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How Should We Judge This New Initiative?

Since the announcement of the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance (SFPA) last week, there has been a great deal of skepticism from the organic community.

Created by four major food companies — Danone North America; Mars, Incorporated; Nestlé USA; and Unilever United States — the SFPA aims to focus on five key areas: consumer transparency, environment, food safety, nutrition, and people and communities.

The main criticism was how could a group who has no official position against GMOs, and whose members are very reliant on GMOs and pesticides for their products, be a “sustainable” alliance?

GMO products are not only causing the proliferation of GMO contamination of organic and conventional farms, but the super-toxic chemicals sprayed on these farms — glyphosate, dicamba, 2,4-D, atrazine, chlorpyrifos — are contaminating the soil, the water supply and nearby crops, and sickening farmworkers and local residents. Without question, this is all resulting in catastrophic harm.

Organic Insider addressed the GMO issue directly with Chris Adamo, Vice President of Regulatory and Industry Affairs with Danone North America, one of the founding companies of SFPA. (He was not speaking on behalf of the SFPA or for the other three founding members, simply on behalf of Danone North America. SFPA is not managed as a formal trade organization, and none of the other three founding members responded to Organic Insider’s request for an interview.)

While Chris Adamo had no direct explanation or defense for the use of GMOs, he said, “We have launched a broad program and treat the system as a whole. There are a lot of pieces or activities that we are doing or working with our farmers on, such as tillage, cover crops, nutrient management, buffer zones, integrated weed management, and crop rotation. We are not focused on one but all of them.”

Danone North America, a member of the Organic Trade Association, the largest B-Corp in the world, and a company who has several organic brands in its portfolio, including Horizon, Earthbound Farms, Vega One Organic and Wallaby, announced a soil health initiative as part of The Danone Pledge, joined The Carbon Underground, and committed to explore Regenerative Organic Certification with some of its products.

Danone told Organic Insider that all four founding members in the SFPA conducted high-level briefings with the USDA, FDA and four agricultural committees in Congress (minority and majority in both houses) on sustainability and conservation. Additionally, all four members signed letters to the Senate Agriculture Committee reaffirming these concerns.

Chris Adamo, who had previously worked for Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) as a legislative counsel and then as a senior staffer for the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said, “I never got lobbied by a food company for sustainability or conservation. No one had ever done that. It was not a typical advocacy effort.”

While the four companies of the SFPA are continuing to make investments in organic brands, particularly Danone, and are embracing more environmentally-friendly initiatives, the underlying business model of these companies was built on industrial food, factory farms and GMOs.

And even if they wanted to switch to all-organic ingredients tomorrow, the supply chain is just not there. As such, the transition to organic, Non-GMO and sustainable practices is going to be a more gradual one.

All that being said, these companies must move off of the GMO treadmill entirely because there is nothing sustainable about genetically-engineered seeds, glyphosate, dicamba, 2,4-D and the litany of other toxic chemicals that are being sprayed on much of our food supply.

Given the reality that all four members of the SFPA will not be abandoning this GMO treadmill any time soon, the question then becomes whether the group can add value to society, from an environmental perspective, in the interim.

Can the lobbying efforts of these powerful companies result in Congress prioritizing or maintaining funding for conservation initiatives?

Can the lobbying efforts of these powerful companies result in politicians placing a greater emphasis on sustainability and environmental issues?

Can the SFPA encourage other major food companies to lobby Congress on sustainability and environmental issues?

Can the SFPA motivate its existing or potential new members to do even more for soil and water health?

And, most importantly, can the SFPA be the spark that gets these companies to move towards chemical-free agriculture?

For some people, it is an all or nothing proposition. For others, any step in the right direction is a positive one.

Time will tell just how effective and meaningful this alliance will be.

Have a great day!

Max Goldberg, Founder

This Week's News Items

Weekly News Summaries

First Course
The Produce News

How Organic Consumer Behavior Will Change

By Tim Linden

At the Organic Produce Summit, it was predicted that shoppers will soon be asking about glyphosate testing and the health of the soil when making purchasing decisions.

The New Food Economy

Your “Product of USA” Organic Beef May Not be from the U.S.

By Joe Fassler

How a regulatory loophole is misleading consumers and putting many American grass-fed ranchers out of business.

Supermarket News

Albertsons Features Organic in its New Virtual Store on Instacart

By Russell Redman

To make it easier for online shoppers to find organic and natural items, Albertsons has launched O Organics Market on Instacart.

Greenville News

South Carolina Farmers launch Good Faith Grown Label

By Lillia Callum-Penso

Farmers in South Carolina have launched a self-regulating certification when they are close but just can't reach organic.

Second Course
A Fresh Look

Thrive Market Lands a $30M Investment from Korean Retail Chain

By Song Seung-hyun

GS Retail, the operator of Korea-based convenience store chain GS25, has invested $30M in Thrive Market and will also start selling its products in the country.

AgFunder News

Former Whole Foods Co-CEO Walter Robb Joins S2G Ventures

By Emma Cosgrove

Walter Robb, the former Co-CEO of Whole Foods, has joined Chicago-based S2G Ventures as an Executive-in-Residence, helping to identify new investments and mentoring portfolio entrepreneurs.


GrubMarket Lands $32M to Expand to the East Coast

By Ingrid Lunden

GrubMarket, which sources organic food directly from farms and then delivers it to consumers and businesses at a big discount versus its competition, just closed on a $32M round led by GGV.

Third Course
Food Navigator

9 Key Factors in Grocery E-Commerce

By Elaine Watson

Fascinating read! At the Digital Food & Beverage Conference in Chicago, there was plenty of discussion around the ever-changing nature of grocery e-commerce.

Supermarket News

Kroger Unveils an App to Assist in Making Healthier Food Choices

By Russell Redman

As a part of Kroger's recently launched Wellness Your Way platform, its new OptUp app helps shoppers make healthier food choices in the supermarket.

Food Dive

Organic Baby Food Maker launches an Alexa App

By Robert Williams

Sprout Foods, which makes organic baby food, has created an app for Amazon's Alexa, which guides parents on how to encourage their kids to eat healthier and plays songs for kids about fruits, vegetables and plant-based proteins.

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This Week's Quick Hits

Quick Hits

* Important: Congress is considering allowing a measure that would forbid any funds to be used to enforce existing restrictions on the planting of GMOs in wildlife refuges. This would put wildlife refuges and their birds at risk from GMO and pesticide contamination.

* Click HERE to sign the Center for Food Safety’s e-petition in protest of this amendment.

* There’s a very serious situation in the U.S. where tens of thousands of people will lose access to food at farmers markets because of a software vendor issue. The USDA is aware of this problem, and politicians have expressed their outrage. Here is the latest from the Farmers Market Coalition.

* Yesterday, the USDA held a webinar soliciting input about the soon-to-be-announced new rules to crack down on fraud in organic.

* The Climate Collaborative just surpassed 1,000 commitments from 276 companies in the natural products industry to address climate change.

* Rodale Institute’s Organic Field Day is this Friday in Pennsylvania.

* In Hong Kong, an organic food restaurant chain is now accepting cryptocurrency as payment.

* Interesting profile of the action sports organic apparel brand Picture Organic Clothing.

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