By • September 10, 2018

The following is an excerpt of an article by reporter Megan Poinski on the FoodDIVE website highlighting the companies that promote their GM products and the many benefits of using them.

While some food companies are reformulating ahead of the new labeling law, others are doubling down on their use of biologically engineered ingredients.

Through the years that Okanagan Specialty Fruits worked on developing the Arctic apple — a fruit that is genetically modified so it doesn't brown —company president Neal Carter knew it may be controversial with consumers.

Following the backlash against GMOs in the U.S, Carter told Food Dive the company decided to confront the controversy with transparency. As the apples were poised to hit store shelves last year, Okanagan prepared with a website spelling out the genetic modification for the apples and why. On the packaging, they included an 800-number for consumers to call for more information. And there’s a scannable QR code for the public to get more information.

“If I remember right, basically only two people looked up the QR code to get more information,” Carter told Food Dive. “So everybody thinks, 'GMOs, consumers are all against that.' But at the end of the day, they're really not.”

The experience of Arctic apples is not unique. While there is a lot of talk and controversy about consumers being anti-GMO, many food products actually use GMO ingredients. Brands that present themselves as pro-GMO told Food Dive that consumers embrace their products as they are — especially when they explain why they use GMOs and how they make their items better.

“I don’t think it’s uppermost in their minds,” David Lipman, chief science officer of Impossible Foods, told Food Dive. “People are interested in the [GMO] Impossible Burger because it tastes more like meat.”

The International Food Information Council Foundation did a study earlier this yearthat was intended to measure consumer sentiment about the different proposed on-package symbols for GMO — or biologically engineered (BE) foods. And while it showed consumers prefer more information on a package label, it also indicated about half of them at least somewhat avoid GMO foods because of human health concerns, Alexandra Lewin-Zwerdling, IFIC vice president of research and partnerships, told Food Dive.

However, when asked what label claims they looked for in products, Lewin-Zwerdling said consumers ranked non-GMO before all natural and antibiotic free.

“It seems like less of a priority,” she said.

Arctic apples
Conventional and Arctic apples
Credit: Okanagan Specialty Fruits

Cutting down on waste

Carter and his wife have grown apples and cherries in British Columbia for years. Through the years, he noticed that 30% to 40% of their products went to waste and often didn’t make it to the marketplace. The apples were bruised. They were scuffed. And prices for apples overall were going down. There had to be a way to address this issue, he said.

Looking at the wider array of research in agriculture, Carter said he found that scientists in Australia had identified the gene that caused apples to turn brown when they were cut. And considering how baby carrots transformed the vegetable into a popular snack, he had an idea: Grow apples with the browning gene disabled and sell them as a precut snack.

"So at the end of the day, an Arctic apple is still an apple. There's no foreign protein being expressed in there. So I think we felt we could differentiate ourselves from ... the segment that was the target of [protests].”

Neal Carter, President, Okanagan Specialty Fruits

While Carter said he was aware of the anti-GMO movement, which was already gaining steam in Europe when they started growing the GMO apples in the 1990s, he always thought it was something the Arctic apple would bypass.

“As a small company, working to be very transparent about what we were doing,” Carter said. “[We were] also using the technology very differently than people had in the past, where we were taking the apple’s own gene and using the apple's own DNA to turn off one gene. So at the end of the day, an Arctic apple is still an apple. There's no foreign protein being expressed in there. So I think we felt we could differentiate ourselves from ... the segment that was the target of [protests].”

And while there have been some protests, Carter said it hasn’t been crazy. At one conference, there was a handful of people with tipped-over wheelbarrows full of apples and placards railing against Arctic apples, which drew a little bit of media. Carter said he’s gotten used to people turning to social media to organize petitions against the company. New ones tend to be organized against the company every couple of months, he said.

“Anybody can start a petition against what you are doing,” he said.

On the business side, Carter said reaction has been mixed, though he said there are other well-known GMO produce items — including Rainbow papayas, Simplot’s Innate potatoes and a virus-resistant summer squash — that have been in the market for years.

Arctic apples first entered the mass market last year, but with a very small amount — 150,000 apples at about 100 stores for six to eight weeks. This year, consumers will find more of the GMO apples in stores — about 1.5 million pounds at about 1,000 stores for 20 to 24 weeks, in eight SKUs. Carter said they are planting more orchards and hoping the product will continue to ramp up year after year.

The brand, which is now owned by biotechnology company Intrexon, also may expand the non-browning formula to other fruits. Carter said he knows they are a market disruptor — and pioneers through their vocal embrace of GMOs.

“There's a whole lot of people (who) don’t want to go first, but they do want to go second,” Carter said. “In the food business today, there's a lot of big business. Big ag companies, and they're fairly risk-averse because they've got a lot of stakes in this game, and so they don't want to be seen as the guys who started using Arctic apples because they're worried about the consumer reaction and kickback. And we keep telling them we don’t think there's going to be any. In fact, I think they’re starting to believe us now.”

Credit: Soylent

​GMOs for global sustainability

Soon after the federal GMO labeling law was signed and the debate over these ingredients was fresh for many Americans, meal replacement drink Soylent put out a noteworthy blog post, titled “Proudly made with GMOs.”

The company, which says it uses six GMO ingredients — soy protein isolate, maltodextrin, canola oil, isomaltooligosaccharide/soluble corn fiber, soy lecithin and genetically modified flavors — also put up billboards near their Los Angeles headquarters proclaiming “PRO GMO.”

CEO Bryan Crowley told Food Dive the company’s vocal support of GMO ingredients is relatively simple. The company was founded on a mission of sustainability and providing nutritious meals for everyone on the planet. Crowley said when the company started researching how to use science to make that possible, they came to the logical conclusion: using and embracing GMO ingredients.

“We didn’t found the company on this stance,” Crowley told Food Dive. “We're trying to create something delicious and nutritious that consumers are going to love and fit into their lives in multiple ways. That's really what we're trying to do.”

The blog post goes deep into the scientific, economic and environmental reasons to use GMO ingredients. It also reiterates that there have been no adverse health effects attributed to GMO crops. Crowley said those are the reasons the company supports GMOs — as well as the fact that these ingredients help Soylent produce its ingredients efficiently, cutting down on both cost to consumers and food waste.

"We encourage people to go out and get educated. Learn about it and form their opinion based on the facts and based on the research they do, and that will put them in a better place to make their own decisions.”

Bryan Crowley, CEO, Soylent

“There’s still a lot of misinformation out there. There's still a lot of confusion out there about non-GMO and the benefits and the science behind it,” Crowley said. “We certainly believe this, but we encourage people to go out and get educated. Learn about it and form their opinion based on the facts and based on the research they do, and that will put them in a better place to make their own decisions.”

Soylent’s pro-GMO stance has likely done little to sway its consumers, Crowley said. The meal replacement’s fan base is passionate about its products. However, he said, the company has had great support from its suppliers and the industry as a whole.


To read the entire article, please visit the FoodDIVE website.


By • August 07, 2018

The following is an excerpt of an article by reporter Jennie Schmidt on the Genetic Literacy Project website dispelling misinformation around biotechnology from her expertise as a farmer and a dietitian. 

The four most compelling words in the English language may be: “Once upon a time.”

When we hear them, we know we’re in for a story—and stories are the most powerful form of communication available to us.

Farmers don’t always appreciate this fact, especially when we’re discussing our own business of agriculture. We’re inclined to mention inputs and outputs, moisture levels, yields, commodity prices, and more. You know: farmer talk.

The challenge increases when the conversation turns to technology, and especially when it involves new technologies, including GMO crops, CRISPR gene editing and so on. At this point, our rhetoric can sound like boring passages from science textbooks. They’re about as interesting as the homework that none of us misses from our school days.

Yet every one of us has a story to tell—and if we tell our stories well we’ll both educate the public about what we do and advance our own interests at a time when farmers face growing threats from government regulators, political activists and skeptical consumers.

I live on a third-generation farm in rural Maryland, where we grow corn, soybeans, canning tomatoes, grapes and fresh-market green beans on about 2,000 acres. I’m also a registered dietitian. Very few RDs have strong agricultural knowledge or experience, which means that I can speak from an uncommon perspective: I know a lot about both food production and food consumption. I look at my role as having a niche with dietitians because they’re my peer group. I can be an effective voice for agriculture within that realm.

Over the years, I’ve learned plenty of lessons, and one of the most important may be that generally, consumers give very little consideration to where their food comes from. They don’t know what farmers do, how we do it; nor are they overly curious or concerned about how the food got to their grocery stores. They take for granted that the food will be there.

Over the years, I’ve learned plenty of lessons, and one of the most important may be that generally, consumers give very little consideration to where their food comes from.

In one respect, this is a good thing. Over the years, as we’ve gotten better at food production, the agriculture industry has needed to rely on fewer people. Not so long ago—perhaps when our grandparents or great grandparents were born—food production dominated employment. Today, less than 2 percent of Americans are directly involved in agriculture. This means that more of us can work as teachers, welders and software engineers (and also dietitians).

It also means that at no point in history do more people know less about farming from first-hand experience than they do right now. Many Americans recognize their own ignorance: Two years ago, in a poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, 63 percent of Americans rated their understanding of GMOs as “poor” or “fair.” Only 4 percent called it “excellent.”

I saw this firsthand when the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation hired me to disseminate a curriculum in agricultural literacy: training teachers how to use agriculture in their classrooms. That experience really highlighted for me how deficient consumer knowledge is about food and farming.

When you talk to consumers and observe them as they make grocery decisions for their family, what most people want is confidence that their food is safe. Their lack of knowledge about agriculture, however, makes them vulnerable to some pretty big misunderstandings. That’s doubly true when the misunderstandings are fueled by propaganda.

This is where stories can play a decisive role—and allow farmers to become effective communicators about the realities of farming and the safety of our food supply. The key is to look for opportunities to tell what we know about what we do.

The most effective approach, I’ve discovered, is to tell my farm’s story. Something as simple as describing “a day in the life” can convey an enormous amount of information. It also builds a personal connection and level of credibility. Statistics and research outcomes are good and even necessary, but for most people, they mean almost nothing if they don’t also include a personal component.

Here’s an example. In 2017, around the time the New England Patriots won their fifth Super Bowl, star quarterback Tom Brady released a book of workout, lifestyle and recipe suggestions. “The TB12 Method” took its name from Brady’s initials and his roster number, and it quickly became a best seller on the promise that readers would learn fitness secrets.

Statistics and research outcomes are good and even necessary, but for most people, they mean almost nothing if they don’t also include a personal component.

It also included a witless attack on modern agriculture. “Then of course there’s genetic engineering,” wrote Brady. “Does that sound like something you’d want to eat? It sounds like a chemistry experiment to me.”

When I learned about this, I knew I had to respond. Not only am I farmer who knows the truth about GMOs, but I’m also a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots. I may live in Maryland, but I was born in Massachusetts—and I had just cheered for Brady to win the big game.

So I told the story of our farm in a website column, “Invitation to Tom Brady: Visit My Farm and Learn Food Facts”. I pointed out that one of the reasons we grow GMO soybeans, for example, is because they’re high in oleic oil, which allows our customers to extract an oil from them that is free of trans fat.

Brady, I thought, ought to cheer for us: “Basically, trans fats are the worst kind of fat out there,” wrote Brady in his book. He urged his readers to avoid them.

So I pointed out all of this, from the incoherence of Brady’s quip about “a chemistry experiment” (because GMOs are a feature of biology) to the fact that modern technology allows us to grow crops that carry extra nutritional value.

Then I invited Brady to visit my farm and learn more about what we do. He has not taken me up on this offer, but the invitation stands.

It also helped that I published a photo of myself wearing my Brady jersey and standing in a field next to one of our tractors. [see lead picture] Pictures, of course, can be as much a part of storytelling as words.

To read the entire article, please visit the Genetic Literacy Project website.


By • July 24, 2018

The following is an excerpt of an article by reporter Mike Pomranz on the Food & Wine website detailing the FDA approval of Impossible Burger's 'magic ingredient'.

When Impossible Foods burst onto the scene a couple years ago, the killer app for the company’s plant-based burger wasn’t just its similarity to meat in taste and texture, but also that the patty “bleeds” like a real burger. Of course, the inevitable question becomes how does it do it? It’s a question that even the Food and Drug Administration was interested in delving into a bit deeper…but now, good news for Impossible Foods and fans of the Impossible Burger alike: The FDA has officially given the company’s “magic ingredient” the go-ahead.

Impossible Foods likes to say that the key to its burgers is an iron-containing molecule called “heme.” If you’ve read about the Impossible Burger before, you’ve likely heard this four-letter word, as well as Impossible’s pitch that heme is “one of nature’s most ubiquitous molecules,” existing “in virtually all the food we eat,” particularly in animal muscle, making it “uniquely delicious and craveable.”

What makes the backstory of “heme” a bit more complicated, however, is how Impossible Foods produces it. As Impossible explicitly states, “The company genetically engineers and ferments yeast to produce a heme protein naturally found in plants, called soy leghemoglobin.” Needless to say, “soy leghemoglobin” is more of a mouthful, and it’s also the ingredient the FDA wanted to spend a bit more time reviewing. This protein was already deemed safe enough to allow Impossible Burgers to be sold at nearly 3,000 locations including major chains like White Castle. However, with Impossible Foods' continued rapid expansion, the FDA decided to take a second look.

After digging through a (now public) 1,066-page submission from Impossible Foods, the FDA issued what is known as a “no question” letter, upholding the idea that Impossible Burgers are “generally recognized as safe” to eat. “We have no questions at this time regarding Impossible Foods’ conclusion that soy leghemoglobin preparation is GRAS under its intended conditions of use to optimize flavor in ground beef analogue products intended to be cooked,” the FDA stated.

“Getting a no-questions letter goes above and beyond our strict compliance to all federal food-safety regulations,” Impossible Foods CEO and Founder Dr. Patrick O. Brown said in a statement after the announcement. “We have prioritized safety and transparency from day one, and they will always be core elements of our company culture.”

To read the entire article, please visit the Food & Wine website.

By • July 19, 2018

This post was originally published on GMO Answers' Medium page.

Public opinion on GMOs is often driven by misinformation and myths, despite scientific consensus that GMOs are safe to eat and nutritionally equivalent to their non-GMO counterparts. While some brands, like Campbell’s and Betty Crocker, have sought to educate consumers about GMOs rather than play into their fears, others are simply spreading confusion.

Many brands tout their products as non-GMO even when their products contain ingredients that couldn’t possibly contain GMOs to begin with.

To help stem the tide of dishonest labeling, we developed a series highlighting products commonly labeled as non-GMO despite having no GMO alternatives.

  • Pure Orange Juice: There are no GM oranges on the market…yet, that is. Scientists are working on a solution to combat citrus greening, a disease threatening an estimated 80% of Florida’s citrus trees. But until this solution is reached, pure orange juice labeled as non-GMO is simply a marketing ploy:
  • Popcorn: Popcorn is different from field corn, waxy corn and sweet corn — and genetically modified popcorn does not exist. That’s why we looked to pop this myth:
  • Nuts: If there’s anything nuttier than GMO misinformation, it’s this: some nuts are labeled as non-GMO when there are no GMO-nuts to begin with:
  • Pasta: There’s no GMO wheat on the market, despite what some pasta brands would have you believe. We looked to fill forks with facts, not fear:

Consumers have a right to know when brands are trying to cash in on fears to sell their products. When browsing the grocery store aisles, one way to determine the authenticity of a non-GMO label is to check if the ingredient list contains one of the 10 GMO crops approved for sale in the U.S. It’s time to shed light on brands that are putting their bottom lines ahead of informed consumer choice.

By • July 03, 2018

The following is an excerpt of an article by reporter Liz Schumer on the The New York Times website providing tips on understanding food labels.

If your head starts spinning when trying to make healthy and budget-friendly food choices, you’re not alone. Take a look around your local grocery store and you’ll find a slew of confusing terms. Organic. Non-G.M.O. Low-sugar. Superfood.

What does it all mean, and how can a normal human shopper possibly make sense of any of it? We asked registered dietitians, food marketers and members of the New York City Agriculture Collective for help decoding the labels you see in the grocery store. Let’s break down how to decode the label and get past the marketing into the actual benefits of what we’re buying.

The Food Label Terms to Ignore

Liz Vaknin of the food marketing company Our Name Is Farm said the way food is labeled — you guessed it — aims to get it off the shelf and into our shopping carts.

“The more value you ascribe to a term, the more you identify with it, the more you’re willing to pay for it,” she explained. “Some are useful, some are misleading, and a lot of them are not regulated enough to mean anything.” Take “natural,” for example, she said. The term has been thrown around so much, it barely means anything at all.

“Superfood,” according to Andy Bellatti, a registered dietitian and co-founder of Dietitians for Professional Integrity, is almost equally meaningless. “As I like to say, all plant-based foods are ‘superfoods’ in the sense that they offer fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients,” he said. “A peach is just as ‘super’ as a berry that grows in the Himalayas.”

That said, some terms do matter — sort of.

Two Things You Should Definitely Pay Attention To

The federal Food and Drug Administration requires that labels of nutrition facts include added sugars, one important element to consider. Mr. Bellatti suggested capping your added sugar consumption at no more than 24 grams, per day. “A healthful food is low in added sugar, low in added sodium and offers a nice amount of fiber,” he explained.

Debi Zvi, a clinical nutritionist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and a NYC Agricultural Collective member, recommends reading the serving size carefully, too. Even supposed “single-serving” packages can contain multiples. “If you only have a few seconds to make your food choice, I would recommend looking for foods with less than 20 percent daily value of sodium and saturated fat, and less than 10 grams of added sugar,” she suggested.

G.M.O. vs. Non-G.M.O.

It’s important to note that not all G.M.O.s, or genetically modified organisms, are necessarily bad. The F.D.A. actually prefers to use“genetically engineered,” calling the term G.M.O. “overly broad and inaccurate.”

“People are scared of the term because they don’t really know what it means,” Ms. Vaknin said. “Pretty much everything has been somewhat genetically modified.”

Take carrots, for example. While they naturally occur in a rainbow of colors, the proliferation of the common orange variety first rose to prominence in the 15th and 16th centuries, and its popularity stuck. We owe that to selective breeding — or genetic modification.

While most scientists agree that G.M.O. foods are safe, genetic modification can run the gamut from selecting spinach for frost resistance to adding nutrients to foods that don’t produce those compounds in nature. And that doesn’t come without controversy, and consumer groups have demanded foods with G.M.O. ingredients be labeled.

A lot of the opposition to non-G.M.O. foods is purely psychological. However, if the idea of Frankenfood freaks you out, stick to heirloom vegetables and heritage meat. Many of those will taste better too, although you often pay more for the privilege.

What ‘Organic’ Really Means, and When It Matters

A lot of us misunderstand what the term “organic” actually means. When farming organically, farmers use naturally occurring compounds instead of industrial pesticides to keep pests at bay. Animals raised for organic meat must not consume antibiotics or hormones. Practically, organic practices matter more in produce you consume in its entirety.

“Some [fruits and vegetables] take in a lot more of their environment than others,” Ms. Vaknin explained. She said that nonorganic bananas, “are probably fine because you’re going to be peeling them, but with strawberries, those pesticides are going to be absorbed directly into the fruit. So if you can’t afford to buy all organic, pick and choose.” (However, the idea that “organic equals less pesticides,” often a selling point, is not necessarily true. For a complete view on the issue, this article at The Washington Post clarifies.)

The organic label does provide two key benefits: education and regulation. “Food labeled U.S.D.A. organic has to meet a set of publicly available standards and in that way, we have access to much more information about it. The organic label offers a level of transparency,” Mrs. Zvi said.

Farms that receive that United States Department of Agriculture’s organic stamp also have to undergo a rigorous application and certification process, which takes about five years to complete. Many small, local farms don’t have the resources to complete the application, even if they do use organic processes.

Pay Attention to How Far Your Food Travels

The most important consideration when buying produce is the amount of time it spends away from the plant. “The second you harvest, it starts losing vitamin C and phytochemicals that are sensitive to oxygen,” explained Alina Zolotareva, a registered dietitian and marketing manager of AeroFarms.

She added that most produce comes from the West Coast, meaning that many tomatoes have spent up to two to three weeks in transit before they make it to your grocery store. “Most [vegetables] are not bred for flavor,” she explained. “They’re bred for transportability and durability. They’re bred to survive to the plate, not focused on nutrition.”

If you can’t buy organic (or if flavor matters more than anything else), go for locally grown instead. Local farmers also provide a valuable resource, in general. They can tell you how their food is grown, how long ago they harvested it and what’s in season. If you have questions, never hesitate to ask.

To read the entire article, please visit the The New York Times website.

By • June 21, 2018

This post was originally published on GMO Answers' Medium page.

We have a feeling that the well-known yogurt company Fage based their recent decision to go non-GMO on consumer misinformation around the nutrition and safety of GMOs.

In case you missed it, Fage is one of the latest brands to join the Non-GMO Project with a new commercial that recently aired. Responding to a consumer shout out on Twitter asking if its yogurt is non-GMO, Fage announced in the commercial that the brand is now Non-GMO Project verified because it feels right.

The trend of consumers voicing their opinions about GMOs on social media is not new. We’ve seen it with Betty Crocker, Stonyfield, and others. Consumer demands, particularly on social media, force brands to take a stand and either counter with education or feed into the fears.

In fact, an upcoming panel discussion at this year’s IFT Expo, “The Clash Between Consumer Demands and Responsible Food,” will discuss how consumer demand is more powerful and persuasive than ever before. Often rooted in trying to do what’s “right” or “healthy,” these demands can result in unintended — yet harmful — consequences like increased food waste, fossil fuel usage or threats to food safety.

But here’s the thing: While consumers have the right to make whatever food choices feel best to them, not all food choices — and the expression of these choices to brands — are fact-based. The conversation around GMOs is all too often clouded by misinformation, and GMO foods are often demonized despite the fact that they’re safe to eat and sustainable to grow.

Food brands have two options:

  1. Give in to fear and misinformation, as demonstrated by Fage, Stonyfieldand others.
  2. Respond to uninformed consumer demands with scientific facts, as seen by companies like Campbell’sBetty Crocker, and more.

The question is, “which of these options feels right to you?

By • June 18, 2018

The following is an excerpt of coverage by Marissa Rosen, Mia Overall, Hannah Furlong and Barbara Everdene on the Sustainable Brands website detailing the recent SB’18 Vancouver event which united over 2,000 representatives from the global community of sustainability practitioners, brand strategists, product and service innovators, thought leaders and other change-makers.

Last week, over 2,000 representatives from our global community of sustainability practitioners, brand strategists, product and service innovators, thought leaders and other change-makers converged at SB’18 Vancouver to share their latest insights on a multitude of themes pertinent to all of those committed to improving business around the world. Here, we dig into the supply chains, test kitchens, labels and apps behind good food.

What’s on your label? How marketing affects food & farming

By Marissa Rosen

Today, food companies are making sourcing decisions that are changing the future of agriculture. Andrew Winston, author of The Big Pivot and Green to Gold, moderated a Tuesday lunch session exploring how marketing affects food & farming, sponsored by the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA). He opened by comparing coffee to the entire food supply chain and explained how misinformed marketing efforts can effectively stifle the sustainability movement when it comes to other consumer products.

The panel, which included Cassidy Johnston (Sustainability Officer at USFRA), Roian Atwood (Director of Sustainability at Wrangler), and Matt Carstens (SVP of Sustainability at Land O’Lakes), went on to discuss the interconnectivity of sourcing decisions, food label claims and “misinformation” about U.S. farmers and ranchers. As could be expected, this topic and the opinions shared brought heated discussion and some backlash from members of the audience that presented opposing industry views.

Carstens discussed the connection of farmers through the value chain to consumers. He challenged the audience: “Do you realize that if we lost some of our technology (GMOs), we’d go backwards 10 to 20 years in agriculture in terms of sustainability?” He stated that many agricultural crops previously were sprayed with twice the amount of pesticides as they are today, and challenged us to think more critically about transparency through the tools that are available today such as icons, QR codes and brands. Carstens does not believe that “organic” or “cage-free,” for instance, are true indicators of food quality, as absence claims do not actually tell you what is in a product.

“Food is ag. Ag is food. We’ve got consumers officially confused and thinking absence claims are health claims, and that’s wrong,” he asserted.

Atwood said the expanse of labels and sub-labels in the textile industry can invoke a certain amount of believable sustainability cred, but unless they are specific and accredited, such as regenerative organic agriculture and responsible down standards, consumers still have to sort through the details. The textile chain starts in the field, and a major issue is excess runoff of nutrients due to conventional agriculture methods, which do not consider the longer term — and place too high a value on quick profits. However, many stakeholders do care about sustainability in textiles, and we already have technologies available that can profoundly improve our fields, waterways and the clothing product lifecycle.

Improving the value of supply chains with climate-friendly, transformative farming

By Mia Overall

Soil might not be the first thing you’d think would bring together brands from the food, fashion and beauty sectors. But in fact, the inputs of all three start in the ground, and that was one of the things this Wednesday afternoon session drove home. Tim Greiner, CEO of Pure Strategies, moderated a panel of five brands – The North FaceMetaWearLushNatura and Annie’s – each with compelling stories about their foray into regenerative agriculture. Strong questions from a technically savvy audience made it a dynamic session.

Before turning it over to the brands to tell their stories, Greiner reminded everyone about the five principles of soil health:

  1. keep soil covered year round
  2. minimize soil disturbance
  3. plant diversity
  4. keep plants growing on the ground year round
  5. integrate livestock on the ground where possible

First up, James Rogers, Director of Sustainability at The North Face, explained that North face knows its biggest impact comes from materials. They’ve partnered with a local ranch that raises sheep using farming practices that help sequester carbon in the soil. The Cali Wool Beanie — now its most sustainable product, uses wool only from this farm, and boasts a cool label that tells the story of how carbon is sequestered. “It’s been a journey, and for an approach like this to work for The North Face, we’ll have to find a way to make it scale,” Rogers said.

Next up, Marci Zaroff, founder of MetaWear — the first GOTS-certified and Cradle-to-Cradle certified turnkey apparel manufacturer in North America — shared how its Reset pilot program is working with 88 farmers in India to help them adopt regenerative agriculture practices. Farmers are learning to move away from genetically modified seeds and chemical fertilizers — which reduces their input costs — and instead use manure, cover crops and low-tillage practices, which increase their yields. Farmers make up to 90 percent more money and reduce social and environmental harm. “This whole movement is about connecting source to story and at the same time being able to ‘storydo,’ so that there can be a win-win,” Zaroff said.

Gavin Hollet, Manager of Lush’s Supply Chain Investments, shared that Lush is investing in its future supply chain through the Sustainable Lush Fund. The Fund invests 2 percent of raw materials spend per year in projects around the world that support regenerative agribusiness and put more money in the hands of farmers. Through one project in northern Uganda, it has invested in designing, planting and scaling a variety of different agroforestry systems. The locally managed team has a processing plant that is now crushing oil seeds from the moringa plant for sale to Lush.

Paula Contim of Natura Cosmeticos, Brazil’s largest cosmetics company and the first publicly traded B Corp, inspired the group with an agroforestry project designed to counter mono-cropping of oil palm. Natura embarked on a 20-year project with a cooperative of smallholder farmers to intersperse native Amazonian fruit trees with the oil palm trees. So far, their productivity actually exceeds that of a monoculture system. “This project shows we can produce palm in a more sustainable way, not having to use chemical fertilizers, because nature is showing us how to produce,” Contim said.

TangoTab: A win-win-win solution for feeding hungry communities

By Hannah Furlong

Later that evening, Andre Angel, CEO (“Chief Eating Officer”) of TangoTab, took the main stage to share how he created a for-profit business structure that helps alleviate hunger and helps local businesses.

He got the idea when he visited a food pantry six years ago. Where he expected to see people who were homeless and struggling, he was surprised to see as many who were well-dressed — people he never would have expected to need a food pantry. He asked if he could speak to some of them to learn why they were there, and heard stories that enlightened him to the stark realities that the recession had brought. To this day, one in particular stands out: A man named David, a single father, lost his job as a mortgage officer just two months after buying his home and couldn’t find another job. When Angel met him, David hadn’t eaten in three days and his 10-year-old son had to convince him to eat their last package of ramen noodles. Angel learned that over 46 million people in the U.S. go to bed hungry, including 15 million children. He decided to use his years of experience as a serial entrepreneur to help solve hunger.

As Angel contemplated ways to create a financially self-sustaining solution, it occurred to him that many restaurants fail because of empty seats. In the U.S., an estimated 60 percent of restaurants fail by year three, despite that nearly $800 billion is spent in restaurants each year. Angel decided to create an app that would help restaurants find people to fill seats, help people find restaurants that are giving back, and feed people in need.

TangoTab lists participating restaurants with available seats (and lets them share promotions to draw people in), and people looking for somewhere to eat can book their seats through the app. TangoTab charges a small fee to the restaurant for the customers they attract, donates some to a food pantry and uses the rest to fund the app’s upkeep and the company’s other initiatives.

Angel considers it a win-win-win-win: Restaurants benefit from increased revenue and enhanced yield management to bring repeat clients when they need them most; diners can feel good about their choices of where to dine out and sometimes benefit from special offers or rewards; food charities gain a sustainable stream of income; and TangoTab furthers its mission to alleviate hunger by bringing the parties together and being financially self-sufficient. Angel says the customer acquisition cost (CAC) of using TangoTab is less than $1 — which seems particularly affordable given increasing consumer preferences for socially preferable products and services.

Since its launch in 2011, TangoTab has fed over 2.5 million people.

“Orange is the color of hunger, which is why we chose that for our branding,” Angel explained. But they do little in the way of marketing beyond branding and outreach initiatives. “[People ask,] ‘How much do you spend on advertising?’ The answer is 0. Because everyone who uses this app will share it with three others.”

TangoTab further adds value by collecting consumer- and restaurant-generated data and ‘connecting the dots’ to deliver actionable knowledge for restaurants — from the demographics, dining habits and social reach of patrons to how weather, local events and foot traffic affect restaurant capacity and utilization.

IKEA concocting the ‘future of food’

By Barbara Everdene

In addition to its home furnishings business, IKEA operates what might be the world’s largest self-serve cafeteria business. According to Brendan Seale, Sustainability Manager of IKEA Canada, that amounts to something in the order of 660 million cafeteria visitors per year. Before he launched into his story on IKEA’s food transformation, he acknowledged the mega trends in agriculture driving the need for change; and Paul Hawken’s book Drawdown, which puts a major emphasis on the food and agriculture industry to come up with solutions to global warming. Seale’s main message was that IKEA is putting its savvy into the challenge of making the transition to plant-based foods as compelling and attractive as possible to consumers, to encourage a more rapid transition to sustainability.

Here are some of the ways IKEA’s test kitchen is creating the ‘fast food of the future’:

  • Plant-based meat analogues, including veggie meatballs and hotdogs (amazing fact: a veggie meatball has 1/30th the carbon footprint of its meat counterpart)
  • Plant-based ice creams
  • Engaging employees in growing food in stores (including vertical growing, which takes 98 percent less water – very cool)
  • Removing single-use plastics
To read the entire articles, please visit the Sustainable Brands website.

QList of ingredients that have become nonvegetarian after being genetically engineered. for a vegetarian, which foods do I have to buy gmo-free? i can not eat foods that have genes from animals inserted in them. thank you

List of ingredients that have become nonvegetarian after being genetically engineered. for a vegetarian, which foods do I have to buy gmo-free? i can not eat foods that have genes from animals inserted in them. thank you
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