AUSTIN, TX (September 3, 2008) — Whole Foods Market® (NASDAQ: WFMI), the leading natural and organic foods supermarket, announced that Margaret M. Wittenberg, the Company’s Global Vice President for Quality Standards and Public Affairs, was selected to sit on a national committee tasked with developing an American standard for sustainable agriculture.
“I am honored to be chosen to participate within this multi-stakeholder group,” said Wittenberg. “We look forward to helping develop more consistent measures and definitions for using the term “sustainable” when describing or labeling an agricultural product or process.”
Leonardo Academy, a third-party organization based in Madison, WI and accredited by the American National Standards Institution (ANSI) to coordinate the development and use of voluntary consensus standards in the United States, picked some of the biggest names in the organic and sustainable food industries to work on the standard, intended to be applicable to all agricultural products marketed in the US.
Development of The Sustainable Agriculture Practice Standard for Food, Fiber and Biofuel Crop Producers and Agricultural Product Handlers and Processors, will focus on establishing a comprehensive framework and common set of environmental, social, and quality requirements by which to demonstrate that an agricultural product has been produced and handled in a sustainable manner, from soil preparation and seed planting through production, harvest, post-harvest handling, and distribution for sale.
“Leonardo Academy was very pleased to see the quality and diversity of applications submitted,” said Michael Arny, president of Leonardo Academy. “We had to make tough decisions, since there were many more qualified applicants than seats to fill on the voting committee.”
Wittenberg was chosen from more than 175 applicants from individuals and organizations interested in serving on the voting body for the standard. Due to this overwhelming response, the size of the Standards Committee was increased from 40 to 58 members to ensure the standard is appropriately implemented throughout the supply chain, from producers to distributors, brokers to retailers.
Other notable committee members include: Gene Kahn, who founded the pioneering organic brand Cascadian Farm, now global sustainability officer for General Mills Inc.; Tracy Miedema of sustainable produce grower Stahlbush Island Farms, Inc.; Cecil Wright of Organic Valley; and John Foster of Earthbound Farm. Other members come from Amy's Kitchen, Napa Sustainable Wine Growers, the Organic Trade Association, the Rodale Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The next step in the standard-development process will be the first Standards Committee meeting on Sept. 25. One of the first orders of business will be to form the issue-specific and sector-specific subcommittees based on stakeholder input to date.
Since 1981, Wittenberg has provided guidance in quality standards development, food and nutrition education and corporate communications at Whole Foods Market. Her global advisory board work has focused on organic agriculture, seafood sustainability,livestock animal welfare, and agricultural genetic engineering. She serves on the Global Animal Partnership Board of Directors, the Whole Planet Foundation Board of Directors, The Marine Stewardship Council Stakeholder Council and Board of Trustees, and The Organic Center Board of Directors. In the past, Wittenberg served on the USDA National Organic Standards Board as the sole retailer representative and she chaired its Processing, Labeling and Handling Committee as well as the Aquaculture Working Group. She also served on the Organic Trade Association Board of Directors, the Texas Organic Standards Board of Directors, the Natural Products Quality Assurance Alliance Steering Committee and the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology Stakeholder Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology.
Wittenberg has received honors and accolades over the years including the Rachel Carson Award from the National Audubon Society in recognition of more than 30 years of work championing organic agriculture, sustainability and the environment and appreciation by the USDA for five years of service on National Organic Standards Board. Also a published author, her most current books include New Good Food: Essential Ingredients for Cooking and Eating Well, released in Fall 2007, and New Good Food Shopper’s Pocket Guide to Organic, Sustainable, and Seasonal Foods, released in Spring 2008.
Madison, Wisconsin-based Leonardo is a third-party ANSI-accredited organization facilitating the development process of the Sustainable Agriculture Practice Standard for Food, Fiber and Biofuel Crop Producers and Agricultural Product Handlers and Processors (SCS-001).