Monday, September 17, 2012

Blowback

I generally assume that by the time I know anything, everyone else already knows about it. Mostly, this is born from experience. But apparently its not actually the case when it comes to corporate ownership of organic brands. the New York Times is reporting that, while a battle is raging in California about adding "genetically modified" to labelling requirements.
Prop 37 is being fought tooth and nail--or dollars to pennies--by the major "Food manufacturers" like Kraft and Dean Foods. But Many of these corporate behemoths own various organic food producers--like Kashi.
From the article:
Their opposition stands in sharp contrast to smaller, independent organic companies, which generally favor labeling products that contain genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.’s. And it has raised a consumer reaction on social media that has led some of the organic brands to try to distance themselves from their corporate parents.
“We want to be clear that Kashi has not made any contributions to oppose G.M.O. labeling,” the brand said in a statement issued late last month after its Facebook page was inundated with comments from consumers saying they would no longer buy its products because its corporate owner, the Kellogg Company, has put more than $600,000 into fighting the ballot initiative.
But as recently as last week, consumers were still peppering the sites of Horizon, owned by Dean Foods; the J. M. Smucker Company, which has a number of organic products, and Kashi with expressions of betrayal and disappointment. “It is unconscionable for you to be funding the effort to defeat Proposition 37,” one post said.
Yes, but those dramatic growth rates for organic brands and foods, and those nice profit margins attract corporate America's attention. If for no other reason than industrial food production has essentially plateaued, delivering steady but unimpressive profits.
This is why we're seeing a radical change in the organic food landscape. Corporate farms using external organic inputs, and having finally got a labelling system in place that allows a certain amount of chemical and non-organic components, are seeing increased profits.
Corporate America is also willing to let others do the hard work of developing new products and new markets before coming in and buying up the business for long term exploitation. The money involved is impressive, as is the money the opponents of Prop 37 are putting into the fight.
So far, opponents of Proposition 37 have committed roughly $25 million to defeat it, with the largest contributions coming from Monsanto ($4.2 million) and DuPont ($4 million), which have made big investments in genetically engineered crops.
Several food companies are not far behind. PepsiCo, Nestlé, ConAgra Foods and Coca-Cola, which owns the Odwalla and Honest Tea brands, have each put more than $1 million in the fight, while General Mills, which owns organic stalwarts like Muir Glen and Cascadian Farm as well as popular upstarts like Lärabar and Food Should Taste Good, has spent more than $900,000.
Yup. $25 million to make sure you and I don't really know what's going on with our food. You have to figure that they see the expense as worth it. Some of us might not feel quite the same way.
So if you're in California, you might want to support Prop 37. After all, this is exactly the same way we got better emission and mileage standards in cars back in the '70s. Cali passed the first laws, and eventually the federal government had to follow suit.
Outside California, you might want to shop the outer edges of the supermarket pretty much exclusively. And plant a garden, eh?

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