The New York Times has a nice article called A Race to Save the Orange by Altering its DNA. It chronicles the problem faced by Ricke Kress, the president of Southern Garden Citrus, to combat the disease called “citrus greening” caused by the bacteria known as C. liberibacter asiaticus. Mr. Kress embarked on an effort to find a solutions based on genetic engineering, believing it was the only prudent way to combat the scourge.
An emerging scientific consensus held that genetic engineering would be required to defeat citrus greening. “People are either going to drink transgenic orange juice or they’re going to drink apple juice,” one University of Florida scientist told Mr. Kress.
This potential solution, however, brought with it another problem:
But the idea of eating plants and animals whose DNA has been manipulated in a laboratory — called genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.’s — still spooks many people. Critics worry that such crops carry risks not yet detected, and distrust the big agrochemical companies that have produced the few in wide use. And hostility toward the technology, long ingrained in Europe, has deepened recently among Americans as organic food advocates, environmentalists and others have made opposition to it a pillar of a growing movement for healthier and ethical food choices.
It is Mr. Kress’ belief, however, that these broad concerns unfairly malign transgenic solutions that can decrease the use of chemicals and pesticides and are necessary to protect against devastating bacteria. Moreover:
[Mr. Kress] did not aim to hide anything from consumers, but he would want them to understand how and why his oranges were genetically engineered. What bothered him was that a label seemed to lump all G.M.O.’s into one stigmatized category.
Please see the entire article here.
According to the New York Times, the USDA has approved a non-GMO label claim “that meat certified by the Non-GMO Project came from animals that never ate feed containing genetically engineered ingredients like corn, soy and alfalfa.” As explained in the article:
The U.S.D.A.’s Food Safety Inspection Service “allows companies to demonstrate on their labels that they meet a third-party certifying organization’s standards, provided that the third-party organization and the company can show that the claims are truthful, accurate and not misleading,” Cathy Cochran, a U.S.D.A. spokeswoman, said in a statement. Ms. Cochran said the approval for labeling meats did not signal “any new policy regarding non-G.E. or non-G.M.O. products.”
Apparently, earlier efforts to obtain this label approval were rejected because the standard for non-GMO certification was either lacking or not fully vetted by the USDA. This issue has apparently been remedied and the standards for non-GMO certification can be found on the Non-GMO Project’s website.
Significantly, the voluntary labeling of meat and poultry products as being non-GMO certified is vastly different than the separate question of whether the FDA / USDA should require food companies to label products as containing GMO-based ingredients (or in the case of meat, that animals ate GMO feed). The former should not be an issue so long as a proper standard exists so consumers know what non-GMO certification means. The latter, however, raises many thorny legal and regulatory issues that have been well documented on this blog and countless other sources.
The New York Times has an excellent article on some of the lawyers who are filing suits against the food industry after having success with similar suits against big tobacco. The following cuts to the heart of the matter and relates to many of the posts from this blog:
More than a dozen lawyers who took on the tobacco companies have filed 25 cases against industry players like ConAgra Foods, PepsiCo, Heinz, General Mills and Chobani that stock pantry shelves and refrigerators across America. The suits, filed over the last four months, assert that food makers are misleading consumers and violating federal regulations by wrongly labeling products and ingredients. While there has been a barrage of litigation against the industry in recent years, the tobacco lawyers are moving particularly aggressively. ….
“It’s a crime — and that makes it a crime to sell it,” said Mr. Barrett, citing what he contends is the mislabeling of those products. “That means these products should be taken off the shelves.”
Please read the entire article here.
The New York Times features a nice article titled, “Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized.” It dispels the myth that organic foods are still mainly produced by small and independent companies, noting that “organic food has become a wildly lucrative business for Big Food and a premium-price-means-premium-profit section of the grocery store.” It then raises the concern of whether “Big Food” is unduly influencing the meaning of “organic” through its presence on the National Organic Standards Board, which has increased the number of nonorganic materials approved for organic foods.
Initially, this list “was largely made up of things like baking soda, which is nonorganic but essential to making things like organic bread,” but “[t]oday, more than 250 nonorganic substances are on the list, up from 77 in 2002.” Accordingly, Michael Potter, a founder of organic food producer Eden Foods, “calls the certified-organic label a fraud and refuses to put it on Eden’s products.” On the other hand:
Kathleen Merrigan, a deputy secretary of agriculture, disputes that corporate interests are behind the increase in nonorganic materials deemed acceptable in “organic” food. “The list is really very small,” says Ms. Merrigan. “It’s really very simplistic and headline-grabbing to throw out those sorts of critiques, but when you get down into the details, there are usually very rational and important reasons for the actions the board has taken.”
See the full article here.
Today’s New York Times includes an excellent story on the “Battle Brewing Over Labeling of Genetically Modified Food.” As the article notes:
Regulators and many scientists say [GMO ingredients] pose no danger. But as Americans ask more pointed questions about what they are eating, popular suspicions about the health and environmental effects of biotechnology are fueling a movement to require that food from genetically modified crops be labeled, if not eliminated.
Although GMO labeling bills are percolating in several state legislatures, the most significant “battle” is the upcoming ballot initative in California, discussed in a prior post. Significantly:
Biotechnology companies say that the California labeling initiative, while portrayed as promoting consumer choice, is really an effort by some consumer and environmental groups and organic food growers to drive genetically modified foods off the market.
“These folks are trying to use politics to do what they can’t accomplish at the supermarket, which is increase market share,” said Cathleen Enright, an executive vice president at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which represents Monsanto and DuPont.
Persons on the other side of the issue, of course, assert that they just want “transparency” in the food system in light of potential health and environmental concerns.
Please see the complete article here.
The New York Times today features a fascinating overview of an ongoing dispute on the meaning of “fresh.”
The dispute sets Fresh Del Monte against Del Monte Foods. The two companies were created out of what had been a single Del Monte after the takeover of its corporate owner, RJR Nabisco, in 1989.
Under the terms of two licensing agreements between the two companies, Fresh Del Monte has the right to sell “fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and fresh produce” under the Del Monte name, while Del Monte Foods has the right to sell canned and preserved fruits, vegetables and produce.
Presently, the companies are disputing whether Del Monte Foods ran afoul of this language by selling cut and prepared fruit products sold in plastic containers that are found on refrigerated shelves in the produce sections of grocery stores. This is certainly a case where each side’s argument has some merit. See the complete article here.