell the wastewater to a local water district, which then resells it to agriculture companies after it is minimally processed.
To highlight this dangerous reality, dozens of volunteers aligned with Food & Water Watch, Center for Food Safety, Daily Kos, and Climate Hawks Vote descended on the Wonderful Company headquarters in Los Angeles recently to deliver nearly 100,000 petitions demanding that Wonderful ban toxic oil wastewater from their crops. The signers of the petition vow not to buy Wonderful products until the practice ends.
“In California, we currently have a serious problem with the quality of our food, the safety of the water used to grow it and the resolve of our government to rein in alarming corporate abuses,” Walker Foley, senior Southern California organizer for Food & Water Watch, told the crowd.
Foley criticized the Wonderful Company for using the oil wastewater to grow products it markets as healthy, like POM Wonderful juice and Halos mandarins. He pointed out that the unregulated water potentially gets into underground aquifers and is omnipresent in the fields, posing potential health risks to farmworkers as well as consumers.
Attorney Adam Keats of the Center for Food Safety said the oil industry was looking for a way to get rid of the immense amount of water it contaminates while improving its image in the process. “It’s not water recycling, it’s greenwashing,” he said.
The Wonderful Company is privately held by billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick, whose businesses are notorious for controlling more California water than all the households in Los Angeles and San Francisco combined. The Resnicks, the focus of the highly critical National Geographic documentary Water & Power: A California Heist, have made hefty campaign contributions to both Republicans and Democrats, including Gov. Jerry Brown, over the last two decades.
A year ago, Food & Water Watch and partner organizations delivered more than 300,000 petition signatures to Gov. Brown demanding that he order an end to the use of oil wastewater on California crops. To date, the governor’s response has been silence. Because local and state water authorities and Brown are unresponsive, we are now putting pressure on powerful agribusiness players like Wonderful to compel Governor Brown to act in the interests of health and safety for millions of consumers.