Letters to the editor, January 2013

This article was originally published in January 2013

Thankful for PCC

I feel compelled to write to offer praise to the PCC staff to offset the usual criticism that must fill your inboxes.

Recently, the Guardian in the U.K. ran a compelling commentary that discusses how many on the left can offer only criticism instead of celebrating small incremental wins that build up to a bigger goal: http://tinyurl.com/d28hpf5.

Reading the commentary made me think of all of the PCC shoppers who come to your store to enjoy the benefits yet leave with nothing but criticism directed to the Sound Consumer without an ounce of encouragement or praise. Unfortunately, the sanctimonious tone of most letters has dissuaded me from wanting to read published letters.

I commend your editorial team for being so patient! I’m sure that unpublished letters offer your team hours of entertaining debate and discussion.

When on rare occasion I enter a big box supermarket, I realize how truly lucky we are to have PCC here in the Seattle area.

My favorite paragraph from the reference to the Guardian commentary is the following:

“Can you imagine how far the civil rights movement would have gotten, had it been run entirely by complainers for whom nothing was ever good enough? To hell with integrating the Montgomery public transit system when the problem was so much larger!”

I thank the PCC staff for taking small, focused steps each and every day to make my grocery shopping options cleaner, better quality and safer for my children and generations to come. Your small steps and gains are making a huge difference for all of us. Regards,
— Ann-Marie Petersons, PCC kids in 4-H

PCC kids in 4-H

Daesha Ali, with her 4-H calf

Daesha Ali, with her 4-H calf

I wanted to share a few photos of my daughter, Daesha Ali, with her 4-H calf. She really has enjoyed this experience and through her joy and excitement she has reached out to other kids her age to get them involved in a 4-H club. This experience has been a big eye-opener for me as well.

I had no idea there are 4-H clubs for art, cooking, growing vegetables, etc. I truly would like to see these programs integrated into the school system. We really had to dig to find the information on this program. My hopes are that PCC could bring some awareness to the 4-H clubs in our area.

Instead of focusing always on sports, we all should be more aware of other activities out there to help educate our kids so they know where things come from and how to make them. Thanks for listening.
— Karim Ali, Edmonds meat department

Non-organic is not “conventional”

I wish stores and writers would stop referring to foods treated with herbicides, fungicides and insecticides and grown from genetically engineered (GE) seed, or irradiated, as “conventional.” We need the convention to be “organic.”

Naming foods to which poisons or foreign genes have been added “conventional” contributes a subliminal message that they are “normal” and safe.
— Saskia Davis

PCC replies: We agree with your reasoning and a while ago did replace produce signs that said “conventional” with ones that said “not organic.” Customers complained they were confusing. Do you have an alternate suggestion? Keep in mind 95 percent of all the produce sold at PCC is certified organic.

Water pH

In a recent trip to the Redmond PCC, we inquired as to the pH of the water from your in-store reverse osmosis dispenser, but we were unable to get an answer to our query. Could someone at PCC please advise us?
— Jay and Tracy

PCC nutrition educator Nick Rose replies: The water in our bulk water dispensers is close to a neutral 7.0 on the pH scale. The company that provides our bulk water, Custom Pure, says the pH can range from 6.8 – 7.2, but it’s more often on the upper end than the lower end.

Brands defeating GMO labeling

I’ve been a PCC member since the ’70s, when it was “born” in Ravenna two blocks from my house. I spent 10-plus years as a certified organic farmer on Vashon Island and wrote and published a book that encouraged small organic farms.

I trust PCC to “screen” the brands of food for wholesomeness and continue to spend a significant percent of my grocery budget at PCC. I received a request from the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) that calls for boycotting many of the “natural” foods I am accustomed to buying at PCC, including Cascadian Farms, Kashi, Muir Glen, Odwalla and Knudsen. Please tell me what PCC’s stand is on this issue. Thank you.
— Pamela Woodroffe


As a Sierra Club board member and member of the OCA’s million-plus network of consumers, along with 5 million Californians who voted YES on 37 and the 90 percent of consumers nationwide who want mandatory genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling, we here in Washington state are gearing up for the next GMO labeling battles, as in Vermont, and Connecticut as well. Please pull the brands below … otherwise what’s the point?

  • PepsiCo (donated $2.5M to defeat Prop 37): Naked Juice
  • Kraft (donated $2M): Back to Nature
  • Safeway (member of Grocery Manufacturers Association, which donated $2M): “O” Organics
  • Coca-Cola (donated $1.7M): Honest Tea, Odwalla
  • General Mills (donated $1.2M): Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, Lara Bar
  • ConAgra (donated $1.2M): Alexia
  • Kellogg’s (donated $791K): Kashi, Bear Naked, Morningstar Farms, Garden Burger
  • Smucker’s (donated $555K): R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic
  • Unilever (donated $467K): Ben & Jerry’s
  • Dean Foods (donated $254K): Horizon, Silk, White Wave

— Robert Haverlock, sustainability consultant, Sierra Club Snohomish County chapter

PCC replies: We saw OCA’s call for a boycott and we understand why some shoppers agree. Many of these companies, however, are foundational organic and/or Non-GMO Project Verified brands, and reducing choices by removing them is not likely to serve members’ interests well.

Internally at PCC, we’re discussing how best to become non-GMO. We give preference to certified organic and Non-GMO Project Verified products. We’re exploring additional steps to take in the new year.

PCC has contributed $100,000 to support I-522, the legislative initiative for labeling GMOs. We also are participating in the LabelitWa campaign steering committee.

Support for I-522

I was very pleased to see in the Sound Consumer your cover articles in both the October and December 2012 issues, Initiatives to Label GMOs and Thank you, I-522 Supporters. Both shed light on the controversial topic of GMO labeling. I particularly was appreciative of the point about how calorie and trans fat content as well as the country of origin now are required by law to be marked on packages. Clearly, labeling foods made with GMOs is the next step.

I am currently a high school senior and even as a teenager, what I eat and where my food comes from is very important to me. PCC is one of the few grocery stores that remain deeply dedicated to protecting the safety and integrity of the products represented within your stores. It seems to me that labeling GMOs is a simple matter of transparency.

Putting aside the controversy of the questionable health of these products, how can it be unreasonable for companies to declare what exactly their customers are putting in their mouths? I’m finding it difficult to comprehend the argument. The fact that massive agricultural companies such as Monsanto and DuPont refuse to be completely honest about the content of their products gives more than enough reason for concern.

Thanks, PCC, for your continued efforts to get I-522 on the ballot in Washington state, in spite of the defeat of Prop 37 in California.
— Lily Monsey

Birds avoid GMO sugar

Does the government require that companies disclose whether a product contains granulated cane sugar or granulated sugar from sugar beets, which is likely to be GMO? I’ve noticed my hummingbirds won’t eat sugar from sugar beets but will eat cane sugar.
— Verna Belt

PCC replies: Your hummingbird anecdote is consistent with other reports that animals will not eat GMO foods, if given a choice. Cows, geese, pigs, squirrels, elk, even rats have refused to eat GMOs if there’s another choice. They must sense something that human science cannot yet discern. Be aware that if the sugar in an ingredient listing doesn’t say “cane sugar,” it’s most likely from GMO sugar beets.

Self-check registers

I was dismayed and shocked when shopping in the Greenlake store to see that one cashier stand has been removed and replaced by four self-check register stands. I have abhorred these in other grocery stores as simply eliminating good paying jobs with benefits, in favor of inducing customers to become workers doing their own checking. I always wait in the cashier line — even when it means a longer wait — as my form of protest.

I remember that in the early days of PCC, people bagged their own groceries resulting in fewer employees, and I would be more than happy to go back to that. I favor tellers over bank machines as well.

I do not want to live in a wholly animated world. I want to live in one populated by people who help each other cooperatively and where there is employment for all.
— Lynn Fitz-Hugh

PCC replies: Rest assured none of our staff have been displaced, and in fact we have added a staff position to attend to the self-checks. Greenlake PCC is experiencing tremendous growth and we needed to add more check stands. Logistically, we could not add four regular check stands so we opted for the self-checks, which means we now have eight check stands total — two more than we had before. We had a lot of requests for self-checks because our other locations have them. We received feedback about the long wait time in our lines, especially for those who wait with small purchases.

We know that some people prefer strongly not to use self-checks and we respect that choice, which is why we always will have regular check stands open and staffed with our stellar cashiers.

Also in this issue

News bites, January 2013

Report: organic benefits, Judge halts GE on wildlife refuges, USDA to require organic tests, and more

Soil & Sea: reports from our producers

Most of us Seattle-area residents don't often follow the cost of hay, or how fishermen in Alaska are faring — even though what happens on farms, fishing boats, and other places our food is harvested and produced affects our choices for what to eat.

In defense of whole-milk dairy

From 2009 to 2012, whole milk sales at PCC increased from 18 percent of total milk sales to 26 percent. Meanwhile, sales of nonfat milk dropped from 27 percent to 21 percent. Shoppers are catching on to the health advantages of whole-milk dairy.