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Open Forum on Food Politics


stovetop
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Now that we have beaten GMO'S to death, why don't we talk about how few food corporations there really are, I have posted some but I have a few more, I am going to try and list all the big companies and show how corporations control all our food choices, that is why choice is always so important, if we do nothing and go with straightest lines to the cash and not investigate what it is we are eating, I think we are missing out on something.

One of the ways I look at that is that those big food companies are always on the look-out for a little guy who's hungry to sell. I have no doubt--especially after working with a small microbrewer--that those people who make a good product that catches on bust their tails. There are certainly numbers of them that get burnt out and when approached by someone like ConAgra or RJR Nabisco are ready to sell out, cash in their chips, and retire on a very handy sum.

Those giants have the banking systems and cashflow to be able to transact several million dollars to get the recipe, name rights, etc, for a product that they can then take nation-wide, if not global, where the small manufacturer simply couldn't come up with the scratch.

It seems very similar in my mind to why the big farmers get bigger and the small farmers leave farming--but I'm sure there's an oversimplification in many areas there.

Just remember, everyone needs to eat to live. There's always going to be lots of money in it. The people who have the supply chain and the manufacturing chain managed in a low-cost, efficient manner (read Big Food Companies) are going to be able to make a killing. And, they do, time and time again. My father invests a large amount of his retirement in food companies for that reason. Sound business sense, but I've problems with the ethics.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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[...]Arguing that GM Golden Rice will feed the world is akin to the original argument that DDT will cure Malaria by exterminating the mosquitos that carry it.[...]

Well, DDT did help a lot in the fight against malaria, didn't it?

The still use it in parts of Africa.

Sorry, I wasn't totally clear in my analogy there.

The "Dirty Dozen" - Persistent Organic Pollutants that include things such as DDT, Chlordane, PCBs and others I'm forgetting, all at one time or another served a valuable purpose. Lindane, expected to be next on the list, is still used as a fire retardant .

At one time these were all considered safe, and now they're not. While pesticide regulators and scientists like to contend that it's merely a question of dosage, but it's the first P that is important. Every single human being now tests positive for some or all of these POPs, including those of us who were born after their production and use were banned in our country of birth.

Coming back to GM foods, I would argue that we're now repeating the exact same stance taken in the 1940's and 50's, when pesticides and crop protection through chemical applications began to emerge as the new saviour of farming. I hoped that this time around we act with precaution and treat these products as piece of research, rather than shipping them off to market with little regard to future consequences.

On a sidenote: If you find it amazing that Golden Rice (Jasmine Rice that's been modified to produce higher levels of Vitamin A) has not stirred as much controversy lately I think it may simply be because Monsanto didn't invent it: it was produced by Zeneca, now owned by Syngenta.

All of the world's major crop companies are involved in GM research and distribution, and yet Monsanto is the only one people are talking about...Just a shitty PR department maybe?

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The Australians are incensed, no doubt.

Relatedly:

Returning war-torn farmland to productivity

[...]the famed "black box" - the genetic holy grail, the ark of the lost seeds, the future agricultural prosperity of Iraq.

The box was put together in 1996 in the Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib. Known mainly for its notorious prison, Abu Ghraib was once the home of Iraq's main seed bank and plant breeding programme. It was here that plant scientists, fearing for the future of their collection, packed up more than 1000 vital seed varieties - everything from ancient wheats to chickpeas, lentils and fruits - and shipped them off to Aleppo for safe-keeping.

[...]

In the chaos that followed the US-led invasion in 2003, the seed bank was destroyed and its equipment looted. [...]When the time is right, its contents will form the basis for plant breeding to restore Iraqi agriculture and end the country's reliance on food aid. The box also has a global importance, as among the seeds are varieties of crops with inbuilt resistance to extreme heat, drought and salinity.

[..]

in 2004 the US administrator Paul Bremer introduced US-style rules that outlawed farmers exchanging patented seeds. The contents of the black box in Aleppo are public property, so they won't be affected. But, to the distress of the gene bank's curators, seeds developed using the box's precious genetic material one day may be.

The Army is distributing seeds to Iraqi farmers

"Iraq's wheat seed has been degraded tremendously because the farmers harvest their grain and then use the same wheat to replant," Acree said. "What they have right now is fit for livestock. We’re trying to bring that wheat grade back up to where it’s good for human consumption. Thus they can get a better price on the market and can start selling it internationally. This will help the economy tremendously."

Earlier, Australia exported wheat to Iraq under the oil for food exchange program set in place by the UN. They were unceremoniously chucked out because of alleged mishandling of prices. Now, America is expected to export over 3 million tonnes of wheat to Iraq.

It is good that they are trying to bring agriculture back to Iraq, but it also carries with it the hidden extracted promise(or threat...depends on which side you are on)that the farmers cannot save the seeds. The seed bank in Allepo(its in Syria) can be used to develop 'new' strains of wheat that is suited for Iraq. Surely, the seeds developed for the American Mid west arent suited for Iraq. But those seeds will belong to the GMOs that develop them and the hundreds and thousands of years invested by Iraqi farmers who saved seeds now belongs to a agri business backed by the military.

This NewScientist article is highly recommended reading.

This morning's ag report stated that the prices of most wheats had gained approximately 4c thanks to a 300,000+ ton order for wheat to Iraq.

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All of the world's major crop companies are involved in GM research and distribution, and yet Monsanto is the only one people are talking about...Just a shitty PR department maybe?

Au contraire..

Monsanto is reviled *because* of its aggressive legal and lobbying practices. Nobody else swings in and out of the White House' revolving doors as much as Monsanto.

Maybe it is also because it holds about 70-100% market share for various crops. Monsanto, iirc, holds monopoly status for the world's GM soybean market.(80% of world's soybean is GM) It is also a multinational agri-biotech company. It integrates all its products..herbicides, seeds, hormones etc and literally chokes the farmer by shoving it all as a package deal down their collective throats.

p.s. syngenta donated the patents for golden rice because it was created using public funds. however, ironically, simultaneously, they applied for a multi-genome patent thereby attempting to monopolise all rice dna resources. however, it is still the little evil compared to the giant evil, Mon Satan.

Edited by FaustianBargain (log)
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OK. I have a headache after reading this thread.

The biggest thing that strikes me in what I interpret to be the spirit of the original post is the expectations 'regular' people have with regard to their food. People are now used to eating meat every single day of their lives and are seeking out the rock bottom prices without regard for animal treatment, growth hormone, or injury rates in meat packing plants. Everyone wants dirt-cheap vegetables regardless of how they taste, where they came from, etc. Food is commodity to all but a few. Commodity materials, in general, means that one head of broccoli is equivalent to every other head of broccoli, regardless of provenance. Now, we can sit around and give examples of Monsanto not playing fairly but I think quite a bit of the status quo is resultant from attitudes of consumers: it should look like a head of broccoli, it should be the cheapest broccoli within reasonable driving distance, and it should be cut up into florettes so I can just throw it in the microwave. Minimal fuss, minimal price.

If producing cheaper and cheaper food for the masses is the goal, then, it makes sense that there are only a handful of agricultural conglomerates and all are doing research into cutting edge techniques. Ag companies drive prices lower and lower by expanding influence on their producers and increasing market share. The paying public in the US continues to buy their food, even when there are alternatives.

So, mount the horse and tilt your sword at the governmental windmill or you can send a message using your purchasing power (and hope others are doing the same). Support growers who are out of the factory farm loop by choice. Buy organic milk where producers already clearly state on their labels that they do not use synthetic growth hormones (even without a governmental requirement). Talk to farmers or producers at the local farmers' market and cook/eat what is available from them. If you have space, roll up your sleeves and plant a garden of Seed Savers' seeds.

It is possible to make choices and vote against these ag conglomerates with your wallet. But to do so, you may have to change the value you place on the source of the food you eat and the result may be that the percentage of income spent on groceries for your family is higher than it is today. You might also have to spend more time cooking and prepping. Will you feel better about it? Only you can decide.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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At the Fall of the Russian Empire, there was a very important seed/plant research station called the Vavilov Institute. These folks have gone through HELL trying to keep the seedbank and knowledge collected from being lost.www.onegreenworld.com in OR has done their dangedest to keep these folks from going under. If you truly care about Heirloom, non-engineered plants, and what happens in this modern time, I suggest you go to their website and check on it.

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I believe I can offer another perspective. My brothers have a small family farm in North Dakota, one that formerly belonged to my grandparents and on which I spent most summers of my youth. My brothers receive few government subsidies.

My grandfather made a good living by farming. He planted about 600-800 acres small grains and ran 50 head of cattle (tasty old school Herefords. Angus ain't got nothin' on a well-raised Hereford). While not farming organically or being much of an environmentalist, he nonetheless kept the pesticide and fertilizer usage to a minimum, practiced crop rotation, etc. because it was the most cost effective way to run his farm. He understood that keeping the soil healthy was important to having a good harvest. He saved his own seeds but usually only for a few years before he bought new stock, since the saved seeds would revert to less productive versions of the plants. He retired with a modest but adequate residual income. It is a typical story of most of his generation. The price of wheat per bushel in the 1950s, 60s and 70s fluctuated around $2.00. It spiked in the 1980s at close to $4.00. (Source: 1999 Agricultural Census, published by USDA).

Skip to the current generation. The price of wheat per bushel is now a little less than $3.00. (Source - Chicago Board of Trade). Adjusted for inflation, the value of wheat per bushel declined 82% from 1945 to 1999. The greatest decline in value has come recently, with the 1999 price of wheat falling to a 10-year low. (Source - Oklahoma Senate Review 2000) (It has since improved somewhat)

What this means to a small family farm like the one my brothers are trying to build is that you would have to increase yield tremendously to achieve the same results my grandfather did. Hence the need/desire for greater applications of pesticides, fertilizers and new hybrid crops. Of course, increased yields push down prices, and I'm sure there are other contributing factors that keep the price down that I don't know or understand. My brothers both work outside the farm to make ends meet. This is neither a sob story nor a plea for sympathy. It is an example of a typical small farmer's struggle.

You can see how this would make it nearly impossible to have a small family farm. The main reason small farms still exist in North Dakota is that state law prohibits large corporate farms. I think it also points to how agribusiness got to be so large.

An important thing to note: while wheat prices have drastically declined since 1945, bread prices have not followed suit. The reasons for that probably tell a lot about food politics. Anyone care to follow up on that?

FWIW, my brothers refuse to grow GMO foods because they like to save their seeds, even if for just a few years. Most of their expense is chemical and seed cost (about even), with fuel coming in third.

My brothers spent three years farming organically (certified organic, so they spent the previous 3 years working toward organic certification). After investing all that time, and losing money while working toward certification, they ended up losing money again. Although they could get higher prices for organic grains and had fewer overhead costs, the cost of transporting to a grain elevator that would pay the premium for organic grains coupled with the diminished yield ate up the price differential. They just couldn't make it. (In addition I would add that conventional farming practices such as mono-cropping just don't work with organic methods).

The land around my brother's farm is deteriorating rapidly due mainly to one cause: anhydrous ammonia (a nitrogen fertilizer). It turns the soil into compacted brick. You can't even stick your finger into it. Every year you need to apply more to achieve the same results. I wouldn't be surprised if it turned into a crisis in the near future.

Food politics are so complex that I can't begin to understand them. I just know that the farmers aren't the ones calling the shots or making the money. I also know that however you view GMO products, pesticides or fertilizers, we are heading down a path that is not easily reversible but which may have unintended negative consequences down the road (probably not in our lifetime, though).

That being said I don't think one can characterize corporations as evil. A corporation exists to bring returns to its stockholders. It will work to that end through whatever legal means it can, and probably whatever illegal means it can get away with. This is why I could never be a Libertarian--they would let the foxes guard the henhouse. It shouldn't be up to a corporation to police itself or even to care for the environment. It should have to follow the laws that govern it, and its up to us as citizens to encourage our lawmakers to write laws that keep corporations in bounds and keep our environment healthy. Of course, this becomes difficult when corporations are allowed to line the pockets of every politician.

I think clear labeling laws and organic standards are important. I want to know what I am eating. The jury is still out on GMO, but I don't want to eat it even if it is safe.

My personal politics: I buy what I can locally, but of course I eat oranges and drink coffee so I'm no zealot. I buy as many organic and minimally processed things as I can, and I have a small garden every year. I eat less meat than I used to. I write the occasional letter to Congresspersons in support of or against some agriculture bill. I worry that I probably don't know 1/1000th of what's going on. I hope that humans don't leave the planet in a mess that is impossible to resolve.

Edited by Darcie B (log)
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I worry that I probably don't know 1/1000th of what's going on.

You said that more than once in your post. I'd like to thank you for a well written post.

I would also like to share my appreciation with the others who have contributed to this thread in a manner that is far more balanced and eloquent than my occasionally emotional input.

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My personal politics: I buy what I can locally, but of course I eat oranges and drink coffee so I'm no zealot. I buy as many organic and minimally processed things as I can, and I have a small garden every year. I eat less meat than I used to. I write the occasional letter to Congresspersons in support of or against some agriculture bill. I worry that I probably don't know 1/1000th of what's going on. I hope that humans don't leave the planet in a mess that is impossible to resolve.

Amen to everyone. And Darcie, thank you for this insightful and personal post. This is exactly why I believe it is so important to vote with our dollars, as do others here.

We are supporting not only the artisan producers of the present, but promising a market for tomorrow.

_____________________

Mary Baker

Solid Communications

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All of the world's major crop companies are involved in GM research and distribution, and yet Monsanto is the only one people are talking about...Just a shitty PR department maybe?

:laugh:

Don't think I'll be sending them my resume, though. For one, I'd have to move to St. Louis, and while it has its charms and is close enough to Kansas City, there are many places I'd rather live; for another, I don't think I'd like to field criticism of the type seen here.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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One of the ways I look at that is that those big food companies are always on the look-out for a little guy who's hungry to sell.  I have no doubt--especially after working with a small microbrewer--that those people who make a good product that catches on bust their tails.  There are certainly numbers of them that get burnt out and when approached by someone like ConAgra or RJR Nabisco are ready to sell out, cash in their chips, and retire on a very handy sum. 

Those giants have the banking systems and cashflow to be able to transact several million dollars to get the recipe, name rights, etc, for a product that they can then take nation-wide, if not global, where the small manufacturer simply couldn't come up with the scratch. 

Those are two slightly different motives for selling. Often, it's the ones who can't afford to grow on their own that are the most poignant or interesting. Think Ben & Jerry's, whose eponymous owners sold the company to Unilever about five years ago.

(Unilever. Now there's an interesting consumer-products conglomerate for you. Formed in the early 1930s by the merger of a British soap maker and a Dutch margarine company. The company still has two CEOs and two HQs--one British, one Dutch in each case--and a bewildering array of products, many of which are specific to a given country and most of which people don't associate with the parent company [think Ben & Jerry's again].)

Moving through conglomerateland, picking up where a post upthread left off:

RJR Nabisco is no more--the tobacco company sold the cookie-and-cracker maker because the taint of tobacco artificially depressed the food manufacturer's price. Kraft, which acquired General Foods some years ago, took Nabisco off RJR's hands.

The other major global food manufacturers I am aware of:

Nestle SA (biggest of them all, if I'm not mistaken)

Campbell Soup Company (I came close to getting hired by their PR department for an internal communications position)

Grand Metropolitan (British parent of Pillsbury and General Mills, former Minneapolis crosstown rivals; I believe this company merged with a French firm and is now called Diageo)

ConAgra (don't know if they have a significant presence beyond North America, though)

H.J. Heinz Company

Since the main subject has been seeds and crops, I guess there's been no reason for Archer Daniels Midland to come up in this thread, but I am surprised it hasn't, given how this processor of soybeans into just about everything is known for currying favor with politicians.

As for the concern with food affordability, I don't think the emphasis many place on low price is misplaced, even though the Feds say that the typical US family spends only about 15 cents of every dollar on food. I do agree that if the cheap food is the product of policies that may cause unforeseeable (or even foreseeable) damage to the Earth or the food supply, we need to revisit those policies.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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ADM is also known for price-fixing, and one problem I have with US law is that while felons often lose the right to vote -- sometimes in perpetuity, even upon release -- corporations can continue to lobby and make huge contributions to political campaigns even after being essentially convicted of felonies, sometimes repeatedly.

Anyway, a web search on ADM + "price fixing" resulted in a lot of hits, and this one is interesting:

A Japanese executive [Kanji Mimoto, an executive of the Tokyo-based Ajinomoto Co. food-processing empire] testified[...]that meetings were held around the world in a conspiracy by agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. and other companies to fix the price of a product that spurs growth in pigs and chickens.[...]

Mimoto said he wrote the false agenda for the 1992 Paris session that included ADM executives because it was understood that what they were doing was illegal.

What that means is that Ajinomoto was also involved in the crime, a fact I either never knew or forgot about. So this is about more than companies based in or with very large holdings in the US -- unless Ajinomoto has huge holdings in the US that I don't know about, and that wouldn't amaze me.

Read the rest here.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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ADM is also known for price-fixing, and one problem I have with US law is that while felons often lose the right to vote -- sometimes in perpetuity, even upon release -- corporations can continue to lobby and make huge contributions to political campaigns even after being essentially convicted of felonies, sometimes repeatedly.

Interesting point you make here.

Since our legal system (and those of most other countries) observes the legal fiction that a corporation is a "person," and is thereby endowed with the same array of rights actual persons have (hmmm--I wonder how a corporation exercises its Second Amendment rights? Through hiring rent-a-cops?), why don't we strip convicted corporations of some rights the way we do convicted individuals?

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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RJR Nabisco is no more--the tobacco company sold the cookie-and-cracker maker because the taint of tobacco artificially depressed the food manufacturer's price. Kraft, which acquired General Foods some years ago, took Nabisco off RJR's hands
Phillip Morris

Sab/Miller beer

Altria

Kraft foods (include: Jacobs, Maxwell House, Milka, Nabisco, Oreo, Oscar Mayer, Philadelphia, Post and Tang.)

There is almost the weirdest connection here, this is one very big company, it has a huge world market share like # 2 in the world- beer -food and cigerates, boy talk about covering the angles. I would invest in that company and so did a lot of other people.

Grand Metropolitan (British parent of Pillsbury and General Mills, former Minneapolis crosstown rivals; I believe this company merged with a French firm and is now called Diageo)
the merger of Grand Metropolitan and Guinness, which formed Diageo.

Diageo

Booze and food what a combo

They also own a organic food company

Cascadian farm

Small Planet Foods, based in Sedro-Woolley, Washington, is one of the country's leading producers of organic food products. As the maker of Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen products, we are proud to bring you some of the most popular organic food on the market, from frozen fruits and entrees to fire-roasted canned tomatoes.

Small Planet Foods was established in 1997 by Gene Kahn, the original owner of Cascadian Farm. Kahn founded Cascadian Farm in 1972, with a commitment to organic farming principles that has held steady over 30 years of the company's growth. Muir Glen, the nation's first large-scale certified organic tomato processor, joined the company in 1998. In December 1999, Small Planet Foods was purchased by General Mills, affording us the opportunity to bring our products to even more people around the country.

Now Delmonte owns Heinz

steve

Edited by stovetop (log)
Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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RJR Nabisco is no more--the tobacco company sold the cookie-and-cracker maker because the taint of tobacco artificially depressed the food manufacturer's price. Kraft, which acquired General Foods some years ago, took Nabisco off RJR's hands
Phillip Morris

Sab/Miller beer

Altria

Kraft foods (include: Jacobs, Maxwell House, Milka, Nabisco, Oreo, Oscar Mayer, Philadelphia, Post and Tang.)

There is almost the weirdest connection here, this is one very big company, it has a huge world market share like # 2 in the world- beer -food and cigerates, boy talk about covering the angles. I would invest in that company and so did a lot of other people.

Minor point: Altria does not own SABMiller plc outright, but is its largest shareholder (36% interest). I do note that the company has a separate tracking stock for Kraft--I guess that allows "socially conscious" funds that avoid investing in tobacco to purchase shares in the food operations only.

(Proof we've come a long way since apartheid: SAB = South African Breweries. The company is headquartered in London, though. Didn't know Pilsner Urquell was one of their brands.)

Grand Metropolitan (British parent of Pillsbury and General Mills, former Minneapolis crosstown rivals; I believe this company merged with a French firm and is now called Diageo)
the merger of Grand Metropolitan and Guinness, which formed Diageo.

Diageo

Booze and food what a combo

Hey, why not? After all, "Guinness is good for you."

They also own a organic food company

Cascadian farm

Small Planet Foods, based in Sedro-Woolley, Washington, is one of the country's leading producers of organic food products. As the maker of Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen products, we are proud to bring you some of the most popular organic food on the market, from frozen fruits and entrees to fire-roasted canned tomatoes.

Small Planet Foods was established in 1997 by Gene Kahn, the original owner of Cascadian Farm. Kahn founded Cascadian Farm in 1972, with a commitment to organic farming principles that has held steady over 30 years of the company's growth. Muir Glen, the nation's first large-scale certified organic tomato processor, joined the company in 1998. In December 1999, Small Planet Foods was purchased by General Mills, affording us the opportunity to bring our products to even more people around the country.

steve

Muir Glen canned tomatoes are very, very good--especially the fire-roasted varieties. Does the fact that they are produced by a global food conglomerate mean I shouldn't buy them any more?

(Again, viz. Ben & Jerry's -> Unilever.)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Muir Glen canned tomatoes are very, very good--especially the fire-roasted varieties. Does the fact that they are produced by a global food conglomerate mean I shouldn't buy them any more?
Very good Question??

I do not know?

would I still buy, you bet.

It is weard though.

I think the organic industry is being bought up

by the big boys

So will organic mean any thing any more???

Dont know

how will the public react??

steve

Minor point: Altria does not own SABMiller plc outright, but is its largest shareholder (36% interest).
It is the money holders that I keep seeing around, dupont shows up a lot, look at the board of directors of these big companies, you see who sits on the board, and how much bones they have in each other, when does one end and on e begin, I am amazed how little degrees of seperation there really are. Edited by stovetop (log)
Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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I think the organic industry is being bought up

by the big boys

So will organic mean any thing any more???

I think the fact that large companies are taking interest in organic products is, as Martha Stewart would say, "a good thing." It shows that there is enough market potential for these products for a big player to get involved.

Since there are now national organic standards (albeit not as stringent I would like), I think organic will continue to mean something.

I believe that a national grassroots effort in favor of national organic standards played a large part in the legislation being passed. I'm sure ADM and ConAgra weren't lobbying for them, although some large food corporations probably lobbied for weaker standards once they saw that they were going to be implemented. Overall, it's a good example of what people can do when they come together for a common cause. The internet has helped in that regard--much easier for common folk to get the word out.

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Thanks so much for making very important points slbunge and Darcie B.

You both have good understanding of the forces at play ...there is more under the surface as well but it boils down to "voting with what you buy"....global economics are going to kill off agriculture in North America as we know it....it simply costs too much for labor when the same crops can be grown in third world countries that are

desperate for any kind of stable economy...the whole mentality of getting cheap food whenever we want , whatever the season, from where-ever is becoming the norm... medium to large producers sell to the corporations and retire...corporations might sell the farmland which is worth a hundred times what the same acreage is in another country...it all comes down to economics and on a global scale just to make it more abstact...(I am like Darcie B.....1/1000 knowledge in the big picture).....

There is hope with small producers growing "alternative" products (the list of alternative is getting larger every year as the world list of core crops shrinks)..and demand for these products will be the factor that will save the traditional small farm IMO........the provenance and pedigree of produce becomes the basis on what is purchased....not just how cheap it is....

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I must say, this has been a great discussion all around. Darcie I think you summed up my feelings better than I could do so myself. And as for the PR department WHT I believe you could move to GReensboro and work with Syngenta there. Opportunities...endless! :)

In some ways this arena of food politics has weighed on me for most of my adult life, having a father in his 30th year at Syngenta Crop Protection, having added a minor in Environmental Studies to my Bachelor of Commerce, having worked for two years at Nestlé Canada and ultimately leaving the private side and working in the NGO sector in the realm of International Development here after an eye-opening year in India. All of these different perspectives and I find my perspective either better informed or more easily diluted, depending on the day.

A few people have commented on the romanticism in play when we talk about the Organics movement, or buying locally from a good ol' boy, the farmer. Here in Canada this sort of thing has been perpetuated by ads ranging from Foodland Ontario to Natrel...as recently as last night in a commercial I found out that Natrel (filtered milk) has the "taste of summer in every glass"?!

Should these romantic notions be played down or exploited by small-scale producers? Is it just one more tool in the toolbox or is it deceptive? Is it the ONLY thing that will motivate consumers to change their consumptive patterns?

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I am open minded to how safe GM foods are, if they Monsanto are so confident that there will be no long term effects on us, the they should not have a problem to disclose all foods that contain GMO's, this mostly is what my thesis is all about.

" I believe that all GMO"S should be disclosed to the public, all foods containing GMO's should be listed and told if there is any animal genes or any other gene not normally occurring in nature"

I see I missed this part of the thread.

I'm something of a PR heretic when it comes to controversial subjects, and as such, I doubt I'd ever get a job offer from Monsanto if I applied to them.

My approach to dealing with bad or potentially bad news is: Confront it directly, be as open about it as you can, and don't try to deny it or wish it away. I understand that Monsanto is worried that consumers would reject foods made with their genetically engineered plants if they knew that those foods contained them, but the company's behavior does nothing to reassure consumers that they are not harmful--instead, it reinforces everyone's worst fears.

A simple label reading "made with genetically engineered ingredients" ought to be sufficient disclosure (I believe this is what many European countries require), and the buyer can decide for himself.

Note that I use the term "genetically engineered" here. Although "genetically modified organism" (GMO) has become the common term for these plants, as has been noted here, genetic modification by natural means has been practiced for centuries; almost all of our foodstuffs have been "genetically modified" in some way to produce certain desired traits. What is new about these "GMOs" is that the genes in question do not occur in nature but are manufactured in labs by humans. This is properly called "engineering."

The scientist have not proved anything, they do not have any data showing 20 years of research in an open lab showing how GMO's interact in nature, until that time I will always be reluctant to believe everything that is written by a huge corporation supporting only one side of science.

steve

You probably do well to be skeptical here. Especially if the huge corporation is all defensive and tries to suppress rather than share information.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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"I would like to make something more clear to you as well, I am not a leftist but right wing, actualy more center but on the right side but not neceraly god, I mean I do not want to be on the bad side of god either, you never know when we die that we might need to be on the right side of god, but not to right of god, i mean center or is that centre"

:biggrin:  :blink:  :raz:

:laugh::laugh: Whatever. :wacko:

Though this brings to mind a quote I've heard attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

"What should matter is not that God is on our side, but that we are on God's side."

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Con Agra foods
ConAgra Foods Inc. (NYSE: CAG) is one of North America's largest packaged food companies, serving consumer grocery retailers, as well as restaurants and other foodservice establishments. Popular ConAgra Foods consumer brands include: ACT II, Armour, Banquet, Blue Bonnet, Brown 'N Serve, Butterball, Chef Boyardee, Cook's, Crunch 'n Munch, DAVID, Decker, Eckrich, Egg Beaters, Fleischmann's, Golden Cuisine, Gulden's, Healthy Choice, Hebrew National, Hunt's, Kid Cuisine, Knott's Berry Farm, La Choy, Lamb Weston, Libby's, Life Choice, Lightlife, Lunch Makers, MaMa Rosa's, Manwich, Marie Callender's, Orville Redenbacher's, PAM, Parkay, Pemmican, Peter Pan, Reddi-wip, Rosarita, Ro*Tel, Slim Jim, Snack Pack, Swiss Miss, Van Camp's, Wesson, Wolf, and many others. For more information, please visit us at www.conagrafoods.com.

Parmalat

Our tradition of quality began in Parma, Italy in 1961. Calisto Tanzi founded Parmalat with the hope of building a solid local business to support his family. But in time, Parmalat has become much more than that. With a continued commitment to quality and innovation, Parmalat has become an international company with increasing sales year after year. Parmalat is the world's leading producer of UHT shelf stable milk.

Today, Parmalat is one of the largest food companies in Canada. In fact, millions of Canadians enjoy our products every day. Trusted brands like Beatrice, Lactantia, Astro, and Black Diamond are all part of the Parmalat family. Not to mention Balderson, Cheestrings, Sargento, Olivina, Parkay and Colonial too. Which means Canadians can enjoy everything from our milk and dairy products, to fruit juices, cultured products, cheese products, table spreads and cookies. All with the highest standards of quality demanded for your family.

(much corporate info snipped. Note that the Parmalat info above comes from the company's Canadian web site. This fact is relevant to the point I will make below.)

Each of these quotes comes from the corporate web sites; each is a description of the corporation by the corporation.  Each has a link to where the quotes are from, each corporate web site..

The purpose of this is to show the corporation we are talking about and how few food corporations there realy are. A few control the many.

steve

It's even more complicated than that.

Note above that the same brand of margarine--Parkay--is sold by ConAgra in the United States and Parmalat in Canada.

Similarly, Sargento Foods, Inc. is a privately held, family-owned cheesemaker based in Plymouth, Wis. If the above text from Parmalat is any guide, either they have a marketing and distribution arrangement with Parmalat in Canada or there's something the Gentile family is not disclosing on the Sargento web site.

Licensing, marketing and distribution arrangements of this type are common in the food industry.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

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Basically, in the American system, you get what you pay for.  Most people having been paying for an unsustainable, fossil fuel intensive, corporation dominated, homogenized, junk food system.  That's where the dollars are going, so that's what we get the most of.

To change this system, it's important to vote with your dollars.  Here in Oklahoma, to facilitate this, we organized the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.  We are an association of producers of food and customers of farmers, all of us united by our interest in producing or buying local Oklahoma foods.  It has been more than 2 years since I have spent one penny in a supermarket for "confined animal feeding operation" meats.  We get all of our household meats through the cooperative. 

[...]

I saw the thread about eating sustainable/locally produced food on a food stamp budget. That's an interesting project you undertook. Have any actual food stamp recipients taken you up on the challenge yet?

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

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I must say, this has been a great discussion all around.  Darcie I think you summed up my feelings better than I could do so myself. And as for the PR department WHT I believe you could move to GReensboro and work with Syngenta there. Opportunities...endless! :)

Did you get WHT's avatar and mine confused? They are similar, but there's one BIG difference between them...

I believe I was the one that posted about Monsanto's PR department upthread.

Seriously, though: At least for now, I'm really not looking to leave Philadelphia.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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