Local co-ops take heat for selling products from anti-birth control company Eden Foods
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On Friday, Steven Miles, a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota who we've previously written about because of his work on U.S. abuses in Iraqi prisons (among other issues), sent us correspondence he recently had with the the Seward Co-op regarding its decision to continue selling products from Eden Foods, a company with Catholic ownership that won't provide birth control to its employees in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling.
In an email to the co-op, Miles wrote, "Eden Organic Foods (with Hobby Lobby) is not providing insurance for contraceptives to women employees. I do not believe they should be stocked by any co-op and that they should be told of this decision."
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In her reply, Allison Meyer, advocacy and governance specialist for the Seward Co-op, writes that while the co-op officials "share your concerns about Eden Foods' position" and "unconditionally [support] women's access to health care" -- they even communicated their concerns directly to Eden Foods' president, Michael Potter, last year -- "several other aspects of Eden Foods' practices align very well with Seward Co-op values."
"Many of our customers appreciate the fact that Eden Foods is an independent company rather than one owned by a large corporation," Meyer writes. "Eden Foods consistently supports strict organic standards, and their products were free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and packaging free of Bisphenol A (BPA) long before most other producers began to consider these issues. As often as possible, Eden Foods also sources crops locally to their business, keeping hundreds of small-scale, organic family farms in business."
"At this time, we believe that retaining Eden Foods products best serves our Ends Statement and our owners' needs," she concludes. "We provide alternatives to Eden Foods products whenever possible. We respect your purchasing decisions in this regard, and we strongly encourage you to vote with your dollars by making product choices that align with your values."
Miles, in reply, writes, "I respectfully disagree."
"Denying their women employees access to contraception is a basic denial of human rights which takes precedence over the use of organic substances," he adds. "It is as if the co-op would support serf farming just because it was organic or antibiotic free. I deeply disagree with the stand of the co-op and ask that it be reviewed by the Board."
After receiving Miles's correspondence, we called Seward Co-op officials and asked whether they've ever pulled a product from the shelves because of a company's stance on an issue.
Tom Vogel, marketing manager, tells us, "First of all, we don't have a boycott policy... nor do many other co-ops around the Twin Cities."
(For more, click to page two.)