Sunday, January 10, 2016

Musings: Winning! Losing!

As the food industry and anti-GMO groups continue to wage war over labeling, Campbell Soups has copped a brilliant marketing move, introducing a label that discloses genetically modified ingredients in a favorable way.
At its What's in my food website, Campbell calls for a national approach to mandatory GMO labeling, while reasserting its confidence in biotechnology:

We continue to recognize that GMOs are safe, as the science indicates that foods derived from crops grown using genetically modified seeds are not nutritionally different from other foods. We also believe this technology will play a crucial role in feeding the world.

And then it deftly directs those who want to avoid GMO ingredients to its organic product line. 

Kudos to Campbell's for not caving in to the irrational calls to abandon GMO ingredients, and for educating consumers about food. Besides, Campbell's is realistic enough to know that it's impossible to source sufficient non-GMO and organic commodities to meet its needs. Three-quarters of the company’s products contain ingredients derived from corn, canola, soybeans or sugar beets, the four largest genetically engineered crops.

I think we're going to find that people will keep buying what they like to eat, and what they can afford, even if the label reveals the presence of GMOs. And thus the attempt by anti-GMO activists to kill GM crops via the stigma of labeling will fail. Big time.

Meanwhile, it's especially amusing to see anti-GMO activists laud Campbell, which means they're effectively endorsing a product that advertises that GM crops are safe and advantageous for farmers:
Winning! Losing! Somehow it all plays the same.

I found this recent piece in The Conversation interesting, as it touches on the roots of the anti-GMO drive:

You can trace the anti-GM movement to two things. First, increasing disillusion, especially in Europe, with the progress of left-wing ideologies in the former Soviet Union and its allies. And second, a growing awareness of environmental problems in the years following the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s landmark attack on synthetic pesticides, Silent Spring. These created a breeding ground in which movements like anti-GM could flourish: as the socialist cause faded, environmentalism began to take its place.

At the time, some environmental pressure groups were in need of a new vehicle through which to channel protest. Accordingly, these organisations adopted a vigorous and at times violent opposition to all things GM, including imports and, above all, their cultivation on European soil. They frightened enough people to create a public outcry.

Helping this along were scores of green politicians who saw political advantage in adopting postures which could frighten the population with threats to their food.

Gee. Sound familiar? We're seeing the exact same thing play out in Hawaii, albeit 20 years behind the times, per usual.

Meanwhile, in keeping with my own thinking as a leftist bewildered by the “progressive” opposition to agricultural biotechnology, Australian comedian JR Hennessy weighs in:

Every now and then you’ll come across a really thoughtless issue that conflates itself with proper, material progressive politics, wheedles its way into the discourse and won’t go away. For the green movement, one of the issues that keeps rattling around is genetically modified food, which has absorbed so much energy and airtime that you have to wonder what exactly the point of it is. It’s like a reasonably legitimised version of anti-vaccine paranoia, the latter of which we have largely banished to web forums with offensive colour schemes.

A fact remains: if, like so many in the Greens base, you believe that the future of human development is a progressive world where food security and sustainability are assured and the distribution of resources is somewhat equitable, you’re gonna have to pick between boosting crops with genetically modified foods, or some kind of reduction in population. And if we’re honest here, the latter is rarely achieved through pleasant or progressive means. And it’s normally not developed nations who are forced to enact population reductions.

So embrace it, mates. Vaccinate your kids and feed them nutrient-rich GMO food. They should be strong and healthy for the revolution.
From an anti-vaxxer website. Yes, people are this dumb.
I was thinking, too, that with the demise of HC&S on Maui, state lawmakers will be loathe this session to pass any bills that could further harm Hawaii ag. Which means the Center for Food Safety and Babes Against Biotech lobbyists will find it much harder to hawk their messages of fear. 

Besides, they're all gonna be heralding hemp, the new miracle crop. Hawaii activists who previously reviled "industrial ag" are now lining up behind industrial hemp. As Modern Farmer reported:

The one big benefit of hemp? Its environmental footprint is relatively small. It requires few pesticides and no herbicides. It’s an excellent rotation crop, often used to suppress weeds and loosen soil before the planting of winter cereals. On the other hand, it requires a relatively large amount of water, and its need for deep, humus-rich, nutrient-dense soil limits growing locales.

And hemp cultivation is highly labor intensive. Loflin, the Colorado farmer, took to social media to recruit 45 people to help him harvest his crop by hand over a weekend. “Use of a mechanical combine,” the Denver Post reported, “would have harmed the plants’ stalks.” That’s one reason prices are so high — about six times the cost of wood pulp.

Consider, for a moment, that the world's leading hemp exporters are China, Romania, Hungary and India — all of which have much, much lower labor and business costs than Hawaii.

Modern Farmer continues:

Production of hemp varies considerably year to year, but in general, it had been steadily but slowly rising. In 1999, 250 million pounds were produced, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization; in 2011, it was 280 million. That’s pounds, not tons.

Compare that to the 200,000 tons of cane sugar that HC&S produced each year.

Returning to Modern Farmer:

The FAO says the increase is mainly due to rising demand for food, supplements and body-care products made with hemp. Sales of such products are at the mercy of consumer whims. It would be better news for hemp if industrial uses comprised the main driver of demand. Once hemp becomes more commonplace, consumers might prefer to just go back to Aveeno lotions and Dreyer’s ice cream.

None of which is to say that the outlook for hemp is not bright. It certainly seems to be, as long as we keep things in their proper perspective.


Anonymous said...

Hemp for Victory!

Anonymous said...

Welcome The Age Of Labeling

Anonymous said...

I wonder if we will have to sift the seeds and stems from the "bricks" of weed.
Weed will be legalized in the next few years. That is why all of the bigwigs, shadowed politicians, former Attorney Generals etc are all piling on trying to get their piece of the "medical pharmacy" weed stores.
A real bonanza of wealth and power manipulating the machine to get a piece of these pharmacies.
Whoever gets the weed pharmacies will get the legal weed distribution.
As long as the State makes ALL OF THE partners in every pharmacy application public, it should be OK. If the applicants can hide their names behind Corporate veils, we will never know. But guaranz-ball-bearanz as we speak, the money men and political elites are conspiring. Lots of huis and straw men..trying to sell the 8oz per month to the pertneer 2000 medical card carrying Kauai dopers. And of course there will be the "weed docs" prescribing to tourists.
This will be a real Rube Goldberg mechanization as the wheeler-dealers try to keep their identities hidden in the pursuit of the 100s of millions of dollahs waiting to be captured when weed is legal. Just on Kauai it is anticipated that at least 50,000 pounds of weed will be sold to the Tourists each year.
Don't Bogart that joint, my friend, pass it over to me.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully others will follow Campbell's lead and put GMO ingredients on the label. And maybe this will start to change the current industry paradigm of saying consumers are too stupid to understand labels so they won't label.

Anonymous said...

Actually the medical marijuana dispensary law forbids selling to tourists - it only allows sales to Hawaii residents.
The applications are public record. They list the names of the owners.

Anonymous said...

4:53 PM. You would have to be stupid or ignorant if you do not already know that the products Campbell lists are manufactured from GMO ingredients. But you can't generate more hysteria without being able to point to a label to gin up a little more anxiety, can you? Those of us who do know can be rightly pissed off at the additional cost for things we eat pushed on us by this inane, useless bullshit. Hopefully, you dingbats will troop over to Warren Ruderman's organics emporia and to Whole Foods (who can use a boost) and plunk down serious cash for for the vittles of your choice and leave the majority of us in peace. Try haunting Safeway's organic section; they're slavering to relieve you of some serious change.

Anonymous said...


Can't you already see it in hawaiian airlines, KIUC, Time Warner, etc etc etc...

Anonymous said...

If consumers think they need labels, it means they are too stupid.

Anonymous said...

Nice spin, Joan. This is not a victory for GMO. It's the beginning of the end.

Anonymous said...

The 92% labeling poll number comes from people being prompted specifically about GMOs. The number nosedives to a rockbottom 7% when people were asked what should be listed on a food label. Heck, 80% of people polled want mandatory labeling of DNA when they are asked directly if DNA in their food should be labeled:

WARNING: This product contains deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). DNA is linked to a variety of diseases that affect both animals and humans. It is a risk factor for cancer and heart disease. Pregnant women are at very high risk of passing on DNA to their children.

Anonymous said...

I happen to own stock in Campbell Soup. It is a very steady company.

Anonymous said...

I don't get the hemp thing. So you get some thread, oil and animal feed. You do out of cotton also. Do you see people saying Hawaii should have cotton farms? I think the whole cheering section is a cover for marijuana. And this is not a slight on Nancy's excellent store in Kapaa that sells fine products and unique gifts.

Joan Conrow said...

An interesting perspective from Mark Lynas:

I want to make this point very clear. Once GMO products are labeled, anti-GMO lobby groups will have sacrificed their best argument. No-one is being denied the ‘right to know’. Moreover, the antis will have no defensible reason to call for GMO bans – because then they would be the ones denying consumer choice. -

Anonymous said...

If hemp farming an any real chance of being economically viable here in Hawaii, the former sugar landowners would have been lobbying hard for permission to grow it. But like most crops in Hawaii, it can be grow far cheaper in the mainland than here. The seed companies like Hawaii because they can grow several crops a year and more quickly advance their R&D of GE crops. Sorry folks, but large scale industrial hemp farms necessary to replace former sugar acreage will not happen here due to Hawaii's high cost of doing business and physical remoteness from large markets. Growing hemp will face and succumb to the same obstacles as sugar. And can you even imagine how the water resource activists would bad mouth the crop for its thirsty requirements? I think the hemp farm advocates, as someone above stated, are only in it as a step towards legalizing recreational pot. However, if pot were totally legalized, it may have a chance based on Hawaii's established reputation for "Maui Wowie" (etc.) But like Kona coffee, it would be pricey and have real competitive challenges as most dopers only care about the high and not where it's grown.

Anonymous said...

Disregarding the illegality for the hemp the panacea?

Hawaii Department of Agriculture Chair Scott "Enright said hemp would also face the same built-in challenges that killed off sugar and to a large extent pineapple as big commodity crops: They can be grown more cheaply elsewhere."

The article also mentions Representative Thielen's dream of many types of local processing, manufacturing and retail businesses that entrepreneurs might create for hemp in Hawaii....HA! Good luck with getting through the maze of siting, permitting restrictions, delays, NIMBYism, public "participation," and other roadblocks for any sort of manufacturing/processing facility in Hawaii!

And can you imagine the activists' heyday with that? It would have to be pollution-free. No boiler, no energy consumption, no emissions, no discharge, no increase in hauler truck traffic of tons of biomass to the processing plant, no water use, no smell, no sound, no visual blight, etc.

Oh, and doesn't anyone recall that not that many years ago, HC&S spent millions producing a building material from bagassse (byproduct of the sugarcane crop they already grew legally and successfully)? And it was a complete failure.

Surely the hundreds of HC&S laid-off workers will be right back at work in no time!

Anonymous said...

Given the choice, consumers will choose non-gmo over gmo foods. Agree this is a victory for the anti gmo forces. I don't agree with the underlying values and don't agree with the anti gmo big fistees, but agree that Cambel Soup labeling their products is a victory for the anti's and consumers will choose not to purchase those that contain gmo ingrediants when given the choice.

Anonymous said...

Consumers will choose what they can afford. The elitist ant-GMO groups think a GMO label will stop buyers. But when they see the price of nonGMO they will buy the GMO

Anonymous said...

Before Labels did you know about all the toxins and chemicals in cigarettes?

Did you know?

You're probably too smart to know.

Anonymous said...

Read more about the prohibition of HEMP.

I believe marijuana, other drugs and gambling and other things should be legalized, regulated and taxed.

Hawaii spends over 1 Billion dollars in Las Vegas each and every year.

Imagine if a quarter to half of that money stayed in the state and was taxed.

That 250-500 million dollars taxed at 4.5% would help the state of Hawaii and its counties.

The politicians and their Las Vegas lobbyists are stopping this from happening because of the underground untaxed gambling rings and also the 9th Island would be losing all that dough.

Anonymous said...

The only way HEMP will be grown in hawaii is if the elitsts can profit from it like the medical marijuana dispensaries that they have a monopoly over.

Anonymous said...

Comparing GE foods to cigarettes, cute, but stupid. Actually the dangers of cigarettes were well known and publicized well before labels were required. Now, what are the dangers from GE foods? Be scientific, consistent, and literate, please.

Anonymous said...

Who are the elitists that can profit from the medical marijuana dispensaries? And by golly, you should try to improve your status and stop grumbling about the elitists---go get an education so you can make big bucks---or get a job that pay big bucks--like a policeman, fireman, even some truck drivers make more than school teachers! Let's not complain, let's get going and get better so we can live better!!!

Anonymous said...

Boo hoo hoo

Stop calling out elite criminals in Kauai and the state of Hawaii.

They have feelings and you are hurting them.

Well they and you should think about the people they burnt to do their dirt.

Most policemen, firemen, water safety guys, state and county workers and best laying jobs in Kauai or the state are family or friends of the elite and that's how they got the job.

They screwed over people who were better qualified then you ungrateful bastard(s) "who you know and what you know" welfare recipients.

Anonymous said...

I'm getting mines and if you work and pay your taxes then your paying for it.

Thank You Thank You Very Much Uh huh

Anonymous said...

Of course everyone knew about the ill effects of cigarettes. The term "coffin nails" goes back to the 1890s. Don't be dense.

Anonymous said...

LOL, sure! I'm fine with a label like Campbell's. "May be derived from" a modern genetically modified plant, thus differentiated from the less accurate, more random poisoning and irradiating of plants in hopes of an improved product that is subject to far less safety testing that modern genetically enhanced plants. About 90% of food consumed here will be labelled as "may be derived" from modern ag science. Ooooh, scary!

Meanwhile, those who insist on Victorian science values can continue to pay for the privilege by purchasing higher priced food labeled "verified non-gmo". Label issue fixed!

Neither label will tell you a damn thing about health issues. Remember the organic fruit at Costco that caused hepatitis A? Are you watching anti-gmo, "food with integrity" Chipotle close one restaurant after another due to e coli?

Label food for chemicals? Food is chemicals! And btw, organic farms use plenty of additional chemicals on their 100% chemical food crops.

The end of GMO? In your fact-free dreams. People living in the fact based world are not running away from our best options for improved crops and health care advances, and neither will you be when faced with hunger or needing medication available because of modern genetic science.

Poha said...

great discussion, here; thanks! re: hemp. Sinsemilla hi-thc pot (usually GMO) cannot happen with hemp nearby (male pollen in the air stops resin production). So, I do not think hemp will be grown here!