Sunday, April 14, 2013

Monsanto Responds to 'Affluent Consumer' Concerns

       Continued From Last Post

   On March 14, Monsanto President Brett Begeman discussed Whole Food’s move in an interview on NPR radio.8 According to NPR:

        “Monsanto President Brett Begeman, speaking at an ag event this week in Decatur, Illinois, called the move 'Big' and said it shows that the agriculture industry needs to come together to address the concerns of what he called the 'affluent consumer.'

        Begemann: ‘How do we address their concerns and provide them the choice that they’re asking for without driving up the cost on the large part of the population that cannot afford another increase in the cost of food.' The potential of higher costs is one of the concerns companies have raised about the Whole Foods plan. Begmann says the ag industry needs to figure how to cooperate and co-exist with those who have different food policy views.”

ORCA Takes Proactive Role to Address ‘Natural’ Products Intentional Mislabeling

    In related news, the organic and fair trade standards watchdog the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), recently announced the creation of a new nationwide campaign called the Organic Retail and Consumer Alliance (ORCA). The announcement was made at the national Expo-West Natural Products convention. This new alliance includes public interest groups, food producers and retailers, including co-ops, natural food stores, farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) buying clubs and wholesalers.

    ORCA’s mission is to “aggressively promote organic food and products, and expose and eliminate the misleading practice of 'natural' labeling and marketing that has slowed the growth of America’s $30-billion dollar organic sector.” In a press release, OCA’s National Director, Ronnie Cummins states:9

        “Routine mislabeling and marketing has confused millions of U.S. consumers, and enabled the so-called ‘natural’ foods and products sector to grow into a $60-billion dollar a year powerhouse, garnering twice as many sales in 2012 as certified organic products. By exposing these misleading tactics, and promoting truth-in-labeling, we believe we can rapidly grow sales of certified organic and authentically natural food and products.”

    This is indeed a huge problem, as numerous polls and surveys have shown that otherwise health-conscious Americans do not understand the qualitative difference between organic and so-called “natural” products. Contrary to reality, the majority of consumers believe the “natural” label equates to “almost organic,” and many believe the “all-natural” label means a product is better than organic! That’s the power of word-association, and these industries are well aware of how the word natural “feels” to consumers who are in the dark about the regulatory differences between the labels... As stated by Cummins:

        “This is outrageous, given that organic food and products, by law and by third-party certification, are produced without the use of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, animal drugs, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), irradiation, nanoparticles, or sewage sludge, whereas so-called 'natural' products are unregulated.”

    To achieve its aims, ORCA members will use “a combination of public education, marketplace pressure, boycotts, class action lawsuits and state legislation to end misleading labeling practices in the 'natural' products sector.”

Consequences of 20 Years of Commercial Cultivation of GE Plants in the US

    Just in time, as the GE issue is about to heat up once more, a critical assessment of the consequences of commercial cultivation of GE plants in the US was published. The report, published in Berlin, was commissioned in response to increasing pressure from biotech companies requesting broader authorizations to cultivate GE crops in the European Union (EU), where acceptance of such crops is much lower than the US. By looking at the effects that two decades worth of GE crop cultivation has had in the US, the report makes recommendations on how to best handle the technology in the EU. Presented by TestBiotech10 (which published the English version of the report),11 some of the principal findings include the following damaging assessments:

        Consequences for farmers: Because the weeds have adapted to the cultivation of the genetically engineered plants, farmers are experiencing a substantial increase in both working hours and the amounts of herbicide they require. Cultivation of insecticide-producing plants have led to "an arms race in the field" against the pest insects, which have adapted quickly. Genetically engineered plants have been created to produce up to six different toxins. Costs for seeds have increased dramatically, without there being a substantial increase in yields or significant savings in the amounts of spray required.
        Impact on the seed market: The seed industry in the US is largely dominated by agrochemical industries such as Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta. In the future, it has to be expected that developments in the US will be strongly influenced by the interests of agro-chemical companies pushing for the cultivation of genetically engineered plants.
        Consequences for producers who avoid genetically engineered crops: Contamination with non-authorized genetically engineered plants has already caused billions of dollars worth of damage in the US.
        Consequences for consumers: Consumers are exposed to a whole range of risks regarding unintended substances from plant metabolism, from residues from complementary herbicides and from the properties of additional proteins produced in the plants. As yet, there is no way of monitoring the actual effects that consumption of these products might have.


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