Friday, August 8, 2014


MDG : Monsanto GM soya impact on honey bees protest in Yucatan Peninsula in mexico

Sweet victory for Mexico beekeepers as Monsanto loses GM permit

Evidence convinced judge of threat posed to honey production in Yucatán – but firm will almost certainly appeal against ruling
Greenpeace activists and Mayans form a human chain to spell out the words ‘ma ogm’, which translates as ‘no gmo’ (genetically modified organisms). Photograph: Arturo Rocha/Greenpeace
A small group of beekeepers in Mexico has inflicted a blow on biotech giant Monsanto, which has halted the company’s ambitions to plant thousands of hectares of soybeans genetically modified to resist the company’s pesticide Roundup.

A district judge in the state of Yucatán last month overturned a permit issued to Monsanto by Mexico’s agriculture ministry, Sagarpa, and environmental protection agency, Semarnat, in June 2012 that allowed commercial planting of Roundup-ready soybeans.

The permit authorised Monsanto to plant its seeds in seven states, over more than 253,000 hectares (625,000 acres), despite protests from thousands of Mayan farmers and beekeepers, Greenpeace, the Mexican National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and the National Institute of Ecology.

In withdrawing the permit, the judge was convinced by the scientific evidence presented about the threats posed by GM soy crops to honey production in the Yucatán peninsula, which includes Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatán states. Co-existence between honey production and GM soybeans is not possible, the judge ruled.

Mexico is the world’s six biggest producer and third largest exporter of honey. About 25,000 families on the Yucatán peninsula depend on honey production. This tropical region produces about 40% of the country’s honey, almost all of which is exported to the EU. This is not small change: in 2011, the EU imported $54m (£32m) worth of Mexican honey.

The concerns are multiple. Roundup-ready crops – soybeans, corn, canola, sugar beets, cotton and alfalfa – have been manipulated to be resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.

Some argue that glyphosate poses a risk to human and animal health, a claim that Monsanto and other agribusinesses reject.

In addition to health risks, environmental damage to soil, water and bee colonies – which are dwindling fast – have been attributed glyphosate use, threatening food and water security across the globe.

GM crops could devastate the important European export market for Mexican beekeepers, where the sale of honey containing pollen derived from GM crops has been restricted since a landmark decision in 2011 by the European court of justice.

The ruling barred honey derived from a GM crop unapproved for human consumption – which includes some soy and other animal feeds – from sale in the EU. Honey with more than 0.9% of GM pollen (from an approved GM food) must be labelled as containing GM ingredients and cannot be marketed as an organic product. Some countries, including Germany, reject honey that contains any GM pollen.

A small study conducted in Campeche, where about 10,000 hectares of GM soybeans were planted after the permit was approved in 2012, found GM pollen in some honey samples destined for the European market. This, say the authors, threatens the local honey industry and contradicts the position taken by Sagarpa and industry groups that soybeans are not visited or pollinated by bees searching for food because they can self-pollinate.

The Monsanto ruling was commended by the respected national newspaper La Jornada, which accused the Mexican government of ignoring widespread concerns over GM and forcing those opponents to fight it out in court with powerful multinational companies. The government’s stated ambition of eliminating hunger is incompatible with its decisions to increasingly allow multinational companies such as Monsanto to introduce GM crops, the paper’s editorial concluded.

Central to the ruling was the Mexican constitution, specifically the government’s obligation to fully consult indigenous communities before making any major decision about what happens, including what is grown, on their territory. The judge ordered planting to stop and gave Sagarpa six months to carry out full and proper consultations with indigenous farmers – which it should have done before the permit was granted in 2012.

It was this same omission that led to an almost identical ruling by a district judge in Campeche in March 2014.

These two judgments have set a precedent that will help farmers, campaigners and environmentalists take local legal action against the rollout of GM soy and corn, which the federal government is sanctioning without consultation and against experts’ advice.
But this is a high-stakes game to play, in which indigenous communities are being forced to fight their own government and multinational corporations with multimillion-dollar legal departments, simply to have their constitutional rights honoured and protect their traditional ways of farming and living.

So while a third victory in Chiapas, where a similar case is pending, could soon follow, this is almost certainly only round one. Monsanto will probably appeal against the decision to a higher court.

The North American Free Trade Agreement, criticised by some for crippling small-scale Mexican farming, is not on the side of the beekeepers. This David and Goliath battle is about so much more than honey.



NJTODAY.NET's online business directory New toxic weed killer that threatens environment & genetically engineered seeds may be deregulated

WASHINGTON DC – A U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommendation to deregulate new varieties of genetically engineered corn and soybean seeds would bring a chemical manufacturer one step closer to selling a new toxic weed killer that would threaten human health and the environment.
“We are truly disappointed in the USDA for failing to stop the chemical treadmill that is harming the health of children, farmers and the environment,” said Mary Ellen Kustin, a senior policy analyst with Environmental Working Group (EWG). “We urge the government to put the brakes on allowing more herbicide-tolerant crops and toxic herbicides to hit the market.”
Today, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that recommended that the agency deregulate Dow AgroSciences’ 2,4-D- and glyphosate-tolerant corn and soybean seeds.
Dow is seeking approval to sell these seeds to be used in tandem with the company’s new herbicide, Enlist Duo, a mix of 2,4-D and glyphosate. In a separate regulatory proceeding, Dow asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to approve Enlist Duo.
The company is seeking to sell the new seeds and herbicide combo to farmers beset with hardy weeds that have evolved to tolerate glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s popular weed killer Roundup.   In a press release issued earlier this year, it claimed that Enlist Duo would “control and help prevent further development of herbicide-resistant weeds.”
EWG opposes the marketing of this product on grounds that human exposure to 2,4-D has been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease and thyroid problems.    As well, EWG contends that it could spur the evolution of new types of “superweeds” resistant to 2,4-D as well as glyphosate.
If EPA approves Enlist Duo, nationwide use of 2,4-D could more than triple by 2020, according to USDA, exposing communities near 2,4-D-resistant-crops to eight times as much of the chemical as today. EWG research shows that more than 5600 schools within 200 feet of farm fields would be blanketed by 2,4-D.  As a result, hundreds of thousands of children would be exposed to more intense concentrations of the toxic defoliant than is the case today.
EWG’s analysis of EPA’s risk assessment of 2,4-D concluded that the agency failed to comply with a provision of the federal Food Quality Protection Act that requires an added   margin of safety for substances known to be harmful to children.  In June, EWG pointed out this major omission and other significant flaws in its assessment.
Some 35 prominent doctors and scientists have urged EPA to not to approve Dow’s Enlist Duo. In all, people submitted than a half a million comments to the EPA opposing the sale of this toxic combination.


Big Food uses mommy bloggers to shape public opinion 

As content increasingly becomes PR, consumers suffer
August 1, 2014 6:00AM ET   by @annalappe

This past weekend, biotech giant Monsanto paid bloggers $150 each to attend “an intimate and interactive panel” with “two female farmers and a team from Monsanto.” The strictly invitation-only three-hour brunch, which took place on the heels of the BlogHer Conference, promised bloggers a chance to learn about “where your food comes from” and to hear about the “impact growing food has on the environment, and how farmers are using fewer resources to feed a growing population.” Though the invitation from BlogHer explicitly stated, “No blog posts or social media posts expected,” the event was clearly designed to influence the opinions — and the writing — of a key influencer: the mommy blogger.
Another invite-only event in August will bring bloggers to a Monsanto facility in Northern California for a tour of its fields and research labs. Again, while no media coverage is expected, the unspoken goal is clear.
Stealth marketing techniques, such as these by Monsanto, reveal how the food industry — from biotech behemoths to fast-food peddlers — is working surreptitiously to shape public opinion about biotechnology, industrialized farming and junk food.
We’ve come a long way from Don Draper’s whisky-infused ad concepts meant for old-style print publications. As our media landscape has changed, Big Ag has changed along with it, devising marketing to take advantage of this new terrain and influence the people and platforms — not just journalists and newspapers — that shape our understanding of farming and the health impacts of biotechnology and junk food.
Sean Timberlake, who has been blogging for nearly a decade, characterized industry’s move into the social media space as “sweeping and vast.” He explained that back when he started out, “I don’t think the Monsantos of the world understood what blogs were — or cared,” but now, “companies develop entire budget lines for social media programs. They build it into their whole ad budget.” Ad networks such as BlogHer and Federated — two of the biggest — facilitate companies’ advertising and outreach on blogs by aggregating blogs to sell as a bigger package. These networks, Timberlake explained, “can be leveraged and used as a bullhorn for their marketing.”
Sure, PR is an old game, but Big Ag is giving the age-old techniques of shaping public opinion a new, sneakier spin. Much of today’s marketing happens behind the scenes and off the printed page — on the Web pages of blogs, on Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, through sponsored content and industry-funded webisodes and on the stages of big-ideas festivals.
Monsanto is not the only food company engaging with the blogosphere. Mommy bloggers are the food industry’s newest nontraditional ally. McDonald’s has been wooing them aggressively too, offering sweepstakes in partnership with BlogHer for the company’s Listening Tour Luncheon, an exclusive event with the head of McDonald’s USA — framed as a two-way conversation about nutrition, but more likely a gambit to garner the support of a powerful group of influencers. And in Canada, McDonald’s offers All-Access Mom, behind-the-scenes tours of the company’s inner workings. 
The uptick in these stealth-marketing strategies coincides with growing popular outcry about agricultural chemicals, soda and junk food and genetically modified ingredients.
It’s not just through blogger meet-and-greets that industry is attempting to sway opinion. Video is an increasingly popular (and shareable) medium for PR disguised as content. This summer, for example, Monsanto is funding a Condé Nast Media Group film series called “A Seat at the Table.” According to a casting call, each three- to five-minute episode will cover questions such as “Are food labels too complicated?” and “GMOs: good or bad?” and will feature “an eclectic mix of industry and nonindustry notables with diverse viewpoints.” It’s hard to imagine truly free-flowing discussions resulting, paid for as they are by a company with a definitive take on — and stake in — the food-labeling wars. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, meanwhile, funded the documentary “Farmland,” described as a “look at the lives of farmers and ranchers,” but whose narrative — as critics have been quick to point out — “glorif[ies] the trend toward larger, more industrialized farms.” No surprise, given that the film’s financing comes from an agribusiness front group.
Big Ag is putting its communications dollars toward big-ideas events too, such as the Aspen Ideas Festival, where underwriters such as Monsanto are celebrated — and get a voice. Monsanto executives got to share their opinions onstage about GMO labeling (surprise: they’re not in favor of state-based labeling initiatives) and how best to feed the world (again: their chemicals and genetically engineered seeds are key to combating hunger). And past years have seen Coca-Cola, DuPont and Syngenta executives all touting their companies’ sustainability onstage.
The uptick in these stealth-marketing strategies coincides with growing popular outcry about agricultural chemicals, soda and junk food and genetically modified ingredients. Consider that despite millions spent on marketing over the two decades since genetically engineered seeds were first commercialized, 93 percent of Americans still think GMOs should be labeled and 65 percent are either unsure about the technology or believe it to be unsafe. Last year, when Monsanto retained the PR firm FleishmanHillard, known for its work with social media and agribusiness, to develop its new marketing initiatives, it did so “amid fierce opposition to the seed giant’s genetically modified products,” noted the Holmes Report, a PR industry publication.
The father of public relations, Edward Bernays, might never have dreamed up the age of Twitter and Facebook, but he likely wouldn’t be surprised to see food-industry tweets and Facebook ads dressed up as news. Bernays knew the importance of constant PR innovation. If the public “becomes weary of the old methods used to persuade it,” he wrote in his 1928 book “Propaganda,” then we must simply present our “appeals more intelligently.” Or, as we’re seeing with Monsanto and its food industry counterparts, if not exactly intelligently, then at least more surreptitiously: on the podium, the Twitter feeds and the mommy blogs. 

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America's editorial policy. 


Read the Emails in the Hilarious Monsanto/Mo Rocca/Condé Nast Meltdown

Last week, Gawker uncovered a hapless tie-up between genetically modified seed/pesticide giant Monsanto and Condé Nast Media—publisher of The New Yorker, Bon Appetit, GQ, Self, Details, and other magazines—to produce "an exciting video series" on the "topics of food, food chains and sustainability."

Marion Nestle was offered $5,000 to participate for a single afternoon.
Since then, I've learned that Condé Nast's Strategic Partnerships division dangled cash before several high-profile food politics writers, in an unsuccessful attempt to convince them to participate. 

Marion Nestle, author of the classic book Food Politics and a professor at New York University, told me she was offered $5,000 to participate for a single afternoon. Nestle almost accepted, because at first she didn't know Monsanto was involved—the initial email she received only referred to the company in attachments that she didn’t open, she said.
"It wasn’t until we were at the end of the discussion about how much time I would allow (they wanted a full day) that they mentioned the honorarium," she wrote in an email. "I was so shocked at the amount that I had sense enough to ask who was paying for it. Monsanto. End of discussion."

James McWillams, author of Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly and a pundit on food issues whose work appears in The Atlantic and other publications, got offered even more. "They were not evasive or misleading" about Monsanto's involvement, he told me, "just not immediately forthcoming … within a question or two it was clear that this was a PR project."

He wouldn't tell me on the record how much they dangled, but described it as "more money than I've ever been paid to talk" and "considerably north" of Nestle's offer. He declined.
Apparently, the infamous gender gap in pay lives on, even in the market for corporate flackery. I would have thought that snagging Nestle, a long-time industry critic, would be worth much more than bagging McWilliams, who has written favorably about GMOs. Nestle, who is quoted frequently in major-media articles on food topics, also arguably has a considerably higher public profile than does McWilliams.

Then there's Anna Lappé, author of the book Diet for a Hot Planet and prominent critic of the agrichemical industry. She forwarded me an Aug. 4 email a representative of her Small Planet Foundation received from someone identified as "Senior Director, Strategic Alliances, the Condé Nast Media Group." The email, printed below, invited Lappé to participate in an "exciting video series being promoted on our brand websites  i.e: Self, Epicurious, Bon Appetit, GQ & Details) and living on a custom YouTube channel," centered on "food, food chains and sustainability." It didn't mention Monsanto, but added that "[c]ompensation will be provided, along with travel two/from the shoot location." It contained no mention of Monsanto, or specifics on the compensation offer.

Coincidentally, Lappé was already wise to the Monsanto/Condé Nast tie-up. Back in June, she had been forwarded an email about a forthcoming web-based TV show sponsored by Monsanto and produced by Condé Nast, in search of experts to appear as talking heads. Lappé wrote critically about the project in an Al Jazeera America column published Aug. 1, just days before the Condé Nast rep approached her. "I guess they didn't read the column," Lappé says.
She replied to the Condé Nast proposition on August 7, complaining that "it was misleading to approach me about participating without divulging the series is being funded by Monsanto." She never heard back.

That same day, Gawker came out with its post, which contained a leaked email from another Condé Nast employee to unnamed charity group, which contains similar language to the one Lappé received. "We are contacting you to see if there might be a person at [charity group] who could speak to one or two of the episode subject," the email states. (The email also names documentary film maker Lori Silverbush as someone Condé Nast hoped would be part of the panel. Silverbush's husband, the famed New York City chef Tom Colicchio, later tweeted, "Lori declined the Monsanto 'opportunity' when it was first offered, for reasons you can imagine.")

The series' host, the email continued, would be Mo Rocca, a famed comedian and correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning. Lappé, McWilliams, and Nestle were also informed that Rocca would appear as the show's host. "When I looked up Mo Rocca, he sounded like fun," Nestle told me.

Soon after the Gawker item appeared, Rocca wrote a note to the publication denying his involvement. "Yes, I was pitched that project but before I gave my answer a letter went out suggesting I was signed on," he wrote. "That's not the case. I'm not involved with it."
I've reached out to Condé Nast for comment, and will update this post if the company gets back.

Here's the email Lappé's associate got from Condé Nast:

And here's Lappé's response:



How We Eat

The GMO Fight Ripples Down the Food Chain

Facing Consumer Pressure, More Firms Are Jettisoning GMOs From Their Foods

Genetically modified foods, or GMOs, are in an estimated 80% of packaged foods. Some companies, like Ben & Jerry's, are trying to go GMO-free. But it's not easy. An animated explainer.
Two years ago, Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc. initiated a plan to eliminate genetically modified ingredients from its ice cream, an effort to address a nascent consumer backlash and to fulfill its own environmental goals.
This fall, nearly a year behind schedule, it expects to finish phase one, affecting its flavorful "chunks and swirls" like cookie dough and caramel. The only part left to convert: the milk that makes ice cream itself. Thanks to the complexities of sourcing milk deemed free of genetically modified material, that could take five to 10 more years.
"There's a lot more that goes into it than people realize," said Rob Michalak, Ben & Jerry's director of social mission.
Two decades after the first genetically engineered seeds were sold commercially in the U.S., genetically modified organisms—the crops grown from such seeds—are the norm in the American diet, used to make ingredients in about 80% of packaged food, according to industry estimates. (Take a quiz about GMOs.)
Now an intensifying campaign, spearheaded by consumer and environmental advocacy groups like Green America, is causing a small but growing number of mainstream food makers to jettison genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. In addition to Ben & Jerry's, a subsidiary of Unilever ULVR.LN -0.82% PLC, General Mills Inc. GIS +0.53% this year started selling its original flavor Cheerios without GMOs. Post Holdings Inc. took the GMOs out of Grape-Nuts. Boulder Brands Inc. BDBD -2.47% 's Smart Balance has converted to non-GMO for its line of margarine and other spreads. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. CMG -0.54% is switching to non-GMO corn tortillas.
"Non-GMO" is one of the fastest-growing label trends on U.S. food packages, with sales of such items growing 28% last year to about $3 billion, according to market-research firm Nielsen. In a poll of nearly 1,200 U.S. consumers for The Wall Street Journal, Nielsen found that 61% of consumers had heard of GMOs and nearly half of those people said they avoid eating them. The biggest reason was because it "doesn't sound like something I should eat."
Grass roots campaigns in several states are pushing for mandatory labeling of foods with GMOs—something most food companies staunchly oppose. In May, Vermont adopted the first state law requiring companies to label GMO foods, starting in 2016.
The anti-GMO backlash reflects the deep skepticism that has taken root among many U.S. consumers toward the food industry and, in particular, its use of technology. Similar criticism has roiled other food ingredients including artificial sweeteners and finely textured beef, the treated meat product that critics dubbed "pink slime." The Web and social media have enabled consumer suspicions in such matters to coalesce into powerful movements that are forcing companies to respond.

A continuing series about how consumer perceptions and corporate strategies shape the national diet.
Critics of GMOs—which have combined genes from different organisms to make some staple crops more durable—say there haven't been enough independent studies on the long-term health and environmental consequences of what they dub as "Frankenfood." They cite a handful of studies outside the U.S. that found toxic effects on animals fed genetically modified crops, and point out that 64 nations, including the European Union countries and China, require labeling of GMO products.
"If it turns out that after doing the studies, the scientific evidence shows GMOs are OK, I will change my mind," said Alisa Gravitz, a board member of the Non-GMO Project and chief executive of Green America. "But until then, why infect our entire food supply with this, when the early studies, the bona fide, peer-reviewed ones, throw up some red flags?"
For its part, the food industry says those studies are inconclusive and that none has shown any link to harm to humans. Proponents also point out that GMO crops used in the U.S.—which also include alfalfa, cotton, papaya and squash—have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which doesn't mandate labeling food that contains them. And even though the European Union requires labeling in member countries, it has approved many GMO foods as safe for consumption.
The debate aside, how companies like General Mills and Ben & Jerry's fare in dropping GMOs will offer a guide to others that are considering it. So far, the process has proved expensive, complex and politically dicey. For Ben & Jerry's, the premium for non-GMO ingredients ranged from 5% to 20%, reflecting how deeply rooted the technology is in the U.S. food chain. Ben & Jerry's says it plans to eat the costs rather than pass them on to customers.
But the forerunners are also encouraging farmers and ingredient manufacturers to increase the supply of non-GMO items, which could make it easier for food makers to follow.
Certainly, the stakes are large for companies like Monsanto Co. MON -0.19% and DuPont Co. DD +0.14% , which sell genetically engineered seeds to give crops traits like the ability to repel insects or resist weed killers. Today, more than 90% of corn, canola, soybean and sugar beet crops in the U.S. are genetically modified. Most of the produce Americans consume directly isn't GMO, but the crops are used to produce common ingredients like corn syrup, soy lecithin and more than half of the sugar consumed in the U.S.—plus the feed consumed by most of the nation's livestock.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Monsanto said the company was confident about the safety of its seeds based on an "extensive body of rigorous testing" by company and independent researchers. DuPont pointed out the technology was backed by "regulatory agencies and scientific organizations around the world." The switch to GMO, proponents say, has led to higher crop yields and lower food costs.
When a big brand announces plans to drop GMOs, it stirs the debate further. GMO backers criticized General Mills for its change to Cheerios, saying it gave credence to misperceptions of the technology. Anti-GMO groups quickly started calling on General Mills to drop them from its Honey Nut Cheerios, too. The company said that changing the ingredients of its other cereals would be too difficult, but that GMO products are safe, adding that it offered the non-GMO variety to give consumers more options.

Non-GMO chocolate chunks used in some Ben & Jerry's ice cream.
Cheryl Senter for The Wall Street Journal
Ben & Jerry's, which ranks fifth among U.S. ice cream brands by sales, says it doesn't consider GMOs unsafe to humans either, but has always positioned itself as an environmentally friendly, socially progressive brand. Executives long wanted to drop GMOs, which they feel are part of industrialized, chemical-intensive agriculture that the company opposes, said Mr. Michalak, the social mission director. But the company didn't start discussing converting its flavors with suppliers until 2012.
That year, anti-GMO advocates got on the California ballot Proposition 37, a measure requiring GMO labeling similar to the one that later passed in Vermont. Food and agriculture companies poured more than $46 million into advertising to fight the measure, saying it would confuse consumers and raise food costs. The measure narrowly failed to pass, but it galvanized GMO opponents and put the industry on notice.
Ben & Jerry's didn't get directly involved in the California fight. But the battle "catalyzed the movement for us," said Cheryl Pinto, Ben & Jerry's ingredient sourcing manager. "When all the non-GMO hoopla hit the fan, we realized we better accelerate our conversion."
Aside from the milk, Ben & Jerry's said most ice cream ingredients were already non-GMO. Still, the company needed to check with suppliers and rigorously investigate all 110 ingredients it uses to make ice cream. Among the surprises: finding out a product couldn't be considered non-GMO if the supplier dusted the pan with cornstarch before baking. The supplier had to switch to rice starch.
"Our suppliers generally had to negotiate all the way down the supply chain to get to the farmer," Ms. Pinto said.
At the farm level, companies confront a chicken-or-egg-type conundrum. Food makers are hesitant to commit to dropping GMOs until they are sure they can find sufficient sources of non-GMO crops. But farmers are reluctant to switch seeds unless they know there will be guaranteed demand for non-GMO crops at a premium price.
Mercaris, a market data researcher, said prices last year for non-GMO corn averaged 51 cents per bushel higher than those for regular, GMO corn. That is a significant difference for farmers when the national average corn price was between $4 to $4.50. But some farmers also worry that dropping GMO seeds could lower their yields, meaning fewer bushels per acre.
Ben & Jerry's paid an average of 11% more for each ingredient that changed to a non-GMO version. In some cases that also included the higher cost of sourcing ingredients from Fair Trade suppliers—those certified as paying fair prices to producers in developing countries—which it did simultaneously.
The company says it can't quantify how much it spent on the non-GMO conversion in total. "It was really expensive," Ms. Pinto said. "Surcharges came in from transportation. Instead of buying beet sugar from down the road, you're buying cane sugar from much farther away." The conversion also required time and money to design new labeling and marketing and carry out legal reviews, she said.
For its Chubby Hubby ice cream, Ben & Jerry's had to change peanut butter pretzel suppliers because ConAgra Foods Inc., CAG -0.10% which bought the company that supplied the pretzels, was unwilling or unable to adhere to the non-GMO and Fair Trade requirements, according to people familiar with the situation. The change in suppliers also caused a shift from peanut butter-filled pretzels to peanut butter-coated ones, prompting some consumers to complain. ConAgra declined to comment.
To some degree, Ben & Jerry's process was simple relative to what some companies put themselves through. Unlike with organic foods—which also can't contain GMOs but must follow additional restrictions—the government sets no standard for what qualifies as "non-GMO." Companies seeking some authoritative imprimatur must go to third-party certifiers, usually the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit group founded by natural foods retailers. It vets applicants with an almost religious exactitude.
To gain its certification, Enjoy Life Foods LLC, a small Schiller Park, Ill.-based company that makes gluten- and allergen-free snacks, traced its honey to the hive. "We had to go to our honey suppliers, who went to the bee keepers, who had to actually determine how far the bees could fly to make sure they weren't cross-pollinating at any GMO fields," said Joel Warady, its chief sales and marketing officer.
He said the company thought it was done a year before it actually was, because Non-GMO Project kept coming with questions, including how far their bees flew. "I was like, 'Are you serious? I don't know,' " said Mr. Warady. " 'I didn't talk to the bees.' "
The Non-GMO Project, which has verified more than 17,000 products, says such lengths are necessary to ensure the bees aren't feeding on nectar or pollen from GMO crops. Thus, the organization requires a four-mile radius from the bee hives be clear of GMO fields.
"Consumers don't know how difficult it is, but they also don't care how difficult it is," said Mr. Warady. "They say, 'I want the food all natural. I want it to be non-GMO. I want it to taste great. And by the way, I don't want to pay any more for that. Figure it out.' " Enjoy Life Foods 3065.TO -1.23% doesn't explicitly pass on the added costs, but its food is already priced at a premium to mainstream brands. For its part, Ben & Jerry's didn't seek Non-GMO Project certification, citing the complexity, but does use an auditor. "For us, our size and our scale, we had to be" realistic about where to start, Ms. Pinto said.
The number of big companies that have announced plans to drop GMOs is still small. Big industry groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association say the trend is baseless, but they admit it is growing. They continue to lobby against GMO labeling and tout the benefits of the technology.
Still, industry executives say many of those companies are asking suppliers to develop non-GMO options so that they can be ready in case label mandates spread, which the companies fear could hurt products containing GMOs. Brian Sethness, senior account executive at Sethness Products Co., which supplies caramel coloring to major food and beverage companies, said the company is receiving more inquiries about non-GMO products than ever before. "Most haven't pulled the trigger yet though, they just want to know what's out there," he said.
For Ben & Jerry's, the biggest hurdle is milk. The vast majority of the feed given to dairy cows in the U.S. is made with GMO corn, soybeans and alfalfa. That makes it difficult to find non-GMO milk in quantities large enough for Ben & Jerry's, so the company hasn't committed to doing it. Labeling laws like the one passed in Vermont don't apply to meat or dairy derived from animals that consumed GMO animal feed, buying Ben & Jerry's more time. "We are having conversations with multiple stakeholders throughout the entire supply chain," Mr. Michalak said. "It's a slow process."

Thursday, August 7, 2014


russia_food.jpgPublished on Thursday, August 07, 2014

Russians Strike Back Against Western Nations with One-Year Food Import Ban

In response to increased sanctions by the west and continued conflict in Ukraine, Moscow announces one year ban on meat, fruit, vegetables and other products coming from the US, EU, Canada, Norway and Australia
The Russian government has approved a list of foreign agricultural products on which Russian sanctions are imposed, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev said on Thursday. (Photo: ITAR-TASS)Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev on Thursday officially announced Russia's one year ban on a wide array of food imports—including beef, pork, fruit, vegetables and dairy products—from western nations as a response to economic sanctions imposed against it by the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia, and Norway.
According to the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS:
The list of the banned products includes cattle meat (fresh, chilled and refrigerated), pork (fresh, chilled and refrigerated), poultry meat and all poultry edible by-products, salted meat, pickled meat, dried meat, smoked meat, fish and shell fish, clams and other water invertebrates, milk and dairy products, vegetables, edible roots and tuber crops, fruits and nuts, sausage and analogous meat products, meat by-products or blood, as well as products made of them, ready-to-eat products including cheeses and cottage-cheese based on vegetable fats.
The import restrictions—which Medvedev said are effective immediately—come as a clear response to continued and escalated economic sanctions levied by these western countries against Russia over the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The Obama administration and Congress have repeatedly called for tougher measures against Moscow for what they term as Russian "interference" in Ukraine where rebels in eastern regions remain in a protracted and increasingly deadly battle against the Ukraine Army. Though with more hesitancy, the EU countries have steadily increased their sanctions against Russia, which have closed down its access to financial markets and manufactured products.
The rebels in the east—who maintain control of areas in and around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk—see the government in Kiev, which came to power in a coup earlier this year, as illegitimate and a threat to their Russian identities and regional autonomy. While the Kiev government has received steady support and financial backing from the U.S. and the EU, Moscow has attempted to broker a political settlement that acknowledges and protects the interests of those living in the east, closer to its border.
According to Reuters:
Russia bought $43 billion worth of food last year. It has become by far the biggest consumer of EU fruit and vegetables, the second biggest buyer of U.S. poultry and a major global consumer of fish, meat and dairy. [...]
He had promised to ensure that the measures would not hurt Russian consumers, which suggested he might exclude some popular products. But in the end, the bans announced by his prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, mentioned no exceptions. [...]
Agriculture Minister Nikolai Fyodorov acknowledged that the measures would cause a short-term spike in inflation, but said he did not see a danger in the medium or long term. He said Russia would compensate with more imports of products from other suppliers such as Brazilian meat and New Zealand cheese.
The United Nations warned this week that the humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine is becoming increasingly dire.
On Thursday, the Ukraine Army shelled a hospital in the city of Donetsk, killing at least one person and injuring others. Separate shelling claimed other lives overnight. According to the Associated Press:
"There was a sudden explosion, a mortar round flew through the window, all the equipment was destroyed," said Anna Kravtsova, a doctor at the Vishnevskiy Hospital. "They killed one person, and one person was injured and taken away."
Only the dentistry unit suffered damage, witnesses said, but it is one of Donetsk's larger hospitals, only 4 kilometers (less than 3 miles) from the city's main square, and has also provided treatment to civilian victims of the conflict.
Kravtsova said that the person who was killed was a patient of the hospital. Donetsk city council spokesman Maxim Rovensky confirmed to the AP that one person had been killed, and said five were wounded.
The incident follows a night of shelling in another central neighborhood. The city council said in a statement posted on its website that three people had been killed and five wounded, and several residential buildings destroyed.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014



Processed foods are an important part of the US food supply and ensure that Americans have food to eat (food security) and food that meets nutritional guideline requirements (nutrition security), according to a controversial scientific statement issued by the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) and published in the June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
These foods can have a positive impact on health, but when consumed "inappropriately or at inordinately high proportions of a total diet, [they] are deleterious to health," Connie M. Weaver, PhD, distinguished professor and department head, nutrition science, Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana, and colleagues admit.
The statement, which was first published online in April, has generated a flurry of critical blogs, Dr. Weaver told Medscape Medical News. Some critiqued the authors' ties to the food-processing industry. However, although some of the statement authors have links to food and beverage manufacturers, industry had no say in this statement, she pointed out.
Others have criticized the broad definitions of "processed" and "minimally processed" food from the International Food Information Council (IFIC), where multiple foods, from baby carrots to rotisserie chicken to cookies — with varying degrees of nutrition or processing — are lumped together.
A new "processed-food" classification system emphasizing nutrition is needed, the authors agree, but, unlike their critics, they feel that the degree of processing is irrelevant. "Some sort of nutrient-density [classification] makes more sense than trying to categorize by the extent of processing," Dr. Weaver said.
Obesity Society public affairs committee chair Adam Tsai, MD, from the University of Colorado, in Denver, argues that extent of processing does matter. "If you're fortunate enough to have a choice between something that's more processed and something that's less processed — whatever the definition is — you probably want to go for something that's less processed because, [for one reason], you don't want to eat added sugar," and according to the article, processed foods contribute over half of dietary calories but also contribute three-quarters of added sugars, an amount disproportionate to the amount of calories.
"Minimally Processed," "Processed," or "Restaurant Food"
According to the IFIC, "processed foods" encompass 4 categories: foods that are processed to preserve freshness (eg, canned salmon and frozen fruits and vegetables); foods combined with sweeteners, colors, spices, or preservatives (eg, rice, cake mix, salad dressing, and pasta sauce); "ready-to-eat" foods (eg, breakfast cereal, yogurt, rotisserie chicken, granola bars, cookies, crackers, and sodas); and prepared foods (eg, deli foods, frozen meals, and pizzas).
The IFIC further identifies a "minimally processed" food category, which includes washed and packaged fruits and vegetables, bagged salads, and ground nuts.
A study based on National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data from adults and children over age 2, from 2003 to 2006, showed that of the processed food in the diet, 57% was more than minimally processed; 14% was minimally processed; and 29% was prepared food that was eaten in restaurants.
Processed foods can be enriched (which replaces nutrients lost in processing) or fortified (with nutrients not found in the original food), which can up the nutrition content.
According to the NHANES data and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, "of the nutrients to encourage, processed foods contributed 55% of dietary fiber, 48% of calcium, 43% of potassium, 34% of vitamin D, 64% of iron, 65% of folate, and 46% of vitamin B12," the position statement notes.
On the other hand, these foods can be high in calories, fat, and sugar. "Of the constituents to limit, processed foods contributed 57% of energy [calories], 52% of saturated fat, 75% of added sugars, and 57% of sodium."
Potentially Harmful, yet Possibly Useful for Obese Patients
It may be necessary to process food to bring it from the field to the store shelf to the table to feed the population, but too much processing — specifically too much added sugar — is a problem, Dr. Tsai points out.
"That processed foods provide 57% of energy intake but 75% of added sugar [is a concern, since] there's a fairly strong association between added sugar in the American diet and obesity." The Food and Drug Administration, which proposed food labeling changes that would require food companies to list all added sugars, aims to draw attention to this content, he noted.
The statement is timely. "There's clearly been a movement in the United States, over the past 5 to 10 years — I call it the 'Michael Pollan movement' — of trying to eat more whole foods, more natural foods....One of my patients yesterday referred to it as 'eating clean,' " Dr. Tsai said.
On the other hand, although sugary processed foods with empty calories are unhealthy, people are more likely to lose weight if they have a more structured diet, such as in the Jenny Craig program, which uses packaged foods, he added. "Those are processed foods, but they are of fairly high nutritional quality; they're balanced. I do recommend them," he said.
An estimated 14% of Americans go hungry, while a significant number are obese and are getting too many calories but may still be missing certain nutrients, Dr. Weaver noted.
The ASN hopes to start a conversation with stakeholders — including nutritionists, policy makers, and food manufacturers — "to come up with new definitions [of processed foods] and a way to improve the food supply," she said.
In the meantime, she advises, "Don't equate processed food with junk food," pay attention to nutrient density, and look for processed foods that "start with whole foods...a fruit, a vegetable, or milk...[that] are likely to have quite a few nutrients vs [those that] start with sugar and maybe add some fat."
Dr. Weaver serves as an unpaid board member for the International Life Sciences Institute of North America and serves on a scientific advisory board for Pharmavite, and her university has received research grants from the Dairy Research Institute, Nestle, and Tate & Lyle. Disclosures for the coauthors are listed with the article.
Source:  Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;99:1525–42. Abstract