Letters to the editor
This article was originally published in November 2019
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Compliments for Kirkland
I would like to commend and thank the good people at the Kirkland PCC for going above and beyond usual service a few days ago.
My husband and I had purchased a cart full of groceries, including a blueberry pie and some LaCroix kiwi and watermelon soda. Alas, when we got home, we realized we had not put the pie or soda into our car. We left this wonderful food in the cart.
So I called PCC to ask if there was any chance we could get a credit and use it in Redmond. If not, I wanted to donate the pie and soda to the staff. The person who took my call had indeed seen the pie and soda in the parking lot and brought them inside. Bless his soul, he offered to send me a gift card for the amount of purchase! And he did! This is why I’m proud to be a PCC member and supporter. PCC has been at the core of my food life since 1975, and now my children love it.
We should all have a slice of pie and thank the awesome PCC staff!
GE corn and responsible packaging
Dear PCC (or maybe Not So Dear),
What do we know about the environmental effects of the GE corn mentioned in the below quote from the PCC Markets website?
“In 2018, PCC set a goal of eliminating petroleum-based plastics from all of our deli packaging. Our packaging standards, which consider impacts to both the environment and human health, guide how we select packaging for our own products. As we eliminate petroleum-based plastics, we will be replacing them with compostable options, some made with polylactic acid (PLA) bioplastic. PLA resin used to manufacture bioplastics in the U.S. is made with corn that has been genetically engineered (GE). We mitigate the impacts of GE cropping systems by purchasing offsets from the Nebraska Farmer’s Union Working Landscapes Program, which pays farmers to convert to more sustainable farming practices, including growing non-GE corn. We continue to work to reduce the impact of our packaging and are collaborating with our vendors to do the same.”
Frankly, this looks like just another sell-out “Toxic waste is good for you” ploy. Since when do we sanction offsets for GE pollution?
PCC replies: Thank you for taking the time to write to us regarding genetically engineered (GE) corn used in our compostable packaging.
You are correct that we rolled out new deli packaging made of PLA corn.
When we made this decision, we did our best to balance impacts on the environment and human health, our shoppers’ demands and technical feasibility. Like many complex environmental issues, there is not always a perfect solution.
Our previous deli containers were made of petroleum-based plastic, which has been increasingly found to have profound negative impacts on marine ecosystems. Toxicology studies have also shown that certain plastics can impact human health by leaching into foods. We receive feedback nearly weekly asking us to reduce the amount of plastics we use in our stores.
We have committed to eliminate plastic from our deli in response, so we are looking for solutions. We searched the marketplace for compostable PLA packaging options that were made of non-GMO corn, but there are none currently available. There simply isn’t enough non-GMO corn grown globally to support PLA manufacturing of this scale. Because of this, we chose to purchase PLA packaging, which is a mixture of GMO and non-GMO corn, but we paid farmers to plant non-GMO corn in the equivalent weight of the corn used in the packaging. We hope that this helps move the market toward growing more non-GMO corn. We believe the benefit of eliminating 8 million pieces of plastic annually outweighs the impact from GMO corn, especially since we are offsetting.
In addition to our commitment to expand the planting of non-GMO corn, we continue to require Non-GMO Project Verified or organic certifications on any products that contain ingredients that are considered to have high risk of containing GE ingredients. Certified organic products are, by definition, non-GMO. Since 2017, we have added over 400 new organic products in our aisles and have a goal of adding 1,000 by 2022.
Thank you again for your feedback and concern.
Bulk bin sourcing
Yesterday I found that many of the organically grown bulk bin items PCC carries are no longer grown in the USA. The beans are from China, the red lentils from Turkey, the walnuts from India and so on. These are recent changes.
I sincerely hope this is a very temporary problem at PCC.
— Irene Holroyd
PCC replies: Thank you for writing and for sharing your concerns on bulk bin sourcing and country-of-origin labels. We are happy to tell you that we are already in the process of changing over several items in our bulk bins that were sourced from China to North American suppliers. These items will include black beans, kidney beans, mung beans and adzuki beans. You should soon see updated labels for those items.
When large global supplies are available, as with the beans, we can select regional or even super-local crops. For instance, we carry Palouse lentils, which are grown in Walla Walla. For other items, supplies are more limited and we can only work with what the supplier has available. And, of course, some items have no U.S.-grown bulk options; for instance, almost all tea is produced in China and India.
Quality is another factor that we consider when supplying the bulk buns. For instance, the U.S.-grown organic walnuts that are currently available are from a crop that is nearly a year old. At this point in the harvest cycle, the walnuts from India are fresher and will provide a better value for the customer. PCC also balances other values with our commitment to locally grown goods; for instance, we currently source Thompson raisins from Argentina to avoid fracking water.
We appreciate you noticing and asking about these changes.
Please clarify that the lids of your new compostable containers are also compostable, as well as letting us know whether the lids should be attached to the containers before putting them in a compost bin, and whether you can put other compostables in the closed container.
PCC replies: Thank you for writing and for your questions on our new compostable containers! The lid is indeed compostable and it does not matter whether the lid is attached to the container. It is also okay to put other compostables inside the container.
Is the coffee you sell still shade grown? I haven’t seen that listed on the coffee for quite a while.
— Lynda Voight
PCC replies: Thank you for writing and for your question on shade-grown coffee.
All coffee carried by PCC is certified organic, which is typically shade-grown. However, few producers now use “shade-grown” labels on their coffee, and PCC does not require the designation. It is a difficult claim to guarantee, as there is no generally accepted definition for the term and no comprehensive third-party certification. We believe the requirements for our certified organic and fairly traded coffee provide similar protections.
Our grocery merchandiser has visited several of our suppliers’ coffee plantations and has seen their tree canopies and worker conditions firsthand. He notes that coffee is naturally a shade-loving plant and is more productive for farmers under those conditions. (For a local comparison, imagine trying to grow hosta plants on sunny plots here in the Northwest!) The sun-tolerant hybrid plants that originally prompted the “shade-grown” movement generally rely on chemical pesticides and other practices that would not be allowed under the certified organic label.
Thank you again for your interest in this issue.