Dear Mr. Bezos,
I write to you with enthusiasm and excitement for the potential that Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods has to revolutionize our global food system for the better.
Having worked in food distribution and with businesses providing supply chain services to grocery stores and restaurants, I know first-hand the staggering degree of needs and opportunities for change we have in our modern, industrial food supply chains.
There is a reason I almost never eat at restaurants, and could count on less than 10 fingers those that I choose to visit from time to time. And, there is a reason I’m discerning about which grocery stores I buy food from as well.
It is about values, health, standards, intentions, sustainability, and integrity—in a food system where those principles are too rarely expressed as priority and rarer yet actually deployed in full effect.
Our food system—which has evolved out of the needs and scary pragmatism of the World Wars and the ensuing Cold War—is no longer serving the needs of people and planet the way it could. Our industrial food system is no longer serving the way we need it to. Food, as Hippocrates taught us 2,500 years ago, can be our medicine, and our medicine can be our food. On the other hand, food can be extremely poisonous—and so much of what we moderns call “food” truly is poisonous junk. Moreover, the modern industrial “food” system has become insidious in the slow, toxifying death spiral that is at the heart of so many physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral diseases ravaging our culture and civilization at this time.
But all of this can change.
Food can once again become the essence of health and nourishment, and provide a profoundly life-giving and delightful enjoyment. It can also be the primary mechanism through which we each as individuals choose to steward land, water, and air. Indeed our food and beverage choices are, for many of us, the most powerful daily means we have to help mitigate climate change and support social justice for all of our fellow human beings around the world.
This is the power of food and drink.
We each make dozens of choices every day—choices that can be made in service to our own health and well-being, our thriving, as well as in service to planetary regeneration and sustainability. And it is at the nexus of individual choice—our exercising of our freedom and free will—where we each have the power and agency to make such decisions.
But there’s a catch.
The issue is transparency—information flow.
While it is at the individual and family scale that our food and drink purchasing and consumption decisions are made, our decisions are profoundly influenced by the supply chain actors who can enable—or severely limit—information flow about those food and beverage products.
There is no such thing as an “agnostic” or “impartial” actor in food and beverage supply chains. Each and every node in the chain of custody—from farm production to processing to distribution and retail sales—is implicated and responsible for decision-making that affects the health and well-being of millions.
As you well know, many of the largest food distributors and retailers quietly, behind the scenes, pick gigantic winners and losers in their food supply agreements. It is at this commercial-scale nexus point that information can be made a profound force for freedom and thriving, or can be made the servant of unwholesome profiteering at the expense of people’s health and well-being. Whole Foods, despite the many criticisms that might be levied upon it, has been a singular leader in harvesting and distributing transparent information regarding the quality, purity, and safety of food.
You now have the unique power to double down on this commitment.
Doing so may have one of the most significant impacts on environmental sustainability, climate change mitigation, and the health of millions upon millions of people—not to mention reducing billions of dollars in annual health care costs.
We want to be healthier. But we need the cooperation and collaboration of the largest, most influential supply-chain actors as well.
The reduction of cost on healthful food products like avocados and olive oil is absolutely commendable. And the combined market power of Amazon and Whole Foods is going to make healthier food more economically viable for millions of us. But we must be careful—we are relying on you to be careful—about a “race to the bottom” in food costs at the expense of quality and healthfulness. The true value of food is not just a matter of how low its price point can be set. It is also a function of the quality, nutrient density, and absence of poisonous pesticides, herbicides, and artificial toxins. Both price and quality matter. Totally.
And an ever-growing “trend” of third-party verification that authenticates and validates the quality and sustainability of food and beverage products is a key link in all of this.
Certified Fair Trade, Certified Organic, Certified Grass-Fed, Certified Soil Stewardship, Demeter Certified, B Certified, and Fair for Life are a number of emerging third-party verification “brands” who are helping us discern what we’re choosing to buy and feed our families. We need to double down on this emerging transparency—and need your help to accelerate and amplify the good coming from these essential efforts.
We are at a tremendous inflection point as a society—one that is showing itself in a myriad of industries and in all manner of complex systems changes. Climate change is part of this. The rapid loss of habitat and species diversity is part of this—often the direct result of poisonous, chemical-based agricultural practices. Diet and lifestyle diseases that are plaguing our society in epidemic proportions are part of this too.
And the critical nexus point of food and drink—along with the soil stewardship and care for land, water, and air that is made possible at this point—is one of our most powerful levers for change toward a thriving, sustainable global reality.
So much now rests in your hands.
We hope you’ll dig deeply into the questions and answers of what’s possible—of the incredibly positive legacy Amazon and Whole Foods can help create for the world as we cultivate a culture and future of regeneration, resilience, and sustainability.
May the singular objective of peoples’ health, thriving, and our only planet’s restoration and sustainability be at the fore for you and your team as you embark on this most unique of opportunities.
We—an awakening and ever growing critical mass of conscious consumers—will be watching you closely. And deciding where to spend our dollars accordingly. You wield so much power at the helm of your commercial empire—a power that flows from the wellspring of our consumer demand. We want you to help enable and secure a world in which healthful thriving, stewardship, and sustainability guide all of our commercial decision making.
We want you to truly lead!
Mr. Bezos, our thoughts and prayers are with you. Here’s to thriving, to cultivating organic soil, and to cultivating the culture and future we all really want…together.
Thank you for your leadership.
Respectfully, gratefully, and in service and celebration,
Aaron William Perry
Author & Founder, Y on Earth
Author: Aaron William Perry
Image: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Nicole Cameron