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Is the Grocery Manufacturers Association Becoming a 20th Century Relic?
Thursday, February 19, 2015
The Grocery Manufacturers Association is the voice of more than 300 leading food, beverage and consumer product companies, but will it be a relic of the 20th century?   

A question that it starting to pop up is: Is the Grocery Manufacturers Association still delivering value to its members?  Would members be better served by forming a new organization? What if a new group started?  Let’s just hypothetically call it the Food Production Association, and its mission was to meet the needs of companies in the 21st century?

A look back at the history of the Grocery Manufacturers Association suggests this might be a good idea.

Founded in 1908, the Grocery Manufacturers Association is a self-described, active, vocal advocate for its member companies and a trusted source of information about the industry and the products consumers rely on.

But do 21st century consumers actually turn to this organization today or is it a relic of the 20th century?  And is it an advocate for its members?

The organization’s website goes on to say:

“A vital role of GMA is to serve as a central resource for our members, providing industry model practices and a means for collaboration between members, retailers and service providers on important challenges and opportunities facing the industry."

The organization may have done that twenty years ago, but is it still doing that today?

The landscape of health has changed, and it is changing the landscape of food.  Today, the rates of diabetes is skyrocketing, 1 in 4 children has a chronic condition, 1 in 13 children has a food allergy, 1 in 10 has asthma and 1 in 68 has autism, with cancer now the leading cause of death by disease in American children.  The rates of these conditions are escalating, and parents are reading labels. 

Did any of us expect motherhood or fatherhood to look like this? Not at all.  No one would choose autism, life threatening food allergies or cancer.  No one.  But we find ourselves face to face with these conditions every day.  It is changing so many things in our lives, and it is changing how we approach the grocery store.

Some companies want to spend millions of dollars debating how we got here.  Parents don’t have time.  Their hands are tied managing these health conditions.  CNN/TIME reported that the additional costs of raising a child with food allergies is $4,200/year.  Consumers want transparency and denying them basic information about what is in the food we are feeding our loved ones is out of touch.

Over the last year, more than 60 state laws have been introduced to label genetically engineered ingredients in foods.  Consumers know about it, companies know about it.  Companies inside the Grocery Manufacturers Association are producing product lines without these ingredients, and those product lines are profitable pieces of their portfolio.  One look at the success of Kroger’s Simple Truth, “free-from” line demonstrates what a brand can do when it removes additives, GMOs, high fructose corn syrup and more.

Consumers want "free-from" food.  It's not about debating the "how" or the "why" we got here.  It's about meeting her where she stands in the aisle of the grocery store, holding onto a child with diabetes or food allergies, or shopping for parent with cancer.

Everyone is recognizing the need for food free from artificial ingredients.  Panera Bread recently announced that they are pulling these ingredients from their products, Target's Simply Balanced has committed to removing genetically engineered ingredients by the end of 2014, and Kroger is seeing record earnings growth with its Simple Truth product line, free from artificial ingredients and genetically engineered ingredients.  The brand went from $0 to $1 billion in revenue in two years

So if companies that are dumping the junk are being rewarded by both consumers and the stock market, shareholders and stakeholders, what purpose does the Grocery Manufacturers Association serve by getting in the way of that?  Is that in the best interest of its members?

As the Association spends record amounts filing a lawsuit against the state of Vermont which has just taken a big step towards bringing transparency to its food system for its consumers, you have to wonder if this is money well spent for its members.  What if instead, these members decided to leave the organization and start another one, one that truly met their needs in the face of changing consumer demand and the changing health of American consumers.  Or what if some got aggressive and filed a "loss of business" lawsuit against it given the decline that companies like Kellogg’s are seeing in sales and the resulting employee layoffs as they entrench on the GMO labeling issue? 

21st century families want free-from food.  It isn't complicated, and shareholders and stakeholders are rewarding the companies that understand that and are delivering products that meet that need. 

They're not debating the science, they're not filing lawsuits, they are simply meeting us where we stand: in the aisles of the grocery store shopping for the 1 in 3 American children that now has allergies, asthma, ADHD or autism.  They are building a new food economy, becoming icons for the 21st century consumer, making the Grocery Manufacturers Association look like a relic of the 20th century.

The $2.1 trillion food, beverage and consumer packaged goods industry employs 14 million U.S. workers.  As consumers opt out of food loaded with artificial ingredients, demand is growing.  From 2013-2018, demand for organic is expected to grow 14%, but in the United States, less than 1% of farmland is under organic farm management which means that we have to turn to countries like China and Romania for non-GMO or organic food.  We are literally outsourcing that entire economic opportunity.  It is not in the interest of our food companies, our families or our farmers.

If the Grocery Manufacturers Association was true to its mission it would meet the 21st century consumer where she stands, and it would be addressing this supply chain issue for its members.  But it’s not. 

As it stands, it is quickly becoming a relic of the 20th century, opening the door for another industry organization to form.

Can you imagine if Kroger, Target and other retailers joined together to form the Food Production Association whose mission was to build out a clean and safe food system and to secure the supply chain for 21st century families? Instead of channeling member dollars into lawsuits, it could grow the base of US farmland under organic management, so that we don't outsource this economic opportunity for our companies, farmers and country to our trading partners.

Cancer, autism, food allergies and other conditions we are seeing in the health of our loved ones are not “trends,” neither is the demand for transparency.  American consumers have a right to know whether the EPA regulates their corn as a pesticide or not.  Sixty percent of the world’s population has been given that right. 

Imagine an organization for the food industry that actually focused on securing a non GMO supply chain for American companies, rather than fight this shift in consumer demand and outsource this economic opportunity to China and Romania.  Here’s what a logo might look like. It's food for thought.

 

 


 

Is Kraft's Shelf Life Expiring?
Wednesday, February 18, 2015

There was carnage on Wall Street last week, when the processed food companies reported earnings.  The industry profits as a whole got hammered, and iconic brands of the 20th century looked like they were on their way to becoming relics. 

In its most recent quarter, Kraft's profits fell 62%, while Kellogg's plunged 136%, as a growing number of consumers opted out of products loaded with artificial ingredients.  

Kraft's new chief executive John T. Cahill called 2014 a “difficult and disappointing” year for the company behind Jell-O and Oscar Mayer and the ubiquitous mac and cheese.

But it wasn’t just Kraft that got hit. 

There was carnage down the packaged food aisle, and the shares of Kellogg Co. Campbell Soup Co. and ConAgra Foods Inc. were pummeled, as companies lowered their earnings and cut profit forecasts for the year.

Kraft named a new chief executive just two months ago.  But it wasn’t just Kraft that was changing up leadership.  Several other top executives announced that they leaving, including Kraft’s chief financial officer and a senior research-and-development official. ConAgra named a replacement for Chief Executive Gary Rodkin, who had disclosed last year-amid ongoing struggles with its business—that he would leave this spring.

So what is happening to these iconic 20th century food brands from our youth? Are they relics? 

Kellogg’s reported a profit plunge of 136%, throwing the Kashi brand under the bus.  But could one brand account for a $293 million loss?

Not at all.

Kellogg's not only failed to recognize or acknowledge the food awakening that is happening in our country among consumers, they ignored it.

Kraft took a different approach.  With a new CEO, and a CFO and a senior R&D official also stepping down, the words were uncharacteristically honest: “It’s clear that our world has changed, and our consumers have changed.”  Kraft lost share in 40% of their businesses.  "Increased promotional spending has not resulted in sales growth," said the company.

No amount of PR can fix a broken business model, one that fails to recognize the fact that the 21st century consumer wants free-from food, food that Kellogg's and Kraft aren’t really selling. 

How could a company like Kraft miss such a massive shift in consumer demand? And how do shareholders feel about it? 

The new CEO stated that as he dug into things that he was surprised to learn that the consumer insights group “has not been as strong as I thought they would be.”

He then spoke about building an innovation pipeline that addresses changing consumer needs and preferences. 

In other words, it's time for a turnaround strategy. 

It's time. 21st century families are looking for a better food system.

In the past, these companies repeatedly shot the messengers trying to tell them that.  Kraft was a leading example of this.  I experienced it first hand. 

Back in 2010, Kraft threatened to pull its account from its lead ad agency.  The agency’s founder was speaking out on these issues and invited me onto his show.  When Kraft learned about it, they tried to bully, telling the agency: “If he has Robyn on the show, we're pulling the account.” 

That founder quit, and we did the show.

More than once, rather than listen to the consumer, Kraft tried to silence her and anyone else who spoke out on this.  

They are listening now. 

100 million people in North America live their daily lives with food allergies, sensitivities & Celiac Disease.

If Kraft didn’t acknowledge that last year, they apparently do now.  

Mondelez (formerly known as Kraft) announced that it was acquiring Enjoy Life Foods, a trusted brand in the food allergy space, as food allergies and the free-from market explode.  Mondelez International, Inc. (NASDAQ: MDLZ) is a global snacking powerhouse, with 2014 revenue of $34 billion.  They own Oreo, Nabisco and Tang in their portfolio of snack products.

Today, 1 in 3 American kids now has allergies, asthma, ADHD or autism.  1 in 13 children has a food allergy, 1 in 10 has asthma. 100 million people in North American live with food allergies, sensitivities and Celiac Disease.  It is forcing us to read labels. 

Do we wish we could go back to a time when we didn’t have to stand in the aisles of the grocery store scanning labels like a detective? When our children didn’t have life-threatening food allergies?  When friends we love weren’t losing loved ones to cancer?  Absolutely.  No one wants to be in the aisle of the grocery store, scanning labels for ingredients that might kill a child.  But it is where we stand. 

And sadly, it’s not a fad.  A new study, published online and scheduled for the August 2013 print issue of the Journal of Investigative Medicine, found a 65 percent increase in inflammatory bowel disease hospital discharges from 2000 to 2009.

The $12 billion "free-from" market in the United States is large and growing at strong double-digit rates, driven by an increasing incidence of food allergies and food intolerances as well as consumers adopting "free from" as a healthy-lifestyle option. 

Several of the companies said part of their financial woes flowed from the strong U.S. dollar, which makes overseas sales less valuable when converted to their home currency.

Kellogg’s reported a 136% profit plunge for the fourth quarter.  You can’t blame currency for that.  There is something fundamentally missing in a business model: a sensitivity to food sensitive population.  

The CEO of Enjoy Life Foods, announcing the Mondelez acquisition said, “We’ve grown 40% a year for the last three years” on their allergen-free, non-GMO business model.

Mondelez was listening.  It bought them up. 

But Kellogg’s?

“There is no one simple solution to the problem,” Chief Executive of Kellogg’s, John Bryant said in an interview recently. 

But there is, there really is. 

Dump the junk.

21st century families want “free from” food.   On this changing landscape that is the now the health of 21st century families, one thing is sure: Real food sells, food that is free-from artificial dyes, high fructose corn syrup, GMOs and other artificial ingredients. 

The bottom line: It’s good for business.

 

Sources:

 http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Manufacturers/Mondelez-buys-allergen-free-expert-Enjoy-Life-Foods?utm_source=AddThis_twitter&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=SocialMedia#.VOI9zAw8UFg.twitter

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/mondelez-international-acquires-enjoy-life-foods-300036289.html 

http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Manufacturers/Kraft-CEO-2014-was-both-difficult-and-disappointing/?utm_source=newsletter_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=13-Feb-2015&c=HEqmJcZauuwlQUuHSOkVYg%3D%3D

http://www.wsj.com/articles/indigestion-hits-top-u-s-food-firms-1423786580

http://enjoylifefoods.com/project/thankyou/

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2015/02/13/your-healthy-eating-habits-are-pummeling-the-packaged-foods-industry/

 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130625141208.htm

 

What Nestle's Decision to Dump Food Dyes Says About the Movement
Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A few years ago, I was asked if I would consider speaking at Nestle.  The event would take place in Solon, Ohio, at their frozen foods’ headquarters.  Sales were in a nosedive.  I would be speaking alongside someone from McDonald’s.

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure.  Kraft and Burger King had leveled threats at others who had invited me to speak out on these issues.  What would Nestle do? 

So, I got on the phone with the CEO of Nestle's Frozen Foods’ division.  “You can say things that I can’t say.”  He’d seen one of my TEDx talks.  "I am worried that Nestle becomes obsolete.  That we go from five floors in our building, to four, to three, to two, to one." 

He had three boys. 

I said yes. 

A few weeks later, I was on my way to Ohio.  I had no idea what to expect.  It was the first food conglomerate to invite me in the door. 

We began the two day work session with a dinner in their designer kitchen. 

The goal?  To make Hot Pocket and Lean Cuisine meals from scratch.  It was a great ice breaker, chefs were on hand to help, and the food was beautiful. 

When they served it to us in the Lean Cuisine, foil trays: we all scratched our heads.  The beautiful culinary art that we had created looked terrible and immediately changed how we felt about what we’d just prepared. 

I had been instructed to sit next to the CEO.  He was a good man who understood the depth of the issues, having worked previously with those that had gone on to run the Annie’s team.  He was also a dad of three. 

As I listened to him talk, I thought, “He's the kind of guy who would have been captain of the football team or an acolyte."  He spoke a lot about his three boys. 

He knew so much yet he whispered as he spoke.  

Finally, I turned to him and said, “What are you afraid of?  You know this, as a dad and as a leader.  What are you afraid of?”

Without hesitating, he said, “My board of directors.” 

We worked through the next day, as the team opened up.  At the end, they wanted to take a picture. “Would you mind being in it?” they asked.  As if for some reason, I would say no. 

I said yes, and as I left, a year later, so did the CEO.  He was doing brave work at a time when few were willing to.

Nestle  dropped all of the artificial ingredients, including dyes that have been linked to hyperactivity, in the UK, and replaced as many as 80 artificial ingredients with ingredients sourced from things like carrot, hibiscus, radish, safflower and lemon.

They can do it here, but they have to hear from us.

We need each other in this work.  We need to be brave in our actions and in our dialogues.  We need to know that we have inherited a broken food system that took decades to build.  At this point, as earnings suffer, the supply chain is bottle necked and consumers are waking up, we also know that it is time to build a better one. 

Today, as Nestle announced that they are removing artificial dyes from their chocolates, I thought about that meeting and how it was a start. 

The Grocery Manufacturers Association is failing its members.  Consumer insights' departments are, too.  The landscape of health has changed so dramatically in the last fifteen years, and it is changing the way that we feed our families.  Moms speaking the truth have been considered enemies instead of allies. 

There is so much work to be done.   The faster that these big food companies can get on board and dump the junk, the faster we can fix the issues constraining the growth of a clean and safe food system. 

They are buying up the smaller organic, “free-from” companies at a rapid pace.  It is where the growth is.  100 million North Americans now have food allergies, food sensitivities or Celiac Disease.  This isn’t a fad.  This isn’t a trend that is going away. It is a fundamental shift in the health of our country, and it is demanding a rethink on how we treat food. 

So my advice to those big food companies today? Put down the baggage from the 20th century. Dump the junk. It’s the 21st century now, and our families, our farmers and our economy need a food system designed to meet those changing needs.  If you refuse to, you run the risk of becoming a 20th century relic, obsolete in the 21st century.

Nestle's share price has held up in a way that other food companies haven't.  There was carnage on Wall Street last week, as Kellogg's, Kraft, Campbells and others reported earnings. Maybe it's because Nestle is based overseas, where the standards are different, where the science-based decisions are different and where their products aren't loaded with artificial ingredients, artificial food dyes, artificial growth hormones and GMOs.

If they can do it there, they can do it here.    

The choice before these companies is clear: break up with the chemical companies or break up with consumers. 

We need all hands on deck. 

If you take one look at the share prices of Chipotle, White Wave, Kroger and other brands leading this change, the bottom line is obvious: real food sells.

 

 

What Happens If Applegate Gets Spammed?
Friday, February 13, 2015

Rumors are swirling that Hormel is in talks to acquire Applegate Farms, the natural and organic meat company.  As the news hit, the cry of "Nooooooooooooooo!" reverberated across the food movement.

Spam isn't exactly a 21st century brand. Applegate very much is, meeting the needs of 21st century consumers who are looking for "free-from" foods.

So if Hormel can't grow its mystery meat, is it any surprise that they are willing to purchase a company that is seeing 25% growth a year?  These mega, 20th century brands, have one choice: embrace this new food economy or become obsolete.  

And that embrace is increasingly looking like acquisitions.  

Brands like Applegate have met the 21st century consumer where he or she stands: in the grocery store aisles with a family member battling any one of these conditions, looking for food that is "free from" artificial ingredients.  

Many things are driving this food awakening and consumers' quest for food that is free from things like allergens, artificial dyes, high fructose corn syrup and genetically engineered ingredients.  

Our country is dealing with conditions like food allergies, asthma, diabetes, obesity and cancer at rates like never before.  

And just as the announcement that General Mills would acquire Annie's set off an emotional grenade, the news that Hormel might acquire Applegate has done the same. 

There was an allergic reaction.  The landscape of food is changing. 

No one could have anticipated food ingredients designed by chemical companies that have been genetically engineered to produce their own insecticides. Nor could the industry have anticipated this food awakening, driven by the escalating rates of diseases and conditions like cancer, autism and food allergies and other conditions impacting the health of the people that we love.

Food allergies in our children are forcing us to read labels, as quickly as cancer diagnoses are forcing the same.  No one would choose to be standing in the aisles of the grocery store, holding the hand of a child with food allergies or autism or managing a parent's cancer diagnosis, yet that is where so many of us find ourselves today. We are being forced to read labels to protect the health of our loved ones, whether we want to read them or not.  And sales of organic foods are soaring, as consumers try to eat a little bit better, a little bit cleaner and opt out of artificial ingredients.  The U.S. branded organic and natural foods industry's sales have been growing at a 12 percent compound rate over the last 10 years.

And while big food companies like Hormel and General Mills might have fought this for some time, they also aren't stupid, and their job is to drive shareholder return.  Sales of processed foods and conventional products that are pumped full of artificial growth hormones, artificial dyes and other artificial ingredients like GMOs are lackluster at best.  The industry watches companies like Kellogg entrench and refuse to address this change in demand.  What happens?  Sales slump, and Kellogg's reports a 136% plunge in profits.

It's a slow death by artificial ingredients. 

One look at the share price of Kroger or Chipotle tells the story of what happens to a company that expands into this 'free from' category: shareholders are rewarded. 

Why wouldn’t a company want to enter this space in a meaningful way?

Change is hypocritical.

Hormel has been part of the anti-labeling brigade.  Led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, they have been a member of the team of companies that have spent millions to keep consumers in the dark.  

That is their problem, as taking the position that a consumer does not have the right to know how her food is made, despite the fact that we are told if milk is pasteurized or if orange juice comes from concentrate, is undemocratic.  It’s a freedom enjoyed by 60% of the world’s population. 

Applegate has been an outspoken advocate for GMO labeling.

So just as there was outrage over the marriage between General Mills and Annie's, the same sentiment is out there as Hormel eyes Applegate. 

The reaction that consumers are having to the announcement is the fear that Hormel wrangles Applegate into submission.  And while Hormel can operate Applegate with an expansive economy of scale and get their price to manufacture down, it's not all altruistic.  Hormel also knows that people are willing to pay more for Applegate's products.  It's a way to diversify their portfolio, get better, higher margin products to market and increase Applegate's availability in the marketplace.  It's good for business.  They also see the writing on the wall, and it doesn't contain the letters "G-M-O."

The fear is that Applegate will fold, but this is where leadership and personal stories step in.  Applegate's CEO is a dad who led the company through extraordinary change, saw it burn to the ground and built it back up.  He knows the supply chain, animal welfare issues and knows the demands of the financial world.   He also knows what it is like to see someone that you love face serious health challenges.  He knows that families around the country are experiencing these challenges every day.  

And like the CEO of Stonyfield did when he expanded the brand and the reach of the yogurt company through its Danone partnership, perhaps Applegate found a partner to expand and capture economies of scale that the company couldn’t on its own.  Stonyfield's founder never backed down.

Just like General Mills buying into the organic movement through the purchase of Annie's provided distribution and access to capital, Hormel buying into the movement could do the same.

Is consolidation the best answer?  "These big food companies aren't going to let anything else happen," said one of the portfolio managers that I used to work with when I spoke with him today. 

And right now, our food system is currently structured in a way that the costs of production for organic ingredients are disproportionately higher.   It is structured this way at the federal level.  It is not a level playing field for the organic industry. And when a company goes public, the way that Annie's did in 2012, it is opening itself for an acquisition. 

Since 2012, Applegate has been talking about how to grow, either through a public offering or some other way. 

Does it mean that it will always be this way?  That policy will always be this way? Not at all.  Policy follows the money, and right now, the organic industry is growing while conventional is stagnant.  The landscape of the food industry is changing at every level.  Amazon is entering the retail space, online distribution companies are entering, too.  Farmers market and community supported agriculture are taking off.  Why?  Because the grocery retail structure makes it hard for smaller brands to compete.  They either have to sell out or buy in.  It requires capital.

To hit the scale and scope of distribution that makes a product accessible and affordable to all Americans, companies have repeatedly sold themselves to a larger company: Stonyfield to Danone, White Wave to Dean Foods, Happy Family again to Danone.  The list goes on. 

Have these brands sold out?  Or have the bigger brands bought into the organic movement?  Stonyfield didn't sell out.  Happy Family didn't either.  Both companies were founded by people who have personally known how autism or cancer can impact a family.

Do I wish there were other ways for these companies to scale?  And that the food industry had a level playing field for organic companies?  Absolutely.  There is nothing that I would rather have seen then Annie's, White Wave, Hain Celestial and other organic brands become the iconic brands of the 21st century.  Our generation's iterations of Kraft, General Mills and Pepsi.  To see Applegate replace Hormel as the iconic brand. 

Perhaps this is the first iteration towards that.    But right now the cost structure is prohibitive.  We haven’t financed a healthy food system at the federal level.  If farmers want to grow organic crops, they lose the crop insurance protection programs, they lose subsidies and they lose marketing support.  Is that financially viable?  If you throw animal husbandry and animal welfare into that, you've got an even more complicated issue.  

The food movement is not going away.  Demand for food that is 'free from' artificial ingredients like food dyes, GMOs, high fructose corn syrup and other ingredients is not a fad, because cancer, autism and food allergies are not fads.  We are seeing a fundamental shift in the way that Americans buy food, because we are sick. 

General Mills obviously recognized that.  Hormel does, too.  They are hedging with these acquisitions, balancing their portfolio. The key is to not compromise the integrity of the Applegate's brand in the process.  Creative destruction is an economic term trumpeted by a man named Joseph Schumpeter.  And change, in these early stages, often looks like hypocrisy.  It often looks destructive.  The question becomes: what is the long term objective here?  Is it really to destroy a brand?  No, it’s to capture its market share, its margins and expand into the category.

So how could this play out? 

A look back at other historic acquisitions in the food industry gives us a feel for how this could play out, because if the share prices of White Wave and other organic companies are any indication today, this consolidation stage will continue.

In 1985, Philip Morris Cos. became a holding company and the parent of Philip Morris Inc. and bought General Foods. The acquisition of Kraft Foods came in 1988. In 2001, Kraft Foods spun out of Phillip Morris and launched an IPO for 11.1% of the company that raked in $8.7 billion, making it the 2nd largest IPO in American history at the time.

General Mills could spin Annie's back out in a few years time, like Philip Morris did with Kraft or like Dean Foods did with White Wave.  Hormel could do the same with Applegate.  Maybe that IPO isn't that far out, and we could see the ticker symbol "MEAT" in 2020.  They would drive enormous shareholder value if they stay true to the brand. 

If they don't, there are plenty of examples of fallout in the food industry.  From Kellogg’s, to the companies that made pink slime to those that put yoga mat material in their buns.  Shareholders suffer if companies don’t response to the 21st century online consumer.

We live in a day and time where online bullying can take many forms.  At the end of the day, no one misses a beat, and companies that think they can pull a fast one on the consumer are quickly proven wrong.

Refinance Food

We have financed a food system that gives food companies the incentive to use the cheaper ingredients.  The cost of producing organic ingredients is disproportionately higher than producing conventional, genetically engineered crops.  On top of that, farmers that choose to grow organic crops don't get the crop insurance programs and marketing support programs.  In other words, their entire cost of production is higher.  That hammers all of us.   It hammers food companies trying to do the right thing.

And as much as any of us want to romanticize food, right now, this is our current capitalist structure, and until we refinance the food system, this won't be the first of these acquisitions.

What if the cost of production were the same?  What if farmers, regardless of what they choose to plant on their farms, could receive crop insurance programs and marketing support?  What if food companies, regardless of what they choose to use in their products, had to label their ingredients as genetically engineered or not.

Right now, there is economic discrimination.  Costs are disproportionately higher for those who want organic food, from the farmers growing it to the food companies using it to the families eating it.

Does anyone want it this way?   Does General Mills?  Do our farmers? Do our families?

But we weren’t given a choice.

Right now, our taxpayer resources are used to support the food system dependent on GMOs and chemicals.  What if at the voting booth, we got to check a box? 

Do you want your taxpayer resources to support the food system?  And if yes, which would you rather see support given to farmers growing organic ingredients? To food companies using them?

How do we want our tax dollars to work in the food system?

What would Hormel choose if price weren't an issue?   If there were an economic equilibrium, which ingredients would Hormel choose?  What livestock feed?  Genetically engineered or organic?  And why haven’t we structured our food system with this kind of pricing parity?

Right now, no one has been given the choice because of the financial structure executed at the federal level through the crop subsidy programs, the crop insurance programs and the marketing support programs.  They only go one way.

Is this acquisition a symptom of that unhealthy financial structure?  

It wouldn't be a hostile takeover.   Applegate would enter into it like Stonyfield did with Danone or White Wave did with Dean Foods.

The question is whose compass is stronger?  What will consumers do to send the message to Hormel that being part of the anti-labeling campaign is detrimental to shareholders? 

Like Annie's did, Applegate has the wind at its back.  Hormel knows that.  Consumers want "free from" food.  Food that is "free from" artificial ingredients, artificial dyes, growth hormones and genetically engineered ingredients. One look at the share price of Chipotle tells that story.

As more and more companies enter the organic space, either through new products or through acquisitions, it again begs the question: is the Grocery Manufacturers Association a relic of the 20th century?  If this organization is not working to meet the needs of its member companies, should it still exist in its current form?  Or should a new organization, let's call it the Food Production Association, be formed to meet the evolving needs of these brands in the 21st century?

Change at its very core begins with hypocrisy. 

If Hormel chooses to make a strategic shift and follow Applegate into an industry with a 12% compound annual growth rate, capitalizing on Applegate's 25% growth, delivering a portfolio increasing full of “free from” foods, shareholders will be rewarded.  The rates of cancer, autism, food allergies and other conditions aren’t declining. This food awakening isn't a fad.

Applegate has the potential to be a powerful compass for Hormel.  Hormel, if they are truly interested in capturing the 21st century consumer, should follow it.  They don't have the experience in house or on their board which includes a former Monsanto CFO.  If the companies are serious about their commitment to the 21st century consumer and their shareholders, they should step away from the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s anti-labeling campaign and join the consumer where she stands: in the grocery store aisles, reading food labels while holding the hand of a loved one with allergies, autism, EoE, cancer, diabetes or any one of the conditions impacting our families today and deliver exactly what she wants: food that is “free from” artificial ingredients and information about how she can protect the health of her family.

It's up to Hormel if they continue to operate with a 20th century mentality or if they will move into the 21st century with the consumer and Applegate as a compass.  It's a big ask, but it's important to look at what can happen if they don't follow Applegate's lead.  With a 136% profit slump, Kellogg has an entrenched story to tell.  

Applegate's goal is to change the way we eat.  It's already happening. 

It's up to Hormel to decide what story will be theirs. 

The smartest thing Hormel could do for its shareholders is to use Applegate as a compass and dump the junk. Instead of spamming Applegate, shareholders should pay attention to why this acquisition makes sense in the first place:  demand is shifting.  21st century consumers want "free-from" food.   No amount of Spam is going to change that. 


 

 

How Real People on Real Budgets Can Afford Organic
Wednesday, February 11, 2015

In a world in which we are constantly worried about the health of our families, the stability of our jobs, paying the mortgage and all of life's responsibilities, the simple act of trying to eat healthy often becomes a challenge.

Not to mention that if your family is anything like mine, then you've most likely got some picky eaters, limited time and a limited budget with which to pull all of this off in a world of soaring food prices.

All of this concern, on top of the recent announcement by Campbell's that they are releasing an organic line while Nestle said that genetically engineered foods,  crops that have been engineered using biotechnology to withstand increasing doses of chemicals sold by the chemical industry, may not be "the answer" that the food industry needs to feeding the world, can leave you asking: where to start?  

And what's an eater to do?  

Especially those worried about allergies, cancer or diabetes here in the United States, one of the few developed country that never labeled these genetically engineered ingredients hardwired for chemicals in the first place?  Thankfully, there is a lot.  And these tips are for everyone, not just words for the "well-nourished who can afford to shop at Whole Foods," because clean and safe food should not be a function of zip code or socioeconomic status, it is a fundamental human right.

Today, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women in the U.S. are expected to get cancer in their lifetime.  Those are jaw-dropping statistics, and the rates of cancer, food allergies, autism and other conditions are driving a food awakening. 

Access to food, labeled to disclose allergens, additives, genetically engineered ingredients & chemicals used on them, is a human right that should be afforded all Americans as it is to eaters in other countries, especially in light of cancer statistics that suggest 41% of Americans are expected to get cancer in our lifetimes.

So here are a few tips for those who want to start buying organic food but don't want to pay the high price:
  • Go Orgo-Generic. Major grocery store chains like Safeway and Kroger, and big box food retailers like Costco and even Wal-Mart, now carry their own organic foods. And all foods labeled "USDA organic" are created equal, no matter where you find them. No need to upscale your grocery store when Wal-Mart gets it done.

  • Buy Frozen. Frozen foods (like strawberries and fish) are cheaper than those that are delivered fresh. So if the prices on fresh produce are eye-popping, cruise on over to the frozen food aisle for a discount.

  • Eat with the Season. Retrain your taste buds to think like your grandmother did. She didn't eat strawberries in the middle of winter. Locally grown foods are usually cheaper than those flown in from another hemisphere so if you eat with the season, you'll be eating more affordably.

  • Skip the Box, Embrace the Bulk. Food that comes in boxes costs more because of the packaging costs associated with designing those pretty pictures! When you buy in bulk, you're not paying for all of the packaging, you're paying for the food which is what you want anyway. So slide on over to that bulk food aisle in Safeway and look for noodles, cereals, rice and beans in your local grocery store.

  • Support the US economy and Buy Local. You can save money by becoming a member of a local farm (just like you became a member at Safeway or Costco!). How do you find a local farm, you ask? Well, thankfully, the USDA now has a list of online sites to help you find the closest farm near you.

  • Comparison Shop. You wouldn't buy a car without comparison shopping, so before you even head out the door you can compare the prices of organic foods at different retailers from the safety of your own computer.

  • Coupons, coupons, coupons: Organic bargains are everywhere so click on About.com's Frugal Living page where you will find All Organic Links.

  • Grow One Thing. If you're as busy as we are, there's not a chance in creation that you are going to be able to feed your family off of your home-grown harvest, but you will find that growing a tomato plant can be incredibly inspiring. And it's not as intimidating as it seems. So pick one thing to grow -- you can do it (we all grew lima beans in cups as kids, right?).

  • Find a Friend.It is way more fun when you share this adventure with someone else, so be sure to find a friend, share this link and get back to us with your success stories (and if you have a tip that you want to add, please post it in the comment section below!).

Good luck! And keep us posted on your success stories, because as a national family sitting down to our national dinner table, together, we can inspire, create and restore the health of our country.


BREAD HEAD: A New Look at Alzheimer's
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
A new case of dementia is diagnosed every 4 seconds, according to the World Health Organization.  There are currently 5 million people in the US with it, and that number is expected to triple by 2050. 

Many people consider Alzheimer's and dementia 'caregivers diseases' because of how upsetting/stressful they are for family and friends. It costs the nation $200 billion per year  

Worldwide, there are 45 million with the disease, and a new case is diagnosed every 4 seconds. For a young filmmaker, Max Lugavere, dementia transcends statistics. It’s personal. Three years ago, at age 59, his mom began having serious difficulty with her cognition. Scratching heads in bewilderment, they did what anyone would do, and decided to see a neurologist. 


Because her symptoms were atypical, the diagnosis was unclear, and it sent them around the country to some of our nation's top neurology departments to figure out what she had. The experience was gutting and threw him into action.  He is creating a new documentary: BREAD HEAD.
 

The Journal of the American Medical Association recently printed that it takes on average 17 years for just 14% of what is discovered in science to be put into day-to-day clinical practiceWe can do so much better. BREAD HEAD will be a soaring homage to the awe and wonder of brain science, liberate what insight is out there, and spotlight the luminaries in the field today.

You can watch Max, the filmmaker, discussing Alzheimer's on NBC's Nightly News below.  You can also view the Kickstarter campaign here.


 

Pizza: 9 Things You Need to Know
Monday, February 09, 2015

 

It's National Pizza Day. Just a few weeks ago, the Washington Post ran an article on our complete adoration of the stuff.  Here in the United States, as a country...

1) We eat 100 acres a day of pizza.  

2) That translates into 3 billion pizzas a year or....

3) 23 pounds of it for every American. 

Seriously, who knew?  

We love the stuff in our house.  

But as I dug into that research, I learned something new.

A new study in the journal Pediatrics finds many pre-packaged kids’ meals contain too much salt. We know better now.  This isn't 1984.  So what is up? 

The researchers looked at the nutrition content of more than 1,000 infant and toddler foods and drinks. 

The not-so-good news, 72% of toddler dinners were high in sodium content. The majority of snacks, desserts and juice drinks for both infants and toddlers were found to be heavy on salt.

So why so much salt in our food?

4) Salt is the cheapest ingredient after water

5) Salt holds water, increasing pack weight

6) Salt masks bad flavors from cheap other inputs.

The American Heart Association has highlighted pizza as a top sodium offender, in their “Salty Six” for Kids.  On top of that, according to the CDC, pizza is the #1 sodium source for children/adolescents age 2-19.

So how much salt are they using and how much do we actually need?

Fact is we all need some sodium… but only about 500-600mg/day ( which is just 1/4 teaspoon of salt), but the actual consumption is 7X times that minimum: 3600 mg/day.  In other words, we are getting an entire week’s worth of salt every single day.

The researchers recommend parents and caregivers carefully check labels for sodium and added sugar. They say reducing excessive amounts of these ingredients from birth to 24 months can lead to better health for children now and as they grow.

The health impacts of sodium overconsumption go far beyond high blood pressure. Broad health impact: heart attack, stomach cancer, stroke risk, brain function and dementia, osteoporosis and bone fracture.

I had no idea.  It seemed like kind of an older person's problem.  I knew to worry about it for my parents, for high blood pressure and risk of stroke (both run in the family), but I didn't realize it was such a big issue for kids.  

I used to think that the toppings would be the biggest sources of sodium in a pizza.  I was wrong. 

7) 90% of all the sodium in typical pizza comes from the crust and cheese. 

8) Crust is usually about 50% 

9) Cheese 40%.

It makes sense, salt is used as a preservative, but does our food really have to be so jacked up on it?  And what can we do? 

Increased risk of heart disease and stroke are fairly well-known problems from consuming too much sodium… but I never knew that kids were at risk.  Pizza is everywhere, and no one wants to be "that mom" who is constantly saying "no."  There are enough eating issues already. 

And as if it couldn't get any worse for kids, the Chicago Tribune just ran an unbelievable article about kids getting kidney stones because of diets too high in fat and sodium.  Some hospitals, like the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center have even created special programs to diagnose and treat it.  This used to be something that older people got. Not anymore.  

Most kids should only consume 1500-2200 mg of sodium a day, though most are getting well over 3,000. (Source: What we eat in America, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2009-10, Pediatrics).

I looked at a few of the leading pizza companies out there, like Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Dominos, and almost all of them had much more sodium in a typical 2-slice meal that maximum recommended by the CDC on a per meal basis (some 2-slices of pizza had more sodium that a child/adolescent or adult should have in a whole day!).   Many frozen pizzas and the pizza our kids eat in school that I found data on also has a lot of sodium. 

Where does all this lead?  

As of 2013, one in six kids age 8-17 has high blood pressure, up from one in twenty just 11 years ago.  (Source: Sodium Intake and Blood Pressure Among U.S. Children and Adolescents, Journal Pediatrics, September 17, 2012).  

So what can we do?  Pizza is everywhere. 

I am a big fan of better food.  But we also love pizza.  

I appreciate the value of innovation and technology to make food we eat healthier.  But how are we supposed to do better, if we don't know any better?  Food companies have to come clean.  There has never been a better opportunity than now. 

A quick look at this chart shows you who the big offenders are in the frozen and fast food categories.  Choose wisely if you are eating these brands, or make your own with english muffins, spaghetti sauce and some grated cheese. 

 

We can solve this. 

I have been at many industry events and trade shows, seen and tasted some great alternatives to regular salt and the high sodium it contains.  Solutions exist so that our food taste great but without doing us harm.

What can you do to take care of your kids?  Read labels on packages, ask for nutritional information when you eat out and ‘vote’ with your purchases… for healthier food.  Importantly let the management of Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and even Costco know… that you want them to please hold the salt.  They are listening.  Our kids may only represent 30% of the population, but they are 100% of our future. 

#rethinkfood


Sources:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/01/20/we-eat-100-acres-of-pizza-a-day-in-the-u-s/

http://www.cdc.gov/salt/pdfs/children_sodium.pdf

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/The-Salty-Six-for-Kids-Infographic_UCM_469565_SubHomePage.jsp




An Elementary Girl's Dream
Sunday, February 08, 2015

I can remember flying into Houston, my hometown, nine years ago.

I had just learned about the chemically-intensive operating system that had been put in place on our food supply by chemical companies now genetically engineering seeds. I  remember looking out the window of the airplane and wondering how in the world to get the message out.  Wondering if it was crazy to try, knowing that I had to.

Back then, in 2006, the work was so daunting, few were talking about it and people looked at you like you had three heads when you said "GMO", but it couldn't be unlearned.  It was something that I couldn't not do, so I kept going.

Last week, I received this note from a high school friend with a mom going through cancer treatment. When I hear from childhood friends from Houston, it means more than they could ever imagine.  Her daughter was asked to draw and write about her dreams in school. 

"Going through my daughter's weekly folder of work from her school. Out of the blue, I see this and think of you... She said the project was supposed to only be about dreams and not about food. She just thought it was the best dream that she could think of....I think so, too." 

The John Lennon song, Imagine, has been sort of a theme song through this.  I've sung it to the kids at bedtime, over the phone when I travel. It's such a tribute to seeing beyond the mess that we are in right now to the solutions that we can create together. And when a friend unexpectedly sent me a T-shirt with the words, "You may say I'm a dreamer.....I'm not the only one," my heart was flooded, because we are not. There are so many incredible people working on this issue, so many with enormous hearts and enormous talent, so many that I am so grateful for every day.

And as companies like Kroger, HEB, White Wave, Whole Foods, Costco, Chipotle and others offer more and more healthy food, this little girl's dream has a very strong chance of coming true.

It's up to us.

The Farmer in 4A
Thursday, February 05, 2015

There was a a big-hearted, Carhartt-wearing guy named Luke sitting next to me on the flight into Missouri today for a conference. 

I was nervous about this trip, I don't know why.  Maybe because Monsanto tried to sponsor the conference (kind of a weird flank move) and was shot down.  They wanted to be there and wanted a photo opp and press release. So I kept to myself on the flight, worked on my presentation and read about the announcement about FDA Commissioner, Margaret Hamburg, and her decision to step down.   

"Do you work for the FDA?" he asked.  I almost laughed.  "No," I said, "I do a lot of research into our food system.  It started with crunching numbers and turned into a lot more."

"What do you do?" I asked him. 

"I build tanks....on dairy farms." And he proceeded to school me.  He talked about the glycol or ammonia used to cool the tanks and to preserve the milk inside of them, he talked about how sometimes he builds tanks for wine, and how some big dairy processors cut corners.  

He had a long, slow drawl.

"They just patch things up, you know?  They don't want to spend the money to fix stuff.  Tanks get holes, they should be replaced, they just patch 'em up.  Bacteria that grows in there. It's nasty when you see it.  Mold."  

He paused and looked out the window.   

"They do things half-ass, so they don't have to spend money."

I paused.  

"Do you have kids?"

"Yeah," he laughed.  "17 months and 4 months."  

I could relate to that.  And I told him about our four, how I was named after a farmer, and how I don't understand why we don't value our farmers more.  

He gazed out the airplane window. "Yeah, I've thought a lot about that for a long time.  A lot." 

And he talked about how his great uncle had made a good living as a farmer, and how he couldn't do it now. "You have to be real big" he said.  

I was quiet and listened as he talked about wild hogs and what they can do to the land.

"You got a poaching problem out there in Colorado?" he asked.  No idea, I said.  

He laughed.  And we started our descent. 

We live in a country where those betting on commodities make enormous profits while the farmers growing those commodities take out loans.  

It's unsustainable. We have to value the livelihoods of our farmers like our future depends on it.

Because it does. 

It's time to rethink food and that starts with the farm system.  Economies thrive on entrepreneurship and innovation.  Right now, small farmers hardly stand a chance. Imagine if farm startups got the same kind of attention as tech startups?

We grow enough food to feed 11 billion people, but there are only 7 billion on the planet. Imagine if we didn't waste 30-40% of what is produced.

Just for a while on that flight today, I imagined what it would look like if we had a more transparent and efficient food system and that John Lennon song ran through my head. 

"No need for greed or hunger......"

Once you know better, you do better. 

It's time to do better.

#rethinkfood

Dirty Dairy: Why Breyer's Dumped Artificial Growth Hormones
Wednesday, February 04, 2015

In a smart move, Breyer's Ice Cream nixes dairy treated with artificial growth hormones.  A food awakening is happening, and consumers are demanding food that is 'free from' artificial additives.  

The health of our families is changing, and we are waking up to the fact, whether due to a food allergy diagnosis, a diabetes diagnosis a cancer diagnosis or something else, that our food now contains a lot of artificial ingredients that aren't used in other countries.  

The journal Pediatrics reports that 15% of American girls are expected to begin puberty by the age of 7 (with the number closer to 25% for African American girls). As Breyer's dumps this artificial growth hormones, perhaps it’s time for a little history lesson about the introduction of this artificial growth hormones into the American milk supply in 1994.

For the past almost 20 years, much of our nation’s milk has come from cows injected with a genetically engineered growth hormone. If you didn’t know that, you’re not alone. Since it was never labeled, most of us had no idea that this hormone was introduced into our dairy in 1994. The hormone has two interchangeable names: recombinant bovine somatropine (rBST) and recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH).

RBGH has dominated the milk market almost since the FDA approved it in 1993. It was the first genetically engineered product ever brought to market. And the Associated Press (AP), theNew York Times and the rest of the media have called it “controversial” (the AP headline actually referred to it as “a bumper crop of controversy”).

So what is rBGH anyway? Although the product is made in a lab, it’s designed to mimic a hormone that’s naturally produced in a cow’s pituitary glands. It’s injected into cows every two weeks to boost their hormonal activity, causing them to produce an additional 10 to 15 percent more milk, or about one extra gallon each day. And within the first four years of its introduction in 1994, about one-third of the nation’s cows were in herds being treated with this growth hormone.

If all you knew about rBGH and this hormone was that it increased milk production, you might think it was a good thing. Why shouldn’t we use every means at our disposal to boost the supply of such a nutritious food?

Well, besides increasing milk production, rBGH apparently does a few other things, too.

First of all, the product seems to be hazardous to the cows. The package itself warns of such bovine problems as “increases in cystic ovaries and disorders of the uterus,” “decreases in gestation length and birthweight of calves,” and “increased risk of clinical mastitis.” Mastitis is a painful type of udder infection that causes cows to pump out bacteria and pus along with milk, requiring treatment with antibiotics and other meds that can end up in the milk.

When I first read this, I had to stop and walk away from the computer for a few minutes. How many bottles and sippy cups had I filled with this milk? Why hadn’t I known about rBGH when I was pouring countless bowls of cereal for my children? I shuddered at the thought that along with the milk, I had also been giving them doses of growth hormone and antibiotics, not to mention potentially exposing them to cow bacteria and udder pus. How had I not known about this Dirty Dairy?

Want some antiobiotics with that growth hormone?

On top of that, and is often cited in the press (most recently by Laurie David), 80% of antibiotics are now used on our livestock here in the U.S. And overexposure to antibiotics tends to kill off the friendly bacteria in our intestines—bacteria that we need for our digestion and immune system. Many doctors believe that too many antibiotics at too early an age is part of the reason that kids are more likely to be allergic: their immune systems aren’t being given the “microbial environment” that they require. Wonder how many “extra” antibiotics our kids are getting in their milk, cheese, and yogurt? Maybe it’s not just about those hand sanitizers.

And then on top of that, allergies are the body’s response to proteins that it considers “toxic invaders,” and that genetically engineered proteins may spark new allergies. According to CNN and a recent study published in the Journal of Allergy and Immunology, milk allergy is now the most common food allergy in the U.S., having risen to the number-one position in the last 10 years. It’s even starting to affect the sale of milk in schools. Might rBGH be a factor in that increase? We wouldn’t have a clue. No human studies were conducted.

But let’s get back to the cows, because rBGH can hurt them in several more ways. The label also warns of possible increase in digestive disorders, including diarrhea; increased numbers of lacerations on the cows’ hocks (shins); and a higher rate of subclinical mastitis.

Bad enough when dairy cows get visibly sick, because then they’re treated with antibiotics that end up in our milk. But what about the cows who are getting sick at a subclinical level—a level so subtle that farmers don’t notice it? Think of the bacteria and pus pouring out of those inflamed udders—infections that aren’t even being treated! How does drinking that milk affect us, our kids, and our babies in the womb?

Those are just the problems acknowledged on the rBGH product label. Another concern is that the extra hormones drain the cows’ bones of calcium, so that they tend to become lame. The Canadian federal health agency actually found that “the risk of clinical lameness was increased approximately 50 percent” in cows that were given rBGH. Partly as a result, Canada has banned the product, concluding that it “presents a sufficient and unacceptable threat to the safety of dairy cows.”

rBGH is banned in other developed countries but not in the U.S.

Canada isn’t the only country to bar rBGH. The genetically altered hormone has also been banned in the European Union, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. In addition, the U.N. agency that sets food safety standards, Codex Alimentarius, has refused to approve rGBH not just once but twice.

Farmers themselves have noticed problems with the product. In addition to the expense of the drug itself, rBGH results in higher feed bills, higher vet bills due to increased antibiotic use, and more cows removed from the herd due to illness or low productivity. One study found that 25 to 40 percent of dairy farmers who tried rBGH soon gave it up because it wasn’t profitable enough to justify the damage to their cows. Other farmers have said that they see how hard the product is on cows, and they don’t want to subject their animals to such treatment.

Okay, so that’s why rBGH hurts cows. But I’m way more concerned about us and our kids. How does having a genetically altered hormone in our milk supply affect us?

Health concerns include possible link to cancer

As early as 1998, an article in the Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, reported that women with even relatively small increases of a hormone known as Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) were up to seven times more likely to develop premenopausal breast cancer.

And guess what? According to a January 1996 report in the International Journal of Health Services, rBGH milk has up to 10 times the IGF-1 levels of natural milk. More recent studies have put the figure even higher, at something like 20-fold.

Now stop and think about that for a minute, while correlation is not causation, breast cancer used to be something that women got later in life. Premenopausal breast cancer was so rare that when young women presented their physicians with breast cancer symptoms, the doctors often failed to diagnose it, simply because it was so unlikely that an “older women’s disease” would be found among young women.

But according to the Young Survival Coalition, one in 229 women between the ages of 30 and 39 will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the next ten years. Why are all these young women now getting breast cancer? And what about the effects of IGF-1-laden milk on older women, who are already at greater risk for breast cancer?

In case you think that the rising cancer rates have something to do with genetics, stop and think again. According to the Breast Cancer Fund, 1 in 8 women now have breast cancer. But only 10 percent of those cases can be linked to genetics. In other words, 90 percent of breast cancers being diagnosed today are being triggered by factors in our environment.

How did this happen?

Now if you’re like me, your next question probably is, So, if we know all of this, how did this hormone find its way into our dairy products? How did our government agencies, responsible for ensuring the safety of our food, allow the use of this growth hormone and the sale of IGF-1-laden milk? Why was rBGH not used in Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but used so freely right here in our own United States?

Well, the year before the FDA approved the first genetically engineered protein, it said, “Ultimately, it is the food producer who is responsible for assuring safety.” But at the same time, the corporate communication’s director of Monsanto, company introducing rBGH, said, ” We should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the F.D.A.’s job.”

You read that right. It’s kind of a “Who’s on first?” routine. Didn’t we learn anything from the tobacco industry?

So with the jury still out on this one, no long-term human trials ever conducted, a self-regulated industry whose “interest is in selling as much of it as possible,” the increasing rates of antibiotics used on our livestock (not to mention the increasing rates of early puberty and cancer), and the stunning fact that this synthetic growth hormone was never approved for use in Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and all 27 countries in Europe, maybe it’s time we start to exercise a little bit of precaution here in the U.S., too.

How to Opt-Out of rBGH

Thankfully, we can opt out of this experiment and look for milk labeled “organic” or “rBGH-free”— since by law, these types of milk are not allowed to contain rBGH, a genetically engineered product that was never allowed into the milk, cheese, ice creams and other dairy products in other developed countries. And you can find this milk in Wal-Mart, Costco & Sam’s.

And while correlation is not causation, with the American Cancer Society telling us that 1 in 2 American men and 1 in 3 American women are expected to get cancer in their lifetimes and the Centers for Disease Control reporting that cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15, a precautionary move like this one just might be what the doctors ordered (at least that’s what they did in all 27 countries in Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and Japan).