“Sustainable” company behind POM juice among California’s top paraquat sprayers

By Shannon Kelleher

The Wonderful Company, which has been recognized for its sustainability initiatives and owns POM pomegranate juice, Fiji Water, and other popular brands, was among California’s top sprayers of the toxic weedkiller paraquat in 2021, according to a new analysis.

The major agricultural company, which grows pistachios, almonds, and pomegranates, was California’s second largest sprayer of paraquat, which has been linked to Parkinson’s disease. Wonderful accounted for over 13% of the state’s paraquat use, applying almost 57,000 lbs to its fields, according to the analysis published Thursday by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which drew from data obtained from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and county agriculture commissioners.

The company’s website states that “environmental sustainability is at the center of our work” and that the company, “in all its operations, must be a deeply responsible steward of the environment, and lead by example to create a sustainable future.” Wonderful has invested $400 million in sustainable agriculture, according to its website.

The Wonderful Company did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Just ten farms and companies in the top agricultural state sprayed 40% of all paraquat used in California in 2021, the analysis found. The biggest paraquat user in the state was the J.G. Boswell Company, a major producer of cotton, tomatoes for paste, and seed crops, which also accounted for over 13% of California’s paraquat use that year.

“Folks have known about paraquat for a while…but I think it’s clear the public doesn’t fully appreciate where these pesticides are being applied and how close it is to their communities,” said Geoff Horsfield, a policy director at the Environmental Working Group who works on pesticides and other agricultural issues.