Activists Driving Consumers to Organic Food Only—Beyond Consumer Affordability
By Safe Fruits and Veggies
Despite recent and repeated calls by scientists and nutritionists to increase efforts to improve consumption, activist groups have created and promoted new webpages and infographics designed to raise fears among consumers about the safety of the more affordable and accessible fruits and vegetables.
These groups continue to ignore peer-reviewed research, which has shown these tactics don’t just negatively impact consumers’ purchasing decisions regarding conventionally grown produce—consumers’ reluctance also includes purchasing of organic produce as well. In other words, the work of these activists isn’t meeting their goal of driving consumers toward organics and maybe driving them away from produce altogether. How crazy is this?
Let’s review just some of the study findings, which have been released during the time these groups chose to create and promote new fear-based content:
“Prescriptions” for healthy foods could save more than $100 billion in healthcare costs. The healthy foods included fruits and veggies plus seafood, whole grains, and plant oils. The study concluded: “These new findings support the concept of ‘Food is Medicine.’”
Eating and drinking better, including increasing consumption of fruits and veggies, could prevent one in five deaths around the world. The study concluded: “Our findings show that suboptimal diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risks globally, including tobacco smoking, highlighting the urgent need for improving human diet across nations.”
Low fruit and veggie consumption resulted in an estimated three million deaths from heart disease or stroke. “Our findings indicate the need for population-based efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption throughout the world.” Click here to continue reading and to “like” and share this blog post.
Alliance for Food and Farming Works Hard for the Produce Industry
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Since 1989, the Alliance for Food and Farming based in Watsonville has constantly been on guard for the national produce industry. They fight against misinformation on conventional farming, all while supporting organic production.
Teresa Thorne has been with the Alliance since it began and now serves as Executive Director. She is assisted in all aspects of running the non-profit organization by Rosi Gong. These two women share respect and admiration for the farmers who work diligently every day to bring healthy fruits and vegetables to our table.
The Alliance is a nationwide organization representing growers and shippers in California, the Northwest, Texas, Florida, and other states.
Top of mind at the Alliance is the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which will soon release its Dirty Dozen list of popular fruit and vegetables that they deem the public should not eat due to crop protection material contamination. Furthermore, they recommend that consumers only eat organic food.
The EWG list has come out since 1995, and the Alliance has debunked it with facts.
“We work diligently to put factual information out, to help consumers make the right choices for their families in the produce aisle,” Thorne said. “For the EWG to call healthy and safe conventionally grown produce dirty is really unconscionable and has no scientific basis.”
The Alliance wants the consumer to choose what is affordable, choose what’s accessible and buy it where it’s most convenient but choose to eat more every day, for better health and longer life.
The EWG is incentivized to promote organics, and because they are a multi-million dollar organization, they are able to get to the press.
“We are not even close to the budget they have, and we are always puzzled and surprised when they constantly refer to us,” Thorne said.
In fact, the EWG always refers to the Alliance as a front group that represents big farmers who produce both organic and conventional fruits and vegetables.
“If you want to call us a front group for farmers, it’s okay. But to try and categorize us as this big organization, we’re not, but what we have on our side is science and experts in the areas of nutrition, farming, toxicology and risk analysis,” Thorne explained.
“It’s interesting that the EWG has never questioned our science, and they’ve never questioned any of the content on our website, www.safefruitsandveggies.com. And it’s largely because they can’t, so they’re only real road is to try and discredit the organization carrying it,” Thorne continued. “That’s why they make allegations of us being a front group. But they are very much incentivized to promote organics; there’s no doubt about it. And again, that’s why they’re a multi-million dollar organization, and has celebrities as their spokespersons, and we don’t.”
And of course it is okay to promote organic food, but not at the expense of conventionally-grown produce.
“EWG is one-sided. It promotes organically-grown produce, yet maligns conventionally-grown produce—outright saying it’s unhealthy. That’s the crutch of the Dirty Dozen list,” Thorne explained.
“We strongly advocate organic as well as conventional production. We’re advocates for all fruit and vegetable production,” Thorne said.
The Alliance is also an advocate for consumer choice in the marketplace for conventional or organic produce, whether you prefer to buy at your favorite warehouse store, small grocery store, or farmer’s market. The Alliance wants consumers to have the choice of fruits and vegetables no matter how it’s grown.
The Alliance also interacts with consumers on social media, and many are confused as what they should be eating.
“We see a lot of confused consumers in our social media, and many consumers go to our website and sign up for informational food safety emails from us,” Thorne said.
“And that’s why we try and provide information for consumers on our website from nutritionist about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and from farmers about how they preserve food safety and really … [get] that message across,” Thorne said. “We want consumers to know that the farmer’s first consumer is their own family. So food safety is obviously a top priority for them.”
There’s a case to be made for both organic and conventional farming, but make no mistake that they both have the same intention: safe food for human consumption. Few people know this better than Brian Leahy, chief of the Department of Pesticide Regulation in California, one of the 16 agencies under the umbrella of the California Environmental Protection Agency.
There are certain precautions that all farmers need to take to ensure our produce is of the highest quality, one of which is the use of pesticides. Leahy explained that yes, even organic growers require pesticides to protect their crop.
“They’re very different, and they go through a process,” he further added.
“When your food leaves the farm, it goes through a lot of pest management,” Leahy continued, “We’re doing it every day, so let’s acknowledge that it’s there.”
The fact is, everyone uses pesticides, whether it be in the grocery store or our very own homes, and if they are not properly managed it can lead to trouble.
“We’re all in this pest management together. Let’s start putting the resources into it so that we do it in a way we think we want,” Leahy concluded.
To find out how DPR regulates pesticide use, go here.
#GiveACrop: Simple Message About Crop Protection Tools
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Sarah Macedo is the communications manager for CropLife America, a trade association that assists and advocates for their members, based in Washington D.C. They are the manufacturers, formulators, and distributors that manufacture organic and non-organic pesticides,
Macedo explained the #GiveACrop campaign, which puts a positive message for the need for crop protection products in agriculture.
“Go to GiveACrop.org, take a look at those memes along with myths and facts. We just want to talk about things in a realistic person-to-person way and not get too into this science, but just kind of talk about why pesticides are necessary,” Macedo said.
“Regarding the Give a Crop videos, we have heard from both farmer friends, adversaries, and consumers. We had a lot of the FFA kids who absolutely love them, which is great since that is our target audience; we do know that they are sharing that with their friends who are in the on-ag space,” she noted.
“We don’t have a lot of money behind it, so we have been promoting it on social media, and we’ve gotten great pickup even from folks who normally aren’t the friendliest in the ag space. They’ll watch one, and they’ll have posted and saying, ‘we may not necessarily agree, but these are funny and to the point,’” Macedo explained
Again, Crop Life America is a trade association representing the manufacturers, formulators, and distributors of organic and non-organic pesticides.
“We include government affairs, science and regulatory communications experts, and those from the legal profession who help our members, and our members And we advocate on their behalf to make sure that no regulations are going unchecked, that everything is based on sound science and getting the information out about the benefits of pesticides and why they’re used and about American farming in general,” Macedo said.
Bowles Farming is Major Innovator in Merced County
By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
As every industry continues to be pressured by increasing technologies and the expectation to innovate, it is without question that agriculture is no different. With 160 years of experience growing various crops, Bowles Farming Co. in Merced County is not only a leader within the industry but strives to stand on the forefront of innovation.
Danny Royer, Vice President of Technology at Bowles, gave insight to California Ag Today recently as to how his company is using technology to make irrigation more efficient.
“There’s a lot that goes into the irrigation before it even gets to the farm,” he explained. “Our canal company that delivers our water is working on automating their system to meet our automation needs.”
Royer is utilizing water control and data gathering technology through innovative companies such as WaterBit and WiseConn to better regulate how Bowles Farming Co. resources are used.
He is in charge of the technology behind growing various crops, including tomatoes, cotton, wheat, watermelon, and other organic commodities. He said that the key to solving issues is by sharing data within the operation.
“Data is what’s going to provide the solution, but we have to create systems that give the people [the data] who have the competencies to solve the problem,” he explained.
One way Bowles Farming Co. is able to achieve this is by using Google Hangouts on the farm, which enables them to communicate with different sectors of the operation single-handedly.
“We’ve got to be a little more transparent and open about sharing our information with people that are coming from the tech sector trying to help us.”
Royer concluded, “the most important thing when we talk about tech and ag is talking about the impact on the operation … people’s jobs are going to change, how people function is going to change, and if you rule tech out, it’s going to be resisted.”
Bayer CropScience Says Farmers Need to AgVocate with Consumers
By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster
The California Association of Pest Control Advisers (CAPCA) recently held their 42nd Annual CAPCA Conference & Agri-Expo in Anaheim.It was a sellout crowd at the Disneyland Convention Center, with about 1,600 registered participants and more than 160 different trade show vendors participating.The theme of this year’s conference was “Feeding a Nation, Fighting the Fear,” with speakers covering a variety of topics related to public interest in agriculture.
David Hollinrake, vice president of Agricultural Commercial Operations (ACO) Marketing with Bayer CropScience, talked about a program that Bayer CropScience sponsors called AgVocate. “AgVocacy really is about engaging the farmer population so that they can represent modern agriculture to the consumer population that has a growing disconnect from what we do,” Hollinrake said.
There has been a growing disconnect between those who are involved with agriculture and the overall consumer base.“With misinformation sometimes comes misconceptions and mistrust,” Hollinrake noted.
One of the reasons for the divide between growers and consumers is that the number of people involved in agriculture has declined significantly over the past 50 years.“When my grandfather grew up on the farm, some 40 percent of people were involved in production agriculture. Today, there’s only 1 percent of the population involved in agriculture,” Hollinrake said.
It’s important to bridge that gap by giving consumers a better understanding of what agriculture is really about.“Our role with AgVocacy is to enable the farmers to take an active role in describing the benefits of modern Ag and really dispelling a lot of the myths that exist in agriculture,” Hollinrake said.
“One of the other topics that we spoke about was the difference between conventional agriculture and organic agriculture,” Hollinrake noted.The growth in organic farms has created an atmosphere of misunderstanding; with consumers erroneously believing that traditionally grown produce is somehow less safe.Without being involved in agriculture, it’s understandable for people to have misconceptions about how the industry works.However, these types of beliefs solidify the need for the AgVocate program.
Hollinrake thinks meeting the dietary needs of a growing population will require both organic and traditional farming.“If we’re going to feed 10 billion people by 2050, it’s going to take all forms of agriculture. To me, it’s not an ‘either/or’ – it’s a ‘yes/and’ conversation,” Hollinrake said.
“We were really excited to feature California agriculture, because it’s such a huge part of the American economy,” said Nierenberg. “Californians are feeding the world, and we need to really highlight what these amazing producers are doing. When the Farm to Fork program of the Visitors Bureau reached out to us, we were thrilled to partner with such an amazing group of people, as well as UC Davis folks and the Center for Land-Based Learning,” she said.
Food Tank, an abbreviation of Food Think Tank, is a 501(c)3 non profit organization focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters that values education, inspiration and change.
Food Tank is for the 7 billion people who have to eat every day. We will offer solutions and environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty by creating a network of connections and information for all of us to consume and share. Food Tank is for farmers and producers, policy makers and government leaders, researchers and scientists, academics and journalists, and the funding and donor communities to collaborate on providing sustainable solutions for our most pressing environmental and social problems.
The organization begins with the premise, “Our food system is broken. Some people don’t have enough food, while others are eating too much. There’s only one way to fix this problem—and it starts with you and me.”
With the goal of feeding the hungry world of nine billion people in a few years, “Food Tank highlights hope and success in agriculture. We feature innovative ideas that are already working on the ground, in cities, in kitchens, in fields and in laboratories. These innovations need more attention, more research, and ultimately more funding to be replicated and scaled-up. And that is where we need you. We all need to work together to find solutions that nourish ourselves and protect the planet.”
Nierenberg clarified, “I don’t necessarily think we need to scale up food production; I think we need to scale out different innovations that are working. We’re wasting about 1.3 billion tons of food annually. That’s enough to feed everyone who’s hungry today, so we don’t necessarily need to ramp up production. We need to have better distribution, and processing practices that can help get food to people who need it the most,” she said.
“We need the political will behind those things,” she continued, “to build the infrastructure necessary for farmers to have better processing facilities, to have better storage facilities, to have better roads—if we’re talking about the developing world. I don’t necessarily think that we need to invest in producing more calories; we need better calories. We need more nutrient-dense food, and we need less starchy staple crops,” she noted.
Editor’s Note: Activists overtook the stage during the event, and the conversation was notably challenging for panelists. In an effort to Cultivate Common Groundto link consumers with the farmers who grow their nutritious food—and vice versa—California Ag Today has chosen to share some interesting statements from presenters and attendees to illustrate, perhaps, where the discussion could begin:
Regarding farms and processing facilities, big is bad, and small is good.
Regarding food quality, organic produce is healthy and safe, while conventional produce is unsafe and full of pesticides.
Eric Holt-Giménez, executive director of Food First, noted that farmworkers are invisible in California agriculture. “There is racism in the fields. We need more worker unions and we need farmworkers to be paid much more than they are now and the farmworkers should be getting pensions from the farmer.”
Michael Dimock, president, Roots of Change, said to the audience, “You guys are doing a great job. Keep doing it. Keep working with your NGOs. They know policy. In turn, they can work with the legislators.”
“You need to be in the capital, pursuading the legislatures to support their bills. They want to be reelected, and if they don’t do what we ask them to do, they are scared.”
“In the meantime, we have to be nice to farmers because farmers are scared. We are putting a lot of pressure on them; They are in a vice. Our movement has supported bills AB 1066 – the overtime bill, minimum wage increases, organic farming legislation, and workers’ rights.”
Kerryn Gerety, founder and CEO, Lazoka, referred to John Purcell, vegetables global R&D Lead, Hawaii business lead, vice president and distinguished fellow, Monsanto Company, and said, “There is an elephant in the room, the Monsanto rep. Monsanto has all the technology patents. We all want transparency and we need you to be more transparent.”
Continuing, “Why doesn’t Monsanto open-source some of your patents and release the intellectual property so others can take advantage of your teçhnology?”
Purcell answered, “We are an Ag company. Why would our company invest a million dollars on technology and let everyone have it? It is our investment and we need to have the opportunity for a return on that investment.
During a panel discussion of food companies including Blue Apron,Almond Board of California, and Bayer CropScience, that covered organics, Jennifer Maloney, food chain sustainability manager, Bayer CropScience, said, “We do support the organic industry, because we have biological products that work in organic as well as conventional [farming].”
Maloney also talked about agricultural Integrated Pest Management (IPM) technology such as smart sprayers that spray only targeted areas.
Matt Wadiak, founder & COO, Blue Apron, responded, “It’s not about smart sprayers; it’s about biological systems in the field and trying to lean on them instead of spraying.”
Maloney replied, “Yes, that is exactly what IPM is.”
Keith Knopf, COO, Raley’s Family of Fine Stores, commented on the organic question, “the way we see organic versus inorganic—that is not the discussion for us. What’s more important to us is, is it the candy bar or the apple?”
This two-day event featured more than 35 speakers from the food and agriculture field, interactive panels moderated by top food journalists, networking, and delicious food, followed by a day of hands-on activities and opportunities for attendees. This was the second in a series of three 2016 Summits, following the Washington, D.C. Food Tank Summit that completely sold out and drew in more than 30,100 livestream viewers. The third Summit will be held in Chicago on November 16, 2016.
I’m sure there’s much more to this than meets the eye – there always is. To the not-so-casual observer, the recent petition by 20 organic farm and consumer groups related to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) seems a bit hypocritical.
PR Newswire is reporting that 20 groups petitioned USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack “to protect the authority and permanence of the NOSB,” whatever that means.
Folks are apparently upset that the NOSB, created by Congress in the 1990 farm bill, does not have dictatorial control over organic policy and federal law. Instead, its stated purpose is to advise the USDA. Good enough.
Apparently it’s not.
Organic proponents apparently want their own control of all things organic, absent the kind of oversight conventional farming has.
Two of the petitioners include the Center for Food Safety and “Beyond Pesticides.” While the center’s name sounds sublime enough, the other group’s politics are front and center in the title.
It would seem that this petition is less about an egregious act committed by the USDA and more about fear mongering.
Can’t we all just grow up and have an adult conversation about food policy in America without the fifth-grade accusations?
Maybe America’s agricultural self-sufficiency breeds these kinds of ad hominem attacks that paint conventional farmers as evil and organic farmers as lazy. Isn’t there room at the dinner table for everyone, regardless of their chosen diet and the amount of money they choose to pay for produce?
The organic food industry certainly has a place in America’s free market. If people value what organic growers produce, they’ll buy it, plain and simple.
If folks choose to buy produce and meat produced conventionally, after it has been subjected to government oversight and inspection, then maybe I’m not going to worry so much about the chemicals used to kill pests in the California-grown tomatoes that become my bottle of catsup.
What does it matter if my Iowa-grown corn has a Bt gene in it that helps resist pests? Does it taste good and can I get it for a reasonable price?
American agriculture has too few people involved in it anymore for groups to balkanize each other and argue over issues that are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
Right now, nearly a million acres of farmland in California is fallow since the water which could have been used to irrigate a portion of that land was allowed unobstructed access to the Pacific Ocean during a severe drought. This happened since agriculture is not as politically effective as its antagonists. It’s really that simple.
Maybe it’s time for a little national pride in the fact we can produce 100 percent of our food needs in this country since we are blessed with the soil and climate and the technology to achieve it.
It sure beats the alternative of having to import much of our food supply because we can’t grow it ourselves.
An all day seminar for growers and crop consultants focusing on sustainable and organic farming practices for pest management and plant health in Southern California will be held on June 19.
Subjects include: County of San Diego Department of Agriculture Regulatory Update, BioControl of Pests, Micronutrient Use, Essential Plant Nutrition, Soil Testing, Mycorrhizal Inoculants, Soil Amendments/Compost, Organic Weed Control, Optimizing Organic Fertilizer Application and an Organic Grower Panel Discussion.
Also exhibits by firms providing products acceptable for organic and sustainable production. CEUs are offered for Certified Crop Advisers (6.0 hours) and licensed Pest Control Advisers (6.0 hours).
WHO: Presented by the San Diego County Chapter of California Association of Pest Control Advisers and Organic Fertilizer Association of California.
WHEN: Thursday, June 19, 2014, 8:00 am – 3:00 pm.
WHERE: Pala Mesa Resort, 2001 Old Highway 395, Fallbrook, CA