Sign-On Letter to Ben & Jerry’s: Do the Right Thing. Go Organic.

We, the undersigned U.S. and international consumer, food, farming, animal welfare, environmental and climate organizations and businesses request that Ben & Jerry’s commit to an immediate three-year transition to sourcing 100% organic ingredients, including milk and cream from 100% grass-fed, regenerative, humane and fair trade/fair labor dairies.

September 1, 2017 | Source: | by

Mr. Jostein Solheim, CEO
Ben & Jerry’s
30 Community Drive, Suite 1 South
Burlington, VT 05403

Dear Mr. Solheim,

We, the undersigned U.S. and international consumer, food, farming, animal welfare, environmental and climate organizations and businesses request that Ben & Jerry’s commit to an immediate three-year transition to sourcing 100% organic ingredients, including milk and cream from 100% grass-fed, regenerative, humane and fair trade/fair labor dairies.

The industrial dairy system, in Vermont and elsewhere, is disastrous for the environment it pollutes, and for the workers, farmers and animals it exploits.

Ben & Jerry’s has built its brand and profitability by cultivating consumer loyalty based on the company’s claims of social responsibility, including concern for the environment and for social and economic justice. These claims are clearly at odds with the industrial dairy model that Ben & Jerry’s supports.

As a leading and iconic brand, Ben & Jerry’s could, and should, take the lead in transforming the U.S. dairy system into a model that in truth reflects what the company claims is its corporate value system. By leading this transformation, Ben & Jerry’s could:

1. Clean up Vermont’s (and other states’) polluted waterways. A 24-page report published in June 2016, by Regeneration Vermont—“Vermont’s GMO Legacy: Pesticides, Polluted Water & Climate Destruction,”—found that the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers on Vermont dairy farms nearly doubled between 2002 and 2012. According to the report, farmers used 1.54 pounds of herbicide per acre in 2002; that number increased to 3.01 pounds per acre in 2012. Eight of the active ingredients in use—atrazine, simazine, acetachlor, alachlor, metolachlor, pendimethalin and glyphosate—have been linked to birth defects, developmental defects and contaminated drinking water. Five of the chemicals have been banned by the European Union. It’s estimated that Vermont taxpayers are on the hook for a $2-billion tab to clean up Lake Champlain and other waterways, polluted in large part by agricultural chemicals.

2. Contribute to the economic success of dairy farmers. Vermont’s (and other states’) organic dairy farmers are in crisis. Ben & Jerry’s could use its significant purchasing power to help these farmers in danger of losing their land and livelihoods. In today’s market for conventional milk products, farmers are forced to sell to companies like Ben & Jerry’s for less than it costs to produce the milk. According to Regeneration Vermont, the average-sized dairy farm in Vermont today (around 125 cows) that sells milk to the conventional, commodity market is losing more than $100,000 – $125,000 a year. To save farms that have been in their families for generations, some dairy farmers have approached banks about restructuring under bankruptcy laws—only to be told that their restructuring plans will be approved only if they include a transition plan for organic, including purchase orders for organic milk. Ben & Jerry’s has a long history of sourcing milk products in New England from the St. Alban’s Co-Op. About 10% of St. Alban’s dairy farmers already produce organic milk—which they supply at a fair price to both farmers and buyers—to companies such as Stonyfield. Ben & Jerry’s could help the other 90% of these farmers transition to organic, which would both guarantee the company enough supply, while at the same time support current suppliers who are willing to make the transition.

3. Help cool the planet. The science is clear. Industrial agriculture, dominated by GMO monoculture crops (whether for human feed, animal feed or ethanol) is a major contributor to global warming. Organic, regenerative agriculture and land-use practices not only reduce the overall footprint of industrial agriculture, but more importantly, have the potential to reverse global warming. Healthy soils, composed of organic material and thriving microbiology, combined with plant photosynthesis, can draw down and sequester the life-threatening levels of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. Vermont’s 92,000 acres of crops, 96% of which are GMO and grown largely for animal feed, are responsible for the massive degradation of soil, and thus the loss of the soil’s natural capacity to sequester carbon. The United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization states that our only hope for both feeding the world, and cooling the planet, is a global transition to organic, regenerative agriculture.

4. Improve the lives of farmworkers. When Vermont dairy farmers struggle to survive, they can’t offer fair, living wages to farmworkers. The conventional dairy industry today relies heavily on migrant workers farmworkers, who are in some cases being forced to work in difficult, largely unregulated conditions. Reports are that some of these workers have no choice but to live in barns, much like the animals they tend. This is unacceptable—and largely unknown to the average, much less “progressive” consumer who would reject these practices as unfair. Ben & Jerry’s must include in any transition-to-organic plan a commitment to supporting farmworkers by paying farmers enough for their dairy products that farmers in turn will commit to paying higher wages.

5. Improve the welfare of animals. Cows confined their entire lives on concrete floors in factory-farm dairy barns endure unspeakable pain and suffering. The average lifespan of a pastured, 100%-grass-fed organic dairy cow is about 15-20 years, compared with only six years for grain-fed cows on conventional dairies. Most of these confined animals suffer painful and preventable infections, respiratory problems, hoof disease, leg injuries and other painful conditions. About 57% of these animals end up being slaughtered for beef, before the age of six.

6. Provide consumers with a healthier product. Multiple studies on the nutritional profile of organic 100% grass-fed milk versus conventional and grain-fed lead to the same conclusion: Milk from organic, 100%-grass-fed cows provides better nutrition. Ice cream is considered a “treat,” typically not a food chosen for its health benefits. Still, we believe it’s worth pointing out that organic, grass-fed milk, according to numerous studies, provides more health benefits than conventional milk. We also believe that pesticide residues have no place in any food product. Yet 10 of 11 samples of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream recently tested positive for residues of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. The best way to reduce the risk of pesticide residue in food is to produce food using organic practices.

It is impossible for those of us committed to responsible agriculture to reconcile Ben & Jerry’s support of industrial dairy with the company’s claims of support for the issues of health, sustainability, climate change, and social and economic justice. No amount of corporate advertising, lip service to progressive causes, or distribution of free ice cream changes the facts.

It’s time for the Ben & Jerry’s brand to live up to its ideals. The only way to do that is through an immediate and unwavering commitment to transition to a 100% organic, 100% grass-fed, regenerative, humane and fair trade/fair labor milk supply.

Thank you for your cooperation in responding to this request.

Respectfully, Ronnie Cummins, International Director, the Organic Consumers Association

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Five Sons Wellness
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Friedman School of Nutricion Science & Policy
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Millions 4 Safe & Sustainable Food, Water and Air
Moms Across America
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Monsanto Tribunal (Netherlands)
My Blissful Space
Nature’s Goodness Natural Food Grocer
Nature’s Path Organic Foods Inc. (Canada)
Navdanya (India)
Nektar Flow Farms (Indiana)
New Orleans Food Coop
Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) – Connecticut Chapter
Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) – Massachusetts Chapter
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Northwest Land Conservation Trust
Nurturing Chiropractic Care
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Puente a la Salud Comunitaria (Mexico)
Pun Pun Learning Center (Thailand)
Red de Acción de Plaguicidas y Alternativas en México, RAPAM
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Regeneration Massachusetts
Regeneration Vermont
Resist & Regenerate Pima County
Right To Know Hernando County
Rockland Forager
Root ‘N Roost Farm
Round River Farm (Minnesota)
Schmelly’s Dirt Farm (Louisiana)
Shaktify Inc
Siskiyou Land Conservancy
Soil Association (UK)
Steady Lane Farm (Massachutsetts)
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The Medicine People
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Toxics Information Project
Transformations CDC
Transition Express Campaign
Truth Teller
United Sludge Free Alliance
US Right to Know
Vía Orgánica (Mexico)
Widman Ag, LLC
Wellness RX
World Permaculture Association (Italy)
Yessence Aromatherapy
Youth Path Organisation (Ghana)
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