Inspiring Ideas

The $25 Billion Cost of Food Allergies
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A recent New York Times story profiled a lawmaker who "discounted the correlations between the rise in childhood allergies and the consumption of G.M.O.s."

Researchers reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association states that the costs of food allergies, from medical care to food to pharmaceuticals is $4,184 per child per year, costing our economy $25 billion, including lost productivity.

To discount this condition in any way is irresponsible, but it is just one of the conditions that is triggering a food awakening around the country.

In the United States, we are quickly learning that our food supply contains a lot of ingredients that simply did not exist when we were kids, and that our own American corporations don't use these ingredients in the products they sell overseas.

From artificial food dyes created in a laboratory to genetically engineered foods now regulated by the EPA as pesticides, we are finding our food supply increasingly hopped up on new ingredients.  And if the market is any indication, a growing number of consumers don't want it this way.

In the last few months, Target, Chipotle, Kroger, even General Mills and Cheerios have responded to this growing demand in the marketplace.  They see the escalating rates of diseases, they feel the financial impact with their own health care costs, and they hear consumers that are saying they want to eat fewer fake, artificial and genetically engineered ingredients.  While the chemical companies selling these new ingredients say there is no evidence of harm, consumers are saying: there is no evidence since these ingredients were never labeled in the United States.  There are also no long term studies to show us that they are safe.

The potential of genetically engineered foods to cause allergic reactions is a big reason for opposition to these crops.  It is also one of the concerns that led 64 countries around the world to label these foods for their citizens while 27 countries banned them entirely.

Introduced into the US food supply in the mid 1990s without labels, there were protocols put in place to ask questions about the allergy-causing possibilities, but there has been no test that offers definitive answers.

In other words, if you walked into an allergist's office and asked if you were allergic to corn that has been in the food supply for thousands of years or if you are allergic to a new corn product, genetically engineered to produce its own insecticide and introduced into our food and now regulated by the EPA as a pesticide, there would be no test to give you that answer.

With no labels on these ingredients in the US to trace their impact and no test to offer definitive answers, the biotech industry is able to claim that there is not a single documented case of these foods ever causing harm.  Don't ask, don't tell.

But with the widespread introduction of genetically engineered ingredients into the US food supply, a frequently asked question is: Are rates of allergies higher in the United States than they are in other countries?

Previously, it was anyone’s guess.

But a study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says yes, living in the United States increases your risk of allergic diseases……“significantly.”

"Living in the US raises risk of allergies," says the headline.

According to the research, living in the United States for a decade or more may raise the risk of some allergies, reports the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"These data indicate that duration of residence in the United States is a previously unrecognized factor in the epidemiology of atopic disease," it said.

In other words, the longer you live here, the more likely you are to develop some kind of allergy, asthma, eczema or other related condition.

Food allergies have been skyrocketing in the United States in the last fifteen years.  Not only has the CDC reported a 265% increase in the rates of hospitalizations related to food allergic reactions in a ten year period, but the sales of EpiPens, a life-saving medical device for those with food allergies, has also seen record sales growth according to the New York Times.

So what’s going on?

The study aimed to find out.  Allergies reported in the survey included asthma, eczema, hay fever, and food allergies.

"Children born outside the United States had significantly lower prevalence of any allergic diseases (20.3%) than those born in the United States (34.5%)," said the study led by Jonathan Silverberg of St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York.

Let’s restate that:

Children born in the US have more than a 1 in 3 chance of having allergic diseases like food allergies, asthma or eczema, while kids born in other countries around the world had a “significantly lower prevalence” of 1 in 5.

On top of that, “foreign-born Americans develop increased risk for allergic disease with prolonged residence in the United States," it said.

In other words, if you move here, your chances of developing any one or more of these allergic diseases increase.

The study went so far as to say that children born outside of the US who moved here showed “significantly” higher odds of developing these diseases.

What’s driving this?  Is it really Purel and intense handwashing? And the hygiene hypothesis?

And are we allergic to food?  Or what’s been done to it?

Because genetics don’t change that quickly, and the environment does.

"These data indicate that duration of residence in the United States is a previously unrecognized factor in the epidemiology of atopic disease," it said.

This presents a risk not only to these children, but also to our economy, as the financial burden of these conditions and their associated health care costs impact not only families but also our country, our military and our productivity.

So what is triggering this escalating, US allergy epidemic?

According to Reuters report on the study and Dr. Ruchi Gupta, who studies allergies at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago but wasn't involved in the new research, "This is definitely something we see clinically and we're trying to better understand, what is it in our environment that's increasing the risk of allergic disease?" said

"Food allergies have increased tremendously," she told Reuters Health. "We do see people who come from other countries don't tend to have it.”

As discussed in a previous column, allergic reactions occur you’re your body perceives something to be a threat.  They can also be a symptom of a hypersensitive immune system - our bodies armed and ready to launch an attack againstany perceived threat.

A growing number of doctors are also suggesting that food allergies might be a symptom that something is wrong with our food system.  In other words, in light of the sudden explosion in food allergies: are we suddenly allergic to food?  Or what’s been done to it?

Someone with food allergies has an immune system that perceives a food protein to be “foreign”, unidentifiable.   And it launches an inflammatory response to drive out that foreign invader.

Today, we have new, foreign proteins that have never existed in our food supply that have been genetically engineered into our food. These proteins are so new that they have been patented by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and never before existed up until their introduction in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Now correlation is not causation, but the concern over the unknown health impacts of these new proteins in the food supply is in part what led 64 countries around the world to label genetically engineered foods when they were first introduced fifteen years ago and 27 countries to flat out ban them.

According to Science Daily:

Genetically engineered crops are created by inserting a protein from a different organism into the original crop's genome. This is usually done to create a plant that is more resistant to insects or diseases.

The Food and Agriculture Organization within the World Health Organization has a structured approach to determining whether genetically engineered foods cause allergies, according to Venu Gangur, MSU assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, who also is a faculty member in the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center. "But it has a major flaw. A critical question in that process asks, 'Does the protein cause an allergic reaction in animals?' The problem is that there has been no good animal model available to test this."

It’s food for thought.

We don’t have labels on these genetically engineered foods in the US, at least not yet.  Bipartisan legislation was recently introduced, and efforts have been made to urge the FDA to take action so that American consumers can enjoy the same freedoms enjoyed by consumers in over 60 countries around the world (including all of the member states of the European Union, Australia, Japan, the UK, Russia, China and India) and have access to whether or not their food and the foods they are feeding their families contain these genetically engineered ingredients.

Do we really want out slogan to be: Come to America, but don’t forget your  asthma enhalers and EpiPens?  We could quickly earn the title of the United States of Allergic Disease.

We are so much more than that.

Since genetically engineered ingredients are not yet labeled here in the United States.  look for “Non-GMO” or “USDA Organic” foods which by law are not allowed to be produced with these new proteins.

These ingredients need to be labled.  European law dictates that any food containing more than 0.9% genetically engineered ingredients be labeled as containing GMOs.  It's a freedom to choose. Clean food is a right that should be afforded to all Americans, not just those who can afford to opt out and purchase foods labeled “non-GMO” or “USDA Organic”.

With mounting scientific evidence pointing to the role that our increasingly re-engineered food supply, hopped up on additives, artificial dyes, artificial growth hormones, record amounts of pesticides and genetically engineered ingredients hardwired to be routinely doused with them, is having on the health of our families, it’s time to clean up our food.

Follow Robyn on Twitter @unhealthytruth and on Facebook.  She is a former financial analyst and author.

This Ingredient in Mountain Dew is Banned in 100 Countries
Monday, January 26, 2015

Did you know? Mountain Dew contains an ingredient that has been banned in 100 countries around the world.

What could 100 countries possibly know that we don't?

There are now 10,000 additives in our food supply.  For about 80 percent of these food additives, the FDA "lacked relevant information, including toxicity data, about the safe amount to eat" according to a new report.

In other words, what we once thought might be "Generally Regarded As Safe" or "GRAS", might actually be "Generally Regarded As Suspicious."

Brominated vegetable oil (also known as "BVO") is one of the ingredients used in or food supply that has been called into question. It is found in sports drinks and citrus-flavored sodas
. It is a chemical that keeps two liquids mixed together. It acts as a binding agent, also known as an emulsifier, and it prevents the flavoring and other ingredients found in our drinks from separating and floating to the surface.

It makes sense on a certain level, as we don’t want our drinks to look like a separated salad dressing with ingredients floating to the top. But this appearance might come with a hidden side effect. According to nutritionist Mira Calton and her husband Jayson Calton, Ph.D., “Because it competes with iodine for receptor sites in the body, elevated levels of [brominated vegetable oil] may lead to thyroid issues, such as hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease and cancer,” Calton says. As if that wasn’t scary enough, BVO's main ingredient, bromine, is considered a toxic chemical. It's been linked to all kind of health concerns, including organ system damage, birth defects, schizophrenia and hearing loss, which explains why it's been removed or banned from food and drinks in more than 100 countries.

These health concerns and the fact that so many countries have removed BVO from their beverages was so concerning to one teenager that she launched an online petition that called for the removal of this ingredient from American beverages, landing her in the New York Times.

If you want to opt out of brominated vegetable oil here in the United States, simply skip the sports drinks and choose water. And if you’re filling up your cup at the soda fountain, instead of the lemon-lime and citrus flavored drinks, consider drinking something else.  Coke and Pepsi responded to consumer pressure and pledged to remove this ingredient.  What it will be replaced with?  And is that replacement safe?  Stay tuned.  Whatever you do, remember, while none of us can do everything, all of us can do something. Focus on progress not perfection. Do what you can, where you are with what you have, remembering not to make "the perfect" the enemy of "the good."

And together, leveraging our collective talents and voices, we can get these ingredients out of our food supply the way consumers around the world already have.

Follow Robyn on Twitter @foodawakenings and on Facebook.  She is a former financial analyst and author.

Jamie Oliver Teams Up with the Gates Foundation
Sunday, January 25, 2015
In a surprising turn of events, one of the leading voices for fixing our broken food system, Jamie Oliver, just announced his partnership with the Gates Foundation. 

Jamie is an incredibly powerful entity in his own right, one of the most respected voices in the food movement. 

He does not need Gates.

But Gates does need Jamie.  The Gates Foundation saw an early opportunity to engage in food's operating system, investing heavily in Monsanto, serving as one of the agrochemical company's largest shareholders.  And they have been hammered for it.  From the Seattle Times to the Guardian in the UK, the issue has been covered.  Every time the Gates Foundation enters the public forum on food, these facts are highlighted: the foundation purchased 500,000 shares of Monsanto.  It has destroyed their credibility in the clean food movement. 

The Gates are brilliant and have since hedged and invested in other operating systems, cleaner operating systems, ones that are less dependent on agricultural chemicals, fertilizers and other synthetic pesticides.  It's a smart move for any investor, to hedge, that's no question. 

But is this a smart move for Jamie? 

As soon as Jamie shared the announcement in a video, his fans and followers took to his Facebook page sharing their concern.  Jamie was quick to respond, issuing the following comment:

Jamie Oliver
January 23 at 4:05pm · 
Hi guys, my video message in support of Bill and Melinda Gates' letter was in response to their big bets for the next fifteen years. My big bet is that food education for all is fundamental to fixing our broken food system and feeding the world. Following my message a lot of you have shared your concerns about GMOs so I wanted to make sure you knew that my video message wasn't in support of GMOs but instead sharing my belief in food education. Sharing views, having a right noisy debate and getting to the food truth - including about GMOs - is essential to tackling the big problems we face and is at the heart of the Food Revolution. Jamie

The landscape of food is increasingly crowded with people that are in it for different reasons.  Some are in it to monetize, others to become famous, others for the health of their children and others to solve the problem. Some dance between one, two, three or any number of other reasons.  Partnerships also happen for different reasons, some financial, some for shared goals, others for shared agendas.

The question with Jamie's emphasis on "food education" is: what will the Gates' Foundation's 'food education' look like?  Does Jamie play a role in defining that?  

I have had the honor of meeting Jamie while hosting his first Food Revolution Day Google hangout.  He is extraordinary. The work that he has done is unparalleled. He has done all of it while also being an incredible dad of four and family man.  Few if any could juggle those demands.     

I can't help but wonder what drove the decision making process, and if he had gotten more support here in the U.S. for his Foundation, if he could have stood alone on this issue.  It's food for thought.  

In the meantime, please keep sharing your comments on his Facebook page. He is listening. Together, we have to build a new food system that promotes a healthy operating system for farmers and a healthy future for all families. 

Courage is contagious, and sometimes we have to be brave with our lives so that others can be brave with theirs. 


The Guardian: Why Is the Gates Foundation Investing in GM Giant Monsanto?  http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2010/sep/29/gates-foundation-gm-monsanto

Seattle Times: Gates Foundation Investment In Monsanto Under Fire 

Nine Years In: Thoughts on Courage and Scrambled Eggs
Saturday, January 24, 2015

Nine years ago, this morning, our littlest had an allergic reaction to a plate of scrambled eggs.  

Yesterday, I was in NYC and spoke at a luncheon with the Time Magazine's health editor, beautiful food designed by an extraordinary woman with Hampton Creek products, products made without eggs.  The irony of it all was not lost on me, as I thought about it marking the ninth anniversary of this work. 

It changed every thing in my life.  Everything that I had planned to do, everything that I thought I had worked for, every relationship.  

It also taught me how to love without hesitation and how to lead.  

I had chosen a career in investments, with my head buried behind computer screens and Bloomberg terminals.  I was happy hidden behind those screens with my head in the numbers.  

But nine years ago today, this work chose me.  

On the flight home, I thought about how far we have come as a movement in the last nine years.  How we are making artificial ingredients obsolete as we choose foods that are better for us and better for our families.  I thought about the food awakening that so many are having, and how it has taught us to move from paralysis to patriotism, doing things far outside of our comfort zones, because we believe in a better way, a brighter future for our children.  

We have inherited a broken food system, built in the 20th century for 20th century families.  It is no longer working for 21st century families.  The 20th century food companies, icons of that time, have a choice: innovate and iterate, move with us, providing products that are "free from" artificial ingredients like dyes, growth hormones, excessive pesticides and GMOs, or become obsolete.  The choice is theirs to make: icon or relic. 

In the meantime, 21st century food companies and new iconic brands are being created as we speak.  The innovation is extraordinary, the compassion for where we all stand as consumers is, too.  Visionary, passionate, leaders and entrepreneurs are coming together and saying: We can do better.  We will do better.  And we are.  The headlines are inspiring.  The growth rates of these companies are, too, from 17 consecutive quarters in a row of earnings growth, to the explosion of product categories that didn't exist just two short years ago, taking a company like Kroger's Simple Truth line from $0 to a $1 billion in revenue in just two years flat.  

The numbers tell a powerful story, and as I sat in the room yesterday in New York, listening to questions about Girl Scout cookies to the struggles of 21st century parenting, it was again so crystal clear that we are going to fix this.  The passion of this movement is something that can not be measured or harnessed, the authenticity of the motives is so pure.  

None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something, and creating a better food system will be our legacy.  It will take all hands on deck, with people doing what they can, where they are with what they have: from journalists and writers, to filmmakers, to parents reaching out to schools or churches or even legislators, to entrepreneurs.  

For some that is activism at the local level: changing school lunch programs, initiating state labeling initiatives, passing EpiPen laws, for others, it is at the national level, with labeling campaigns, broader initiatives.  But for all of us, it starts with where we are, and what we have.  

Take what you are passionate about and leverage it with what you are good at.  Do one thing: dump artificial dyes, look for milk that is labeled rbGH free, dump GMOs, coated with a record amount of toxic weedkillers, reach out to others.  But most importantly, find a friend to begin to make these changes with. 

For more than one of us, change started with an egg. It was no bigger than that.  So take that first step, do that first thing, be brave, it will inspire others to do the same.  

Courage is contagious, and together, we will build a better food system.  

We already are. 


Eight Things You Can Do to Fix Our Food
Monday, January 19, 2015

There are so many good people doing good things to help clean up our food supply.  Some do it in a very public way, others work quietly with farmers, on legislation or for children with food allergies.  

 For most of us, we are simply to try to do what we can, where we are, with what we have.

The bottom line is that we have inherited a food system that doesn't work for 21st century families.

So what can one person do?

1) Host a movie night and show GMO OMG.

2) Tell the manager of your local grocery store that you appreciate the organic and non-GMO products in the store and want to see more (This is huge.  We all think we are going this alone.  We're not!)

3) Host a book club.  Check out Amazon.com's list of bestsellers on genetically engineered food, including The Unhealthy Truth.  If a book speaks to you, ask your local library to carry it so that others can learn too.

4) Look for milk labeled rbgh-free or "USDA Organic" since a product carrying the "USDA Organic" seal is free from artificial dyes, artificial growth hormones, sewage sludge and other ingredients that our very own U.S. food companies aren't putting into their products overseas (learn more).   

5) Pick one thing to start with or one category - meat, dairy, produce - and try to go organic.  Frozen produce is a good way to manage the budget.  

6) Grow something.  Anything!  A tomato plant in a pot, plant some seeds (we did it as kids!).  Do what you can, where you are with what you have.  

7) Remember: don't make the perfect the enemy of the good.  None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something! 

8) Spread this information.  Share a video on Facebook (try "Patriotism on a Plate") or a blog post or a movie. 

It's up to us to change the food system.  We already are, and if we work together, we can change it even faster. 

GMOs and Safety Concerns
Monday, January 12, 2015

The end of 2014 was a flurry of activity for the movement to label genetically engineered ingredients (GMOs) in our food.  

The ballot initiative to label GMOs in Oregon lost by just over 800 votes, and thousands of votes were thrown out.  In D.C., a hearing was held to address a piece of legislation that calls for voluntary labeling of GMOs and allows for GMOs to be used in foods labeled "natural."  

The hearing in D.C. brought both sides to the table for a conversation.  It's happening more and more often, as just a few weeks before, scientists debated a senior executive from Monsanto, Robb Fraley, in New York City. 

Each time both sides get together, I listen with a business mind and find it fascinating.

Given that the first patent on a genetically engineered food product was filed in 1984 and granted in 1988, it's hard for those with a business background to see these products as anything other than what they are: a patented invention by the chemical companies that drives sales of their chemicals and incredible return for shareholders.  

Which is why it is so amazing that a public company like Monsanto would be given such a public marketing platform like the stage in New York City to promote their products.  

Can you imagine if Whole Foods executives had been on the stage instead? 

But no, the only executive on the stage was Robb Fraley, a senior executive from Monsanto, and he promoted his  operating system for food, one that requires his portfolio of chemical products to make it work.

In D.C., a few weeks later, both sides were present again.  

And it came down to one question: do you believe that GMOs are safe? 

The scientific debate tends to center around whether genetically engineered crops have been “thoroughly tested.” Right now, it is a "he said" "she said" debate, not unlike what we saw with the tobacco and asbestos industries and their scientific studies claiming that cigarettes and asbestos were safe.  That went on for decades, and this one will also go on for a few more.  

But while we are examining the genetic engineering of the food, we have to examine the financial engineering of the science.

We continue to see political interference in federal government science.  Industry insiders find roles inside government agencies. 

In a quick look back to Science Magazine in 2000, a Spanish researcher named Jose L. Domingo who later went on to write a 2007 paper, “Toxicity Studies of Genetically Modified Plants: A Review of the Published Literature,” found only seven peer reviewed papers on genetically engineered crop safety as of 2000, most of them dealing with short-term nutritional effects.  

According to Dr. Charles Benbrook, who worked in Washington, D.C. on agricultural policy, science and regulatory issues from 1979 through 1997, served for 1.5 years as the agricultural staff expert on the Council for Environmental Quality at the end of the Carter Administration, and following the election of Ronald Reagan, moved to Capitol Hill in early 1981 and was the Executive Director of the Subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture with jurisdiction over pesticide regulation, research, trade and foreign agricultural issues, what that means is that at the time that two genetically engineered products were approved for the food supply, there were no studies in the open scientific literature.

Let’s stop and think about that for a minute in the context of something that is more familiar. 

Can you imagine if a medical device or a new pharmaceutical drug were introduced with no studies in the open scientific literature for public review?  Or if a car was introduced onto the highway in the same manner?

The concern is shared by the National Academy of Sciences in the paper, Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Consequences, "As with all other technologies for genetic modification, they also carry the potential for introducing unintended compositional changes that may have adverse effects on human health."

The American Medical Association is now calling for mandatory, pre-market safety testing of these products.  

By 2007 and Domingo's more recent and comprehensive review, a Toxicity Studies of Genetically Modified Plants: A Review of the Published Literature", there were still no more than about ten studies assessing the toxicological impact of genetically engineered ingredients in our food supply, almost all are limited in scope (there is a review of 24 studies focusing on nutritional equivalency), and short term, with most of them dealing with genetically engineered foods other than corn and soybeans.  

The chemical and biotech industry will say that these products are more tested than any other on the market, but with a generation of Americans growing increasingly sick and allergic, people are asking: By whom? 

The bottom line is that there are few published, peer reviewed studies on the toxicological impacts of today's commercial genetically engineered ingredients now found in our food supply, and almost none on older genetically engineered ingredients that provide evidence that show that these foods are toxicologically safe.  

At the conclusion of the abstract for the 2007 paper, the author himself poses the question: “where is the scientific evidence showing that GM plants/food are toxicologically safe?”

In the last year, the industry claimed an animal feeding study of "one trillion meals", but it was quickly dismissed as a marketing tool, since it was not a controlled study, toxicological analyses were not carried out on the slaughtered animals, and there were many uncontrolled variables.   It also failed to differentiate between acute toxicity (like a life-threatening allergic reaction) and chronic toxicity. 

Commercialized genetically engineered crops are not acutely toxic are no more acutely toxic than smoking or asbestos, but that does not rule them out for low-dose, chronic toxicity.  

Correlation is not causation but with the Centers for Disease Control now reporting that cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of fifteen, that there has been a 265% increase in the rates of hospitalizations related to food allergic reaction, it is worth noting that “no evidence of harm” is not the same as “evidence of no harm.” 

What we are witnessing, through 55 members of Congress that have called for the labeling of these ingredients, the over one million Americans who have sent comments to the FDA asking for the same, and the growing number of state labeling initiatives that have been introduced, most recently by a Republican in Indiana, is a movement, perhaps begun by the Spanish researcher with his ask for the scientific evidence showing that genetically engineered foods are toxicologically safe, and a call for the labeling of these foods, as they are labeled in over 40 countries around the world, until we have more science.

I do not believe that these products have been proven safe. Scientists themselves are moving away from genetic engineering and modification to a new technology, "gene editing." 

We need more science, science from the pediatric cancer community, autism community, asthma and allergy community and more. We need to examine the financial engineering of the science as closely as we examine the genetic engineering of the food.  And in the meantime, we need the ability to take personal responsibility for our health and avoid these products should we want to by having them accurately labeled in the American food system.

Labels create this call to action.  They are a call for studies that might alert a pregnant woman working on a farm about the impact that her exposure to these crops and the chemicals used to produce them might have on the health of her unborn babies.

They are a call for science and for the research that tells a mother if her child is allergic to conventional soybeans, the kind that has been in our food supply for generations, or if her child is allergic to the genetically engineered components now found in soybeans that were introduced in the late 1990s. 

They are a call for science to determine if the allergic reaction to soy is to genetically engineered soy or to soy treated with glyphosate, the active component of Roundup which is now patented as an antibiotic, and the other chemicals that are increasingly poured on these crops.  

Labels are a call to action, a call for the scientific tests that would enable a father to test his child for allergies to all of those different components of what we now call "soy" at his allergist’s office.

It is a call for science and our right to know about the foods that we are eating and what their impact might be on the health of our families

It is a call to examine the low-dose, chronic toxicological concerns of repeated exposure.  One look at the prenatal studies as highlighted by Dr. Theo Colburn show why.  View the timeline of prenatal development.

Is correlation causation?  Not at all, but with millions of Americans beginning to wake up to the fact that we have additives in our food supply, from lean beef trimmings, to artificial growth hormones to genetically engineered ingredients, additives that were not in our foods a generation ago, we are asking for more science, integrity in science, full disclosure of the financial engineering behind the science, and for labels and the right to make an informed choice about what we are feeding our families. 

We have learned what can happen otherwise, from the tobacco industry.

As Carl Sagan once said, "We have designed our civilization based on science and technology and at the same time arranged things so that almost no one understands anything at all about science and technology."   Labels help us gather more science on the side effects of the technology used to genetically modify our food.

 These ingredients are labeled in countries around the world - like England, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the European Union, China, Russia and India.  These countries are not anti-science.  Americans have the same liberty to know that these new ingredients have been introduced into our food, too.  

All of our key trading partners label GMOs.  Have they dismissed the science?  Not at all.  They have simply examined the financial engineering of the science, the studies that we have to date and are calling for more.  

Do we need this food to "feed the world"? We already produce enough food to feed 11 billion people, and there are just over 7 billion on the planet.  The rest, 30-40% of the food produced, is thrown away.  

When it comes to labeling GMOs, some may want to do it as a call for more science, others because of the excessive levels of glyphosate poured on the crops and health concerns, others may want to label these products because of the imprecision of the technology and what some molecular biologists refer to as the "genetic rubble" that can be created during the insertion process, others for religious reasons, others so that they can take personal responsibility for their own food decisions as the rates of cancer, food allergies, autism and other conditions escalate.  

Whatever the reason, it is time that the United States joins developed countries around the world, representing 60% of the world's population, and label genetically engineered ingredients so that more science and post-market surveillance studies can be conducted. 


Additional Resources: 

Scientific Integrity: Union of Concerned Scientists: http://www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/
Toxicity Studies of Genetically Modified Plants: http://www.biosafety.ru/ftp/domingo.pdf

UF Scientists Collaborate with Monsanto: http://news.ifas.ufl.edu/2011/10/14/uf-scientists-collaborate-with-monsanto-to-develop-improved-computer-model-for-corn-production/
The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster: A Study in Organizational Ethics http://pirate.shu.edu/~mckenndo/pdfs/The%20Space%20Shuttle%20Challenger%20Disaster.pdf
Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Consequences http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309092094

What Does "Organic" Really Mean? Ask Your Grandmother
Sunday, January 11, 2015

When I first heard the term "organic" several years ago, I dismissed it. It connoted a "status" and conjured up two different images: lifestyles of the rich and famous or perhaps some alternative, hippie thing.

I was wrong.
The term "organic" actually refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed and legally details the permitted use (or not) of certain ingredients in these foods.

The details are that the U.S. Congress adopted the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) in 1990 as part of the 1990 Farm Bill which was then followed with the National Organic Program final rule published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The standards include a national list of approved synthetic and prohibited non-synthetic substances for organic production which means that organically produced foods also must be produced without the use of:

  • antibiotics
  • artificial growth hormones
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • artificial dyes (made from coal tar and petrochemicals)
  • artificial sweeteners derived from chemicals
  • synthetically created chemical pesticide and fertilizers
  • genetically engineered proteins and ingredients
  • sewage sludge
  • irradiation

Wow, who knew that conventional, non-organic food could contain these ingredients?  Not many of us, since sewage sludge and artificial growth hormones aren't on the label.

What about cloning animals or those genetically engineered salmon, hard-wired to double their weight? Those would be considered inconsistent with organic practices, too, because of the laboratory intervention required.

In other words, what we call "organic food,"  our grandmothers would have simply called "food."  Because a lot of these new ingredients didn't exist when we were younger, having only been created in laboratories, patented and then introduced into our foods in the last few decades.


Products labeled “100% Organic” and carrying the “USDA Organic” seal adhere to a strict legal standard: national organic standards require that organic growers and handlers be certified by third-party state or private agencies or other organizations that are accredited by USDA. Anyone who knowingly sells or mislabels as organic a product that was not produced and handled in accordance with the regulations can be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation.


Admittedly, the high price of organic food can irritate anyone.  But the scrutiny that these foods undergo is enormous and expensive, driving prices at the cash register and for those producing them on the farm.  Why the costs?  Because the cost structure on our food supply offers taxpayer-funded resources called subsidies to the farmers using genetically engineered seeds and saturating crops in insecticides and weed killers, while charging the organic farmers fees to prove that their crops are safe. That's like getting fined to wear your seat belt. In other words, it's an un-level playing field right now.  And if we were all sitting down as a national family at our national dinner table, I don't think that any of us would want to be using our resources this way.  Wouldn't we rather have the organic food be the one that we fund, making it cheaper, more affordable and more accessible to all Americans? But right now, it's not.  So should you choose to opt out of our conventional, chemically-intensive food production system and try something organic, you'll be joining a growing segment of the population and are not alone.


Because the U.S. lags behind other developed countries when it comes to food safety, understanding label claims can often be a challenge for even the savviest shopper! The term "organic" refers to foods grown and processed without chemical toxins, artificial ingredients, chemical preservatives or ionizing radiation. The guidelines for organic foods were established on October 21, 2002 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To use these terms, producers must pay additional fees and follow strict guidelines and regulations: • 100 percent Organic -- All ingredients are organic. • Organic -- 95 percent or more of the total ingredients are organic. • Made with Organic Ingredients -- At least 70 percent of the ingredients are organic.

For the savviest of label readers, the following are the legal guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for organics:

Organic Fruits and Vegetables: Must be grown without the use of: • Synthetically created chemical pesticides • Synthetically created chemical fertilizers • Sewage sludge • Genetic engineering which appears to introduce novel proteins, allergens, viruses and toxins into crops. • Irradiation.

Organic Beef and Chicken: • Fed only 100 percent organic feed, are not the offspring of cloned animals and have never been administered growth hormones or antibiotics. In addition, their meat must never be irradiated. • Natural (or All Natural) meat or poultry products contain no artificial ingredients and are minimally processed. They are not necessarily organic. • "No hormones administered" or "no antibiotics added" is sometimes seen on labels, but it can only appear if the producer can document the absence of hormone or antibiotic administration. • Free-range or free-roaming poultry have access to the outdoors without a minimum time. They are not necessarily organic. • Cage-free poultry means nothing as most chickens are kept indoors (but cage-free) if they are grown for meat.

Organic Milk: Comes from animals that were fed 100 percent organic feed and were not given antibiotics, prophylactic drugs or genetically engineered and synthetically created growth hormones (such as rBGH) for at least the last year. rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) is a genetically engineered, synthetic chemical protein hormone vaccinated into cows to artificially boost their milk production. Like aspartame, rBGH has been banned in Europe because of the breast cancer risk that it may present.

Organic Eggs: • Produced by hens that are fed 100 percent organic feed and have never been given growth hormones or antibiotics. • Cage-free eggs are produced by hens that are not confined in cages. The hens might not have access to the outdoors, though, and are not necessarily organic.

Organic Seafood: The USDA currently has no guidelines set for seafood; however, un-organic fish is often caged underwater and treated with pesticides to prevent the spread of disease.

Organic Bread: Cereal and grain crops are regularly sprayed with pesticides that collect in the grain's outer layers, raising concerns about chemical residues in un-organic bread, cakes and cookies.

Other Terms: The following terms are often found on packaged products and can be confusing to consumers: * Natural is often a misnomer. There are no true guidelines for this term when used on a packaged product, although it is used frequently and often assumed to mean organic or healthier. * Gourmet is another misleading term that leads consumers to believe that they are purchasing a product that is made finer ingredients, when in reality it has no established guidelines or regulations.

And when it comes to protecting the health of your family, "Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world." ~ Harriet Tubman

Source: The Organic Trade Association (OTA) and Organic Trade Association Manufacturer Survey 

2014 Reflections and the Need to Refinance Food for 2015
Thursday, December 18, 2014

You can't help but reflect as the year winds down, even amidst the craziness of the holidays. 

And this one has been a big one.  

With campaigns to label GMOs running in Colorado and Oregon and growing consumer awareness about these hidden ingredients in our food, Monsanto launched a PR campaign.

In the world of finance, there is a term "capture the regulator."  With the new PR campaign, Monsanto captured the media.  From Oprah to the Supermarket Guru, their logo was everywhere, happily spinning a story to consumers while keeping us in the dark about their business model which is the sale of agricultural chemicals and seeds designed to withstand them.

Needless to say, consumers want these genetically engineered products and the pesticides they carry labeled.  By some estimates, you will hear that it's upward of 90% of Americans that want these products labeled.  If 90% of Americans even knew what GMOs are, we wouldn't be having this discussion.  They'd be out of our food system.  More realistic estimates put the number around 40-50%. 

A food awakening is happening, driven largely by the escalating rates of food allergies, cancer, diabetes and the other chronic conditions and diseases impacting the people that we love.

Many are part of it.  This fall, I had the opportunity to debate lobbyists representing Monsanto and the biotech industry - industry spokesmen.  They claimed that these products are safe, in light of the fact that no long term human health studies exist, no pediatric cancer research, autism research or long-term synergistic toxicity studies to show for it. 

We are that study.  It's brutal to hear, especially as we lose loved ones to food allergic reactions and cancer.

This year, a lot of friends lost loved ones. 

As I reflect back on 2014, a year that started working with two families on food stamps, that included presentations at Bloomberg, Target, some of the world's most powerful food companies and others, films like Fed Up, Food Chains, Food Patriots and others, while watching a friend lose his mom to cancer, too many moms lose their children to food allergic reactions, this I know:

Love is more powerful than fear.  The truth is irrefutable.  It stands strong in the face of industry-funded spokespeople, and as a growing number of us opt out of genetically engineered foods, artificial junk and other non-food ingredients that have been pumped into our daily meals, the food industry is taking notice. 

Monsanto and the biotech industry will tell us that these crops are needed to feed the world, while the USDA and United Nations highlight record food waste.  What if productivity isn't the problem?  What if it's a distribution model?  

Monsanto and the biotech industry will also tell us that these crops have reduced the use of agricultural chemicals being applied to farms.  Their earnings reports tells us the exact opposite: a 23.3% increase in the sales of these chemicals. 


We need smart technology to address the changing landscape of food for our families.  We need to iterate on designs, innovate and create solutions, solutions that are safe for 21st century families dealing with cancer, autism, food allergies and so much more. 

The truth will prevail with the courageous voices of those willing to speak it, both inside the food industry and beyond. 

To protect the health of our families and our children is one of the most patriotic things that we could do.  It is also one of the most important economically, as our health care costs continue to impact us at home, at work and in our economy. 

It can be intimidating to speak out on an issue that can be so loaded, but there is nothing more patriotic that we could be doing. 

Our country was founded by pioneers who believed in a better future for their families.  As we tap into that spirit in 2015, here is to building a food system that works for 21st century families, refinancing and restructuring our existing one, so that a clean and safe food system that is affordable and accessible to all.

#dumpthejunk #realfoodsells 

How Kids Are Driving the Mainstreaming of Organics
Tuesday, December 16, 2014

If you want to start a mommy war, start calling names.  That happened recently when an article ran titled "The Tyranny of the Organic Mommy Mafia."

It was sensational and missed a fundamental change:

The landscape of childhood has changed. No longer are our children guaranteed a childhood free from diabetes, obesity or food allergies, and parents are standing on the front line.

The escalating rates of childhood cancers, increasing diagnoses for conditions like autism and food allergies, and the rates of obesity and diabetes have earned this generation of children the title of "Generation Rx". They are the first generation of kids expected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15. The journal Pediatrics has reported 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) and a growing number of American children struggle with obesity. On top of that, the rate for having food allergies is 59% higher for obese children, with the Centers for Disease Control reporting a 265% increase in hospitalizations related to food allergic reactions. And while not all of those hospitalizations are for our children, what is becoming increasingly obvious is that the health of our children is under siege.

U.S.-born children have a 34.5 percent chance of developing asthma, hay fever, eczema and food allergies, compared with just 20.3 percent of foreign-born children. In addition, children born outside the U.S. but then moved here were more likely to develop allergies the longer they lived in the country.

When I shared this data with a journalist, she was speechless, and I found myself again wondering: What have our children possibly done to deserve this? And more importantly, what can we do to protect them?

This changing landscape of childhood is changing the face of American families and our economy. We already spend almost 18 cents of every dollar on health care, managing disease. The pharmaceutical companies can't keep up with demand, and now there are shortages for drugs used to treat cancers and ADHD.

But more often than not, the solution is not found in the medicine cabinet, but in the kitchen, and parents are doing everything they can to protect the health of their children.

Writers that are fortunate enough to not be dealing with conditions like autism, food allergies and pediatric cancer have begun to refer to these parents as the "tyranny of the organic mommy mafia." Tyranny is a strong word.  Merriam Webster defines it as "cruel and unfair treatment by people with power over others."

Parents that do unexpectedly find themselves on unfamiliar territory are doing everything they can to protect the health of their children.    There are others who are fortunate to not know what it feels like to watch your son have a blood disease that literally renders him unable to walk or to have a child suddenly stop talking or to have something as simple as a sandwich be so life threatening.  No parent would choose to have these things happen to their child. No parent would choose autism.  No parent would choose food allergies and the burden it places on a family every day.

But too many of us now find ourselves staring down these conditions. Food allergies affect 1 in 13 children in the U.S., autism affects 1 in 68, asthma 1 in 10 children, and cancer is impacting 41% of Americans. The conditions themselves can at times feel cruel and tyrannical.

And as scientific evidence continues to mount, courageously presented by doctors like Mark Hyman, MD, in his groundbreaking book, The Blood Sugar Solution, and pediatric specialists like Dr. Joel Fuhrman and Dr. Alan Greene, about the role that diet and nutrition plays in the health of our children, parents are beginning to take notice.  Doctors are taking notice, too. M.D. Anderson researchers have even gone so far as to name it, "the doorknob syndrome."  When patients are standing in their offices, having been diagnosed with cancer and given the details about what lies ahead, as they turn to leave the office, with their hand on the doorknob, will turn back in towards the doctor and ask, "Is there anything that I can be doing differently with what I eat?"

The President's Cancer Panel, formed under the Bush administration and releasing its report under the Obama administration, says yes.  The report, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk, encourages Americans to reduce exposure to certain ingredients now being used in and on our food supply and to eat organic when you can, especially if you have children.

And as we introduce new foods that are nutrient-dense ( full of vitamins and minerals) and try to reduce our loved ones' exposure to the foods that are nutrient-void (packing mostly artificial ingredients that have been synthetically engineered in laboratories), we are realizing that we have the power to affect remarkable change in the health of our children and families, so that together, we can stem this tide of children flowing into pediatric hospitals being built across the country.

Diet is a lot like religion, it is not one size fits all.  And learning that our food contains ingredients for which no long term human health studies have been conducted can cause heartache, a heartache deeply felt by a mother of a child with autism or allergies, as these conditions can so dominate the life of a family, impact its freedom and flexibility.

To then learn that other  countries have not allowed these new ingredients, introduced into our food supply in the last ten to twenty years, because of this lack of evidence of safety can then trigger more than just an adjustment in what you put into your shopping cart, it can change how you view our system.

It takes tremendous courage and strength to show up every day when you have a child with autism, allergies or cancer.  It is not something anyone would wish for.  It is something that writers, fortunate enough to not experience these conditions, could not possibly understand.  It is far easier to shoot the messenger.

How do I know?  Because I did the same until the epidemics were too close and too destabilizing to dismiss.

If our current spending on health care and disease management is a leading economic indicator, then exercising precaution, the way we do when we buckle our children into a car seat or strap a helmet on their heads, is one of the most conservative things that we could be doing.

From Kroger to Wal Mart, companies are recognizing this shift in consumer demand and responding to this food awakening.  They are expanding their offerings so that moms in all socioeconomic categories have access to organic food at an affordable price.  They recognize that moms are not trying to create problems, they are simply looking for solutions, standing in the grocery store aisles, holding onto the hand of a child with allergies or autism or diabetes, knowing that they represent the future of our country - our future soldiers, entrepreneurs, educators and innovators.

If you think about it, there is nothing more conservative or patriotic that we could be doing.

Follow Robyn on Twitter @foodawakenings and on Facebook.  She is a former financial analyst and author.



What You Can Do to Address the "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act"
Monday, December 08, 2014

This week, there will be a hearing of the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” (H.R. 4432).  Introduced by Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas, the bill would block any federal or state action to require labeling of foods made with genetically engineered ingredients.

As Monsanto distances itself from GMOs, it would not only tie the hands of the USDA and the FDA to compel companies to disclose these ingredients, it would also tie the hands of state governments and preempt state law.

“From our Nation's founding, the American constitutional order has been a Federal system, ensuring a strong role for both the national Government and the States.The Federal Government's role in promoting the general welfare and guarding individual liberties is critical, but State law and national law often operate concurrently to provide independent safeguards for the public. Throughout our history, State and local governments have frequently protected health, safety, and the environment more aggressively than has the national Government.”

Back in 2009, Obama’s White House issued this memo on the dangers of preempting state law, as it relates to state laws and our health http://wh.gov/lC5J

Why should we label GMOs?

There is no post-market surveillance to study whether or not these ingredients are triggering allergic reactions.

There is no mandatory pre-market safety testing of these ingredients before they are introduced into our food supply.

This bill allows genetically engineered ingredients to be included in products labeled “natural” undermining food companies and consumers’ trust in that growing industry

Compounds consumer confusion in a day and age where life-threatening food allergies are on the rise.  Four lives have been lost in the last month alone.

 Sixty percent of the world's population have been afforded the fundamental human right to know about the ingredients in their food.  Consumers in 64 countries, including Saudi Arabia and China, have the right to know if their food contains GMOs, to conduct post-market surveillance in the absence of any mandatory pre-market safety testing. American families should be afforded the same right. 

The American Medical Association has called for mandatory pre-market safety testing of GMOs.  Current testing is voluntary. 

More than 30 states have introduced or worked on laws to require mandatory labeling of GMOs. 

Connecticut, Maine and Vermont have passed mandatory GMO labeling laws.

As Justice Brandeis explained more than 70 years ago, "[i]t is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country."

This bill risks a lot. 

Under H.R. 4432, we would lose our fundamental human rights to not only choose the foods that we are feeding our families, but the freedom to enact state laws to protect them.

You can learn more about the bill:

You can learn more about the Supremacy Clause and the doctrine of preemption:

You can comment online:
Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption


Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food

You can click here to learn how to contact your local representative ahead of this week's hearing on Wednesday, December 10th.  Please feel free to use and/or edit the commentary here for your correspondence.