“Just Label It”, an anti-gmo organization funded by the organic industry and founded by the chairman of an organic yogurt company, has put out a cute video demonstrating how difficult it would be for mothers to use their smart phones to identify products with GMOs in them using a QR code. (Just Label It wants big, obvious signage so that consumers will know to avoid those products.) Starring anti-GMO celebrity darling, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the yogurt executive who has made millions off the American food system he refers to as a “food prison, food apartheid, and food slavery”, the video perfectly encapsulates the privileged world of the anti-GMO movement.
On the surface, this video seems rather harmless. An exhausted looking woman with bratty kids is grocery shopping and all she wants to know is whether or not the can of soup she plans to feed her little darlings has GMOs in it. She doesn’t know what GMOs are but she knows that they will give her kids cancer, autism, allergies, and ADHD because Gwyneth Paltrow and organic executives said so. To find out about the GMOs, she’s forced to fumble through her purse for her phone in order to take a picture of a QR code.
You really do feel for her and many of us can relate to the nightmare of grocery shopping with obnoxious kids but here is where it gets stupid: If you’ve been in an upscale, suburban American grocery store recently, you’ve probably noticed that you can’t throw a watermelon without hitting something that says non-GMO or GMO-free. It’s everywhere and it’s on everything. Most of the stuff it’s on doesn’t even have a GMO counterpart available. And by USDA definition, anything certified as organic is non-GMO. It’s really not that difficult to find non-GMO food.
A program to put food grown by Pennsylvania farmers into the charitable food system that was established six years ago — but never funded — will finally get off the ground thanks to first-ever funding through the 2015-16 state budget. Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announced April 12 the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank as the winning bidder to implement the program, known as the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System. The commonwealth’s final budget makes $1 million available to implement the program statewide.
With the funding appropriated through the state’s 2015-16 budget, the food bank and the state’s charitable feeding organizations will secure a variety of surplus agricultural products produced in Pennsylvania. Producers, packers and processors participating in PASS may be reimbursed for costs involved in harvesting, processing and/or packaging, and transporting donated product.
Consumer demand is helping many start-ups pull off a successful launch, even in an industry notoriously difficult to crack because of competition from large retailers. Take Thrive Market, a Los Angeles start-up that sells specialty organic food and beauty products. The online grocer garnered $10 million in sales after just 17 months from its launch - a stunning rate of growth - that has surprised its founders and investors, as well as execs across the food industry.
"There is a seismic change in what people are eating and want out of their food and beverages," said Greg Wank, practice leader of accounting firm Anchin, Block & Anchin's Food and Beverage Industry Group in New York City. "People want more than good taste and their hunger satisfied. They want food and beverages that have some functionality for their bodies and their health."
Companies like Whole Foods are betting customers will pay more for unhurried maturing of birds.The U.S. chicken industry has spent decades figuring out how to grow its birds fast. Now, some of its customers are looking for producers willing to slow things down.A typical commercial chicken has been bred to grow to twice the size of birds from 50 years ago, in around half the time. The faster pace has meant big savings and fatter profits for the meatpackers that raise them. But companies such as Whole Foods Market Inc. and Starbucks Corp. now are betting their customers are willing to pay more for chicken raised at a more leisurely rate.
Growing demand for meat from animals raised more slowly reflects a broader shift in consumer tastes for food and farm practices regarded as more humane and natural. The debate over how food should be raised has powered a flood of changes by meat companies that for decades have worked to drive down costs and scale-up production.
An investigation has been set in motion by the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) into Dole Food Co. over a Listeria outbreak linked to packaged salads. The outbreak sickened 33 in the U.S. and Canada, and four people died.
The legal case focuses on chemicals used in the farming process.
PepsiCo’s Quaker Oats is facing a potential class-action lawsuit that alleges the food brand’s claims it is “100% Natural” are deceptive.
The lawsuit specifically alleges that Quaker Oats claims its oats are grown using “eco-friendly” methods but that the brand contains the chemical glyphosate, which is purportedly sprayed on the oats as a drying agent shortly before harvest. Glyphosate notably generated headlines last year after the World Health Organization declared the chemical “probably” causes cancer in people.
Patrons at soup kitchens and food pantries probably don’t realize it, but depending on the day, they may be dining on some of the region’s most expensively produced fare—meat and vegetables from Dan Colen, a Hudson Valley farmer who donates his entire output to several local food banks.
Mr. Colen, a New York artist better known for his big-ticket paintings and sculptures, spent $215,000 last year operating his spread, putting out 10,000 pounds of meat, chicken and eggs, along with 14,500 pounds of fruit and vegetables.
While the beef and pork costs a lot more to produce than the carrots and beets, the overall average production cost is $8.75 a pound. If he donated that $215,000, those dollars might buy a lot more food.
The levels of multidrug resistant strains of salmonella in raw chicken and turkey products that consumers purchase at the grocery store have declined since 2011, the FDA said Thursday in a report based on samples taken from January 2014 to June 2015. Twenty percent of the chicken the agency tested contained salmonella resistant to more than one antibiotic, compared to 45 percent in 2011, while the rate of antibiotic resistant bacteria in turkey has fallen from 50 percent to 36 percent during the same time frame. Overall, prevalence of salmonella in retail poultry is at its lowest level since testing began in 2002.
A federal judge in California has dismissed, with prejudice, a lawsuit filed against Whole Foods by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, alleging that the high-end “natural” and organic food retailer is deceiving consumers with its claims of “humane” treatment of the animals from which Whole Foods derives its meat products.
According to court documents, the U.S. District Court judge in San Jose granted Whole Foods’ motion for dismissal, saying that PETA and its co-plaintiffs had failed to back up its allegations with affirmative examples or any demonstration that information omitted from Whole Foods’ marketing claims had compromised consumer safety in any way.
Advocates of mandatory GMO labeling claim they are simply fighting for consumers’ right to decide for themselves. This is misleading. Consumers who really care can already “decide for themselves.” Simple instructions on avoiding GMOs are available from many sources, such as Whole Food’s website. And there are at least 10 apps designed to inform consumers on which foods contain GMOs and which do not.
Plus, GMO labels already exist for concerned consumers. The non-profit Non-gmo project has begun certifying and labeling foods that contain little to no genetically modified ingredients. The Non-GMO Project’s label is now “the fastest growing label in the natural products industry.”
They’re probably doing a better job at labeling than the FDA or USDA could. A 2010 Inspector General study found that the USDA’s organic certification requirements have been poorly enforced. The same problems would likely arise if the USDA were given control over GMO labeling requirements.
Despite what anti-GMO activists want you to believe, there is no scientific justification for GMO labeling. Eighty-eight percent of scientists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science agree that GMOs are safe, higher than the percentage of AAAS scientists who think climate change is human-caused.