Organic farming should be in a Golden Age. The public is already spending $13,000,000,000 on organic food in the U.S. alone, and margins have shown to be much higher. I have long wondered why everyone doesn't switch to organic farming. It's that pesky free market. The GMO and pesticide apocalypse we were assured is just around the corner never actually came to pass. Over 100 billion animals have eaten genetically-engineered food over 20 years and we've seen no difference in the animals, their meat or their milk. Meanwhile, in that 20 years, notes The Economist, we've had up to 60,000,000 dead kids from malnutrition. Thanks, environmentalists. And farmers who have switched looking for a big payday haven't seen it comes to pass. They say all the right things about eco-friendly pest and soil management practices, they do the paperwork and pay for the sticker, they pay for toxic organic pesticides instead of toxic synthetic ones - and then it turns out processors they sell to don't actually want to pay more. Organic farmland remains stuck at around 1% because organic food itself is for the 1% - it is lots of things; a lifestyle, a world-view, a way of self-identification and being distinct from the peasants - but it is not a mass movement. Vermont was able to get a warning label law passed on foods containing GMOs because, well, it's Vermont, and they exempted everything that might annoy people there, like alcohol and restaurants and the Whole Foods deli counter. In the rest of the country, unprompted, only 7% of the public cares whether food is mutagenesis or hybrid or RNAi or GMO or kosher or free-range or shade-tree grown. Over half of Americans think the organic label is just a scam, a way to charge more for nothing. They may be right, if you look at all of the exemptions that organic lobbyists have created under which you can still claim to be "organic." The public has Label Fatigue, as anyone in a California store or hotel or coffee shop can tell you, with the warnings about BPA and Prop 65 and pregnancy. And the market for lettuce, which is the big organic seller, is only so large. The public does not care about organic corn at all, despite that being the top GMO product, and they can't buy an organic banana. When General Mills announced Cheerios were going GMO-free, sales went down, not up. Now that company is trying to incentivize farmers to switch to organic also, so that it might bring the cost lower.
Soylent, Silicon Valley's favorite meal-replacement drink, is using the boogeyman of ingredients in its product. And no, it's not people. The startup, which has attracted a cult following with its convenient powders and ready-to-drink bottles designed to replace eating actual meals, is made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. But are GMOs harmful? The makers of Soylent don't think so. And guess what? Scientists agree. As the company's founders write, "GMOs currently on the market provide ample cases of tangible benefit with relatively negligible risk."
Sanderson Farms is going on the offensive against consumer perceptions antibiotic-free birds are better than conventionally raised animals. Sanderson Farms wants consumers to know the truth about chicken. On August 1, the Laurel, Mississippi, integrator announced the launch of an advertising campaign taking on the concept that broilers treated with antibiotics are inferior to antibiotic-free birds.
In a letter sent out yesterday, anti-GMO activist Jeffrey Smith says "Labeling GMOs was never the end goal for us. It was a tactic. Labels make it easier for shoppers to make healthier non-GMO choices. When enough people avoid GMOs, food companies rush to eliminate them. Labeling can speed up that tipping point—but only if consumers are motivated to use labels to avoid GMOs. Although this is clearly a defeat in our campaigns for getting mandatory labeling in the United States, we are still winning the bigger, more important effort to ELIMINATE GMOs from the market altogether."
Whole Foods Market says it's "America's Healthiest Grocery Store." Now, the grocery chain is looking to update its slogan to reflect a loftier moniker: "World's Healthiest Grocery Store." Unfortunately for the grocer's efforts, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently rejected its application to register that slogan. Whole Foods will have six months to update and refile the case and may choose not to do so, although that seems unlikely.
Consumers are reminded not to eat uncooked dough or batter made with raw flour. Due to four new confirmed illnesses, General Mills is adding additional flour production dates to the previously announced U.S. retail flour recall that was originally announced on May 31, 2016. The illnesses reported to health officials continue to be connected with consumers reporting that they ate or handled uncooked dough or ate uncooked batter made with raw flour. No illnesses have been connected with flour that has been properly baked, cooked or handled. The addition of new flour production dates is the result of General Mills conducting proactive flour testing and new information from health officials who are using new whole genome sequencing techniques to trace illnesses. E.coli (several sub-types) has been detected in a small number of General Mills flour samples and some have been linked to new patient illnesses that fell outside of the previously recalled dates. At this time, it is unknown if we are experiencing a higher prevalence of E.coli in flour than normal, if this is an issue isolated to General Mills’ flour, or if this is an issue across the flour industry. The newer detection and genome sequencing tools are also possibly making a connection to flour that may have always existed at these levels.
A recent survey showed twice as many consumers view bacterial foodborne illnesses as their top food safety concern as those who topped their list with chemicals, carcinogens, antibiotics use in food animals or GMOs. Consumers were asked to choose and rank their top three food safety issues from a list. Here are the percentages of respondents that ranked the items below as the most important food safety issue today: 29 percent: foodborne illness, 15 percent: carcinogens,14 percent: pesticide residues, 12 percent: chemicals in food, 11 percent: food additives (caffeine, MSG, flavors, colors, preservatives)n 8 percent: biotechnology (GMOs)n 7 percent: animal antibioticsn 5 percent: allergens in food
A leading critic of federal food and agriculture policy believes the GMO disclosure bill passed by Congress this month is a fair compromise that is likely to have little impact on consumer food choice.Tom Colicchio, co-founder of Food Policy Action and a judge on the Bravo series Top Chef, says he thinks his fellow activists were mistaken in opposing the bill, which would allow companies to disclose biotech ingredients through digital, QR codes as an option to on-package text. Colicchio said, “It was a big mistake for some of these anti-GMO folks to just completely roll over and say we got killed here … Right now everything is so politicized that if you don't get 100 percent of what you're after it's failure.”
We live in a society where many people tend to gravitate toward “black and white thinking” and extremes. The health and wellness industries are fraught with examples of extremism in many forms. Everyday a new headline pronounces a certain food as “bad and ruining our health,” while exalting another food and praising it’s “amazing benefits.” These lists of proclaimed “superfoods” and “harmful foods” seem to change on a weekly basis- leading many people to be confused as to the mixed messages they are receiving. Each year, new studies in nutrition science come out, many of which dispute earlier findings. Additionally, we are sold the lie that if we eat the “correct foods” and follow a set of rigid rules, that we will discover health and happiness. In light of all of the misinformation out there, the following are some of the biggest nutrition myths, debunked by experts.
I feel bad for the USDA. Congress has just assigned them the thankless task of overseeing a compromise law on GMO labeling. The compromise was possible even for our fractious political system because the alternative was to allow the state of Vermont to demand a food labeling, segregation and tracking system that would severely disrupt the national food system. That was a clear-cut violation of the interstate commerce protections in the Constitution, but it would have taken years to be resolved in the courts. So, the USDA gets to come up with the details and elements of a rule-set which won’t end the tedious debates about “GMOs” or their labeling. USDA is likely to be criticized and sued no matter what they do. More importantly, the net effect of all of this will do very little to help Americans “know what is in their food.” That assessment may sound harsh, but a quick review of the history of U.S. food labeling is rather sobering.