Crystal Ball Briefs: 2017 Product Trend Predictions for Natural and Organic Living

Crystal Ball Briefs: 2017 Product Trend Predictions for Natural and Organic Living

Source - Presence Marketing January 2017 Newsletter

Author - Steven Hoffman, Compass Natural Marketing

The New Year is a time for product trend predictions, and we've highlighted some of the 2017 trend pieces in natural and organic living that caught our eye, plus a few prognostications of our own. 

Whole Foods Market Predicts Top 2017 Product Trends

Whole Foods Market may have gone through some changes in 2016, but they remain a global leader and major market force in natural and organic products. So when the natural and organic grocer released in December its predictions for 2017's hottest food trends, compiled by experts who track consumer behavior at more than 400 of the chain's stores, it's worth taking notice. Among the retail giant's predictions: Wellness tonics, such as apple cider vinegar-based beverages and turmeric elixirs; coconut everything; creative condiments; alternative pastas made from quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, etc.; all foods purple, including purple asparagus, purple corn, acaí, elderberries and more; "Flexitarian" diets; "on-the-go" beauty care products; reducing food waste (manufacturers will use by-products to create other new products); oven-ready meal kits; and "mindful meal prep" using a mix of "make some/buy some" ingredients. 

InstaCart Predicts Explosive Growth for Non-Dairy, Gluten Free Foods

"2017 will usher in more delicious ways to ditch dairy," says InstaCart, which partners with retailers including Whole Foods Market, Costco, Publix and Andronico's to deliver groceries to customers. Reporting which products and brands saw the highest jump in searches in the past year, InstaCart noted a 222% increase in searches for non-dairy products such as yogurt, milk, coffee creamer and frozen desserts with a coconut, soy or almond base. Gluten free remains a top search term, as consumers continue to search for anything gluten free; and the paleo diet is becoming increasingly popular, reports InstaCart. 

Kids' Palates Are Expanding

Kids' palates are expanding beyond just cereal and candy, their interest in cooking is growing, and food companies are taking notice, says Innova Market Insights in its Top Ten Food Trends for 2017. Other predictions:  Transparency and cleaner formulations as consumers increasingly demand truth in labeling; personalized nutrition; plant-based dairy and meat alternatives, or what Innova calls "Disruptive Green." 

Sugary Shifts

With sugary drink taxes and "added sugar" labeling requirements under FDA's new labeling guidelines, manufacturers will make further strides in sweetener reduction, reports Todd Runestad of New Hope Network's Engredea in his 2017 trends piece. Additionally, "low sugar," "no added sugar" and "sugar free" label claims will rise. Among Todd's other predictions: probiotics and digestive health, with dietary supplement manufacturers marketing high potency probiotic strains, and bitters (herbal digestive aids) in the "what's old is new again" category; adaptogens for stress (e.g., ashwagandha, rhodiola, schisandra, ginseng, maca); vision supplements ("Our screens are making us blind," says Runestad); and "carbon-friendly" foods.

Insect Protein; "Responsible Fats"

New Hope Network's Senior Food Editor Jenna Blumenfeld in December outlined some promising predictions for food and beverage in 2017. For starters, the edible insect industry now has its own trade association, as does the newly formed Plant Based Foods Association. Among other trends:  Biodynamic and Regenerative Agriculture; herbal infusions; reducing food waste; drinkable soup; and "responsible fats," seen from a social, environmental and health perspective, such as coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, grass-fed butter and ghee. For example, a new group, Palm Done Right, promotes sustainable, organic production of palm oil and is seeking to change the story and destructive impact of industrial palm oil production.

Hemp and CBD Extracts - A Future in Natural Foods

As the world awakens to the benefits of consumer products made with phytocannabinoid hemp extracts rich in cannabidiol or CBD, traditional independent natural products retailers are seeing the most success as sellers of these products, with sales of CBD products up more than 1,700% in the past year, primarily from the natural channel, reports Hemp Business Journal in an article written by Steven Hoffman of Compass Natural. Manufacturers committed to quality, efficacy, sophisticated marketing, and strict compliance under the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act (DSHEA) stand to benefit from this emerging botanical category, too. Most are taking a wait and see approach as Big Pharma and the Feds challenge the consumer market for CBD products. However, the law does not prohibit the sale of consumer products made with CBD from hemp, says the , and while caution is urged, the natural living market stands to be among the first to benefit from growing interest in CBD products as prohibition of hemp and cannabis ends in the U.S. 

Organic Under Trump - How Concerned Should We Be?

"The truth is that we have absolutely no idea what to expect" under Trump, writes Max Goldberg in Living Maxwell. Goldberg is also publisher of the new subscriber-based Organic Insider (https://insider.organic). "It could be favorable, especially if Ivanka gets personally involved, or it could be a complete disaster," he says, noting in his Organic Insider 2017 trends newsletter that Ivanka Trump eats healthy, organic food, and she has expressed concern for climate change (Ivanka also was instrumental in inviting Al Gore to meet with President-elect Trump). But, adds Goldberg, whatever Trump does, "it will not be worse than President Obama. While many assume Obama has been a friend to organic," Goldberg points out that Obama signed the GMO-labeling "DARK Act" into law and his administration has approved "every single genetically modified crop that has been applied for" under his administration.

GMO Labeling Transparency

On July 29, 2016, President Obama signed the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard into law. This federal law requires the labeling of foods containing GMOs, forming a nationwide standard and preempting all previous and future state-level GMO labeling laws. The law offers manufacturers the option to label for GMOs with a QR code, scannable by a Smart Phone app that then guides the consumer to a company website with GMO disclosure information, or a toll free number a consumer can call. Plain English disclosure on the product label now becomes a voluntary option. As a result of the new law, dubbed the DARK Act by GMO labeling advocates because of its lack of outright consumer transparency, USDA has taken over administration of GMO labeling from FDA, and it has two years to create a national mandatory disclosure standard. But questions remain. "For instance, even though the law directly states genetically engineered ingredients that are commercially grown—such as canola, corn, soy and sugar beets—are required to be labeled, it has yet to state whether food made from these products (i.e., canola oil and high-fructose corn syrup) will be required as well," writes nutrition industry executive George Pontiakos in Natural Products Insider in December 2016. Will new GMO technologies such as CRISPR and gene editing be included under the new disclosure standards? In related news, Whole Foods Market has revised its GMO transparency policy requiring product manufacturers to disclose GMO ingredients by September 2018. See A.C. Gallo's October 2016 progress update here.

Americans Don't Trust Scientists About Food

A lot of Americans don't care what scientists think about GMOs and food, and a deep cynicism about the motives of scientists in the GMO/non-GMO debate is growing, reported the Pew Research Center in December 2016 in a 99-page report on consumers' attitudes toward GMOs, organic food and the importance of eating healthfully. While many mainstream media reports indicate that there is no evidence proving GMOs are unsafe, Pew's survey discovered that 39% of Americans believe that genetically modified foods are worse for your health that non-GMO food. Roughly equal shares of Republicans and Democrats (39% vs. 40%) feel that GMOs are worse for people's health. More Democrats than Republicans (60% vs. 50%) believe that organic foods are healthier, a significant, but not a huge difference, reports NPR. The survey also didn't find any major differences between men and women, or between rich and poor, when it came to views about GMOs or about the healthy qualities of organic food. The wealthy, however, were more likely actually to buy organic food regularly. One overwhelming consensus point: 72% of Americans believe that healthy eating habits are very important in improving one's chances of a long and healthy life. According to the survey, Americans feel that scientific research findings are influenced in equal measure by the following factors: the best available scientific evidence; desire to help their industries; and desire to advance their careers. In the view of the public, all of those factors are more important to scientists than concern for the public interest, the Pew Research Center reported.

Climate Change and Organic: The Solution is Under Our Feet

As a handful of leading companies, producers and organizations embrace the concept that soil carbon sequestration can reverse climate change, look toward "Organic 3.0." Coined by IFOAM Organics International, Organic 3.0 builds on the concept of Regenerative Agriculture, promoted by Rodale Institute and others, in which we can draw carbon out of the atmosphere – where it is causing global warming – and put it back into healthy organic soils, grasslands, forests, urban landscapes and elsewhere. We knew organic was great for reducing environmental and dietary exposure to toxic pesticides, but now we also know that by building healthy organic soil, we can literally feed the world...and cool the planet! Biodynamic agriculture, too, promotes very similar concepts and is a rising star among consumers and natural products retailers. Learn more at www.RegenerationInternational.org and http://www.RodaleInstitute.org, www.TheCarbonUnderground.org and at Delicious Living.

Organic Rules: Animal Welfare, Hydroponics, Animal Welfare in the Spotlight

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) at its November meeting voted to ban the ubiquitous and controversial ingredient carrageenan from organic foods. While the industry is fighting back, we will see reformulations of many products, based on this new proposed rule. Additionally, NOSB voted to ban new GMO technologies from being approved under Certified Organic, including gene editing, CRISPR-Cas9, mutagenesis, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and others. Postponed until the Spring 2017 meeting is the consideration of hydroponics, currently allowed in Certified Organic production in the U.S. Expect the debate about the role of soil and hydroponics in organic vegetable production to continue well into 2017. Additionally, proposed animal welfare rules in Certified Organic, primarily for providing additional space for humane poultry and livestock production, while passed by NOSB in April 2016, may not be finalized before President Obama leaves office, "leaving open the possibility that they may never go into effect," reports Luke Runyon of Harvest Public Media in December. The Organic Trade Association says the updates to animal welfare regulations are necessary to keep the organic label from being watered down. These rules, says OTA, should prevent producers from looking to the organic seal as a way to charge a premium for meat and animal products without making changes to their conventional farming practices, reports Runyon. 

Investing To Grow in Natural, Organic and Healthy Lifestyles

With the launch of a number of private equity funds dedicated to investing in emerging natural and organic producers and brands, including BIGR Ventures, Sunrise Strategic Partners, Iroquois Valley Farms (investing in organic farmland) and others; mission-based micro-investing organizations including RSF Social Finance, Slow Money and others; plus "Kickstarter-style" crowd-funding platforms such as Barnraiser, founded by food and tech veteran Eileen Gordon Chiarello and focused on investing in artisanal food producers, not to mention Whole Foods Market's Local Producer Loan Program, start-ups and emerging companies can look to a number of sources for the capital needed to grow. As the natural and organic market continues to grow at double-digit pace into 2017, expect M&A and investment activity to remain hot. Follow the financial news at Nutrition Capital Network

Seeds Go Open Source:  Around the world, plant breeders are resisting what they see as corporate control of the food supply by making seeds available for other breeders to use, reports leading environmental news source Ensia. The Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI), inspired by "the free and open source software movement," was created to ensure that some plant varieties and genes remain free from intellectual property rights and available for all plant breeders in perpetuity. As part of the initiative, U.S. breeders can take a pledge that commits the seeds they produce to remain available for others to use for breeding in the future. That doesn't mean they can't build a business with or sell them. What the pledge does is allow farmers who buy seeds from an open-source breeder to cross them with other material to breed their own varieties and save them for future seasons — two things many crop patents forbid. Dozens of breeders and seed companies have pledged since OSSI launched in 2014.

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnatural.com.

U.S. Organic Farmland Reaches Record 4.1 Million Acres, Up 11% Compared to 2014

U.S. Organic Farmland Reaches Record 4.1 Million Acres, Up 11% Compared to 2014

Source - Presence Marketing December 2016 Newsletter

What do California, Montana, Wisconsin, New York and North Dakota have in common? They are the top five states, respectively, in terms of overall organic acreage, says a new report from market research company Mercaris. California, with nearly 689,000 acres, remains by far the top organic producer, yet surprisingly, Montana saw 30% growth in organic acreage, and is now the number two producing state, with over 417,000 acres in 2016 – an increase of 100,000 acres since 2014 and adding 50 new organic farms, writes Ken Roseboro in the Organic and Non-GMO Report. Adding more than 40,000 acres, North Dakota edged out Oregon for the number five position. 

Overall, organic farmland in the U.S. reached 4.1 million acres in 2016, an 11% increase compared to 2014 data, reports Mercaris. Additionally, the number of U.S. certified organic farms were up 6.2%, totaling 14,979, an increase of 1,000 farms compared to 2014. Top organic crops include alfalfa/hay, with more than 800,000 acres in production in 2016, followed by organic wheat, corn, soybeans and oats, reported Mercaris. However, except for organic oats, which now accounts for 3.6% of total oat acreage in the U.S., organic wheat, corn and soybeans account for less than 1% of total respective crop acreage in the U.S. 

With larger companies entering the organic market, such as General Mills’ announcement to increase organic acreage from which it sources ingredients to 250,000 acres by 2019, and Dean Foods’ announcement in November that it has formed a joint venture with Organic Valley, the number of organic acres is likely to increase. “I think we will see more of an impact of those programs in the next few years as more farmers start the transition process (to organic),” said Alex Heilman, a spokesperson for Mercaris

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnatural.com

*This content was originally published in the Presence Marketing December 2016 Newsletter.

New Era in Food Safety Regulation: FDA Issues Guides for Small Businesses to Comply with FSMA Preventive Controls Deadlines

New Era in Food Safety Regulation: FDA Issues Guides for Small Businesses to Comply with FSMA Preventive Controls Deadlines

Source - Presence Marketing December 2016 Newsletter

As deadlines approach to comply with final food safety prevention rules established under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – the most sweeping reform of U.S. food safety laws in more than 70 years – FDA in October issued guidances for both human and animal food manufacturing to help small businesses with the implementation of the Preventive Controls for Human Food and Preventive Controls for Animal Food rules. 

The title for human food says it all: Small Entity Compliance Guide: What You Need to Know About the FDA Regulation: Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food. You can download a pdf copy here

Enacted in 2011 and now entering the enforcement stage, FSMA “introduces a new era in food safety by focusing on preventing food safety risks rather than on responding to crises after they happen,” reported Food Safety Magazine. “Under the Preventive Controls rule, a facility is required to develop a written food safety plan that includes a risk-based assessment to identify hazards where preventive controls are necessary to significantly minimize or prevent hazards for any food that is manufactured, processed, packed or held at the facility. The written food safety plan must also include procedures for monitoring, corrective actions and verification of each preventive control,” Food Safety Magazine reported, while advising food producers to be prepared to produce a written food safety plan within 24 hours if FDA requests a review.” 

The guidances outline which companies must comply with the rule, which are exempt from parts of the rules or subject to modified requirements, and also key information for qualified facilities (i.e., small businesses). The guides are two of dozens of guidance documents the FDA intends to release as it continues with the implementation of FSMA. 

Food Safety Magazine offers an excellent summary of the new FSMA rules and compliance deadlines in its October/November 2016 issue, here

*This content was originally published in the Presence Marketing December 2016 Newsletter.

NOSB Fall 2016 Meeting Results: Carrageenan Disallowed; New GMO Technology Banned; Jury Out on Organic Aquaculture

NOSB Fall 2016 Meeting Results: Carrageenan Disallowed; New GMO Technology Banned; Jury Out on Organic Aquaculture

Source - Presence Marketing December 2016 Newsletter

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted 11-3 to disallow the controversial ingredient Carrageenan in certified organic products at its biannual public meeting held November 16th to 18th, 2016, in St. Louis, Missouri. 

Carrageenan, a food additive derived from a type of red seaweed and commonly used as a thickener, emulsifier and/or stabilizing agent in processed foods such as chocolate milk, soy milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, deli meats and other products, has been subject to intensifying debate in the organic industry. Larger organic producers have maintained that Carrageenan is safe, while consumer groups including the Cornucopia Institute petitioned NOSB to remove the ingredient, asserting that Carrageenan is linked to gastrointestinal inflammation and is a possible carcinogen. As a result of the vote, Carrageenan will no longer be allowed in certified organic products beginning in 2018. 

Also, while traditional genetic engineering (GMO) methodologies are prohibited in organic production, NOSB voted to officially prohibit newer technologies that have emerged since the original national organic law was passed. NOSB added biotech methods including CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, mutagenesis and synthetic biology to the excluded methods list, along with guiding principles and criteria to be applied in the evaluation of new technologies. 

In further testing the waters for hydroponically grown certified organic products – another organic “hot button” issue – NOSB voted to delay a decision on the issue, referring any recommendation on hydroponics back to a subcommittee until the spring 2017 meeting. In 2010, the NOSB made a recommendation to ban hydroponics, as the original definition of organic, written in 1995, included the word “soil,” while a revised definition written in 2002 omitted “soil” and used “biological practices” instead, reports Max Goldberg in Living Maxwell

USDA has allowed some certifiers to certify hydroponically grown produce including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant and other products, while other certifiers do not because of a lack of guidance from the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), says the Cornucopia Institute. Mexico, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and 24 European nations all prohibit hydroponic vegetable production – where plants are grown in water with their roots in nutrient systems instead of soil – to be sold as organic in their own countries, reports Living Maxwell

The next NOSB meeting will take place April 19th to 21st, 2017, in Denver, Colorado.

*This content was originally published in the Presence Marketing December 2016 Newsletter.

Engaging Via Blogs Helps Meet Consumers Where They Are: An Interview with Steve Hoffman

Nutra Ingredients USA - News / Markets

Author - Hank Schultz

Engaging Via Blogs Helps Meet Consumers Where They Are

Interacting with consumers through blogs continues to become an important part of marketing plans in the dietary supplement and functional foods industries. “Companies and brands have to meet their customers where they are, and that’s increasingly online in communities of their own choosing,” says Hoffman. Consumers are starting to put their trust in new voices throughout the blogger community, and that trust is critical to the ongoing relationship between consumers and bloggers. Steve Hoffman, CEO of Compass Natural, continues to expand on his thoughts surrounding industry and media relations throughout the following article, along with details of the upcoming ShiftCon event this December in New Orleans. 

Click here to read the full article!

Source: Nutra Ingredients USA - News / Markets

GMO Roundup: Whole Foods Market, Pope Francis Top GMO News

GMO Roundup: Whole Foods Market, Pope Francis Top GMO News
Source - Presence Marketing November 2016 Newsletter                                              
Author - Steve Hoffman

Whole Foods Market Updates Progress on GMO Transparency

To mark national Non-GMO Month in October, Whole Foods Market released a progress report on the retailer’s GMO labeling policy. First announced in 2013, “We are well on our way to providing GMO transparency for the food we sell by our self-imposed deadline of September 1st, 2018,” writes President and COO A.C. Gallo in a company blog published on October 10th. While QR codes are a labeling option in the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Law, signed by President Obama on July 29th, 2016, “This is absolutely unacceptable for our policy,” Gallo writes. Also, in a modification of its original announcement, made to align with the new federal law, says Gallo, Whole Foods Market will not require suppliers to label ingredients derived from animals fed GMO feed; that is, a food product that contains a meat or dairy ingredient but does not contain any other risk ingredient will not be subject to a labeling requirement. Whole Foods Market requires all non-GMO claims on products sold in its stores to be verified by approved third-party verification programs including the Non-GMO Project, NSF True North and USDA Certified Organic (and equivalent international programs.) “Part of our current focus is working closely with suppliers and manufacturers to help meet our GMO Labeling Policy,” Gallo writes. 

Pope Francis Questions GMO Crops, Urges Action on Climate Change

Pope Francis called into question the role of GMO crops in his annual message on World Food Day on October 16th, reported Catholic Culture Magazine. In a letter to the head of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Pope said, “There is a growing number of people who believe they are omnipotent, or able to ignore the cycles of the seasons and to improperly modify the various animal and plant species, leading to the loss of variety that, if it exists in nature, has and must have its role.” Pope Francis contrasted the “wisdom of rural communities” with “the logic of consumerism and production at any cost, a logic that, cloaked in good justifications, such as the increasing population, is in reality aimed solely at the increase of profit.” In his message to the FAO, the Pope also said, “Genetic selection of a quality of plant may produce impressive results in terms of yield, but have we considered the terrain that loses its productive capacity, farmers who no longer have pasture for their livestock, and water resources that become unusable? And above all, do we ask if and to what extent we contribute to altering the climate? Not precaution, then, but wisdom: what peasants, fisherman and farmers conserve in memory handed down through the generations and which is now derided and forgotten by a model of production that is entirely to the advantage of a limited group and a tiny portion of the world population. Let us remember that it is a model which, despite all its science, allows around eight hundred million people to continue to go hungry.” 

Adjusting to Demand, Cargill Announces First Non-GMO Project Verified Ingredients

As demand for non-GMO food rises, Cargill has obtained Non-GMO Project Verification for three of its food ingredients, including erythritol, cane sugar and high oleic sunflower oil. Annual sales of Non-GMO Project Verified products increased from $348.8 million in 2010 to more than $19 billion as of March, 2016. According to Packaged Facts, demand for non-GMO products is expected to grow 12% annually through 2018. With nearly 2,800 Non- GMO Project Verified brands sourcing ingredients to comply with the standard, food and beverage industry demand is outpacing supply, said Cargill in a statement. “Consumer demand for non-GMO food and beverages is growing, and Cargill is responding,” said Mike Wagner, Managing Director for Cargill Starches and Sweeteners North America. “We’re delighted to work with the Non-GMO Project, the leading verifier of non-GMO products in the United States. Their distinctive trademark is the most recognized symbol for non-GMO products in the country.” Collaboration with Cargill, one of the largest food companies in the world, is an opportunity to increase the availability of non-GMO foods to consumers, said Megan Westgate, Executive Director of the Non-GMO Project. “The Non-GMO Project’s mission is to preserve and build sources of non-GMO products, educate consumers, and provide verified non-GMO choices. Achieving this mission requires participation by companies of all sizes, including supply-chain leaders like Cargill that can provide large-scale availability of non-GMO food ingredients,” she said. 

Okanagan Gains Approval for Third GMO Apple Variety, But Will It Be Labeled? 

British Columbia biotech company Okanagan has gained U.S. approval for its genetically engineered, non-browning Arctic Fuji variety. The Fuji apple joins the non-browning GMO Golden Delicious and Granny Smith varieties developed by Okanagan, using a new gene editing technology known as CRISPR/Cas-9, a technology that labeling proponents fear will not be subject to labeling disclosure under the new federal GMO labeling law, which requires only older, recombinant genetic engineering technology to be labeled. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of USDA granted the non-browning Arctic Fuji approval in late September, reported Food Safety News on October 5th. As part of the review process, the agency sought public comment on the genetically modified organism (GMO). By the mid-September deadline, 626 comments had been filed with APHIS, with those against approval outnumbering those in favor by about 10 to 1. Among those commenters opposed to the GMO apple was the Center for Food Safety, which attached a letter signed by more than 25,000 of its members opposing the apple, reported Food Safety News. Okanagan says it plans next to seek approval for genetically modified Gala apples. 

UVA Study: GMO Crops Increased Use of Herbicides on U.S. Farms by 28% 

In one of the longest studies ever conducted of genetically engineered crops, researchers found that GMO crops increased the use of herbicides on U.S. farms by 28%, reported Organic Authority. Researchers at the University of Virginia examined data over a 14-year period from 5,000 soybean and 5,000 maize farmers in the U.S. The GMO soybean and maize farms each comprised two GMO varieties – one pest-resistant variety, and one herbicide- tolerant variety. The researchers found that while the use of insecticides decreased by about 11% on GMO farms due to the pest-resistant varieties of the crops themselves, use of herbicides, mainly glyphosate marketed by Monsanto as Roundup, increased by more than twice as much due to herbicide- resistant GMO seeds. “In the beginning, there was a reduction in herbicide use,” said University of Virginia economist Federico Ciliberto, who led the research team. “But over time the use of chemicals increased because farmers were having to add new chemicals as weeds developed a resistance to glyphosate.” 

Canadian Groups Call on Competition Board Over Bayer-Monsanto Merger

Bayer AG’s proposed $66-billion, all-cash deal to acquire Monsanto will face a number of political and antitrust hurdles over the coming months, as well as consumer unease in the U.S. and abroad around the consolidation of multinational agriculture, chemical and biotech corporations and the future of food production. The Monsanto-Bayer deal, which would be the largest-ever all-cash acquisition, faces intense and lengthy regulatory processes in the U.S., the E.U. and elsewhere, reported Reuters. In Canada, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, a farmer’s group, and the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, a group of 17 non-GMO organizations, separately submitted comments to Canada’s federal Competition Bureau to review the possible implications of Bayer’s pending takeover of Monsanto. “Our position right now would be for the Competition Bureau to really...examine what the impact is going to be and making sure that there’s fair pricing and competition in the marketplace, Ron Bonnett, President of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, told CBC News. "This merger could further increase the price of seed, decrease choice in the marketplace for Canadian farmers, and stifle research and development," said the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network’s submission to the Canadian Competition Bureau, reported CBC News in late September.                  

China Vying for Control of GMO Technology

In the past month both the New York Times and Bloomberg News have focused on China’s ambitions to become a major player in genetically modified food. However, at the same time Chinese consumers have become increasing suspicious of GMO foods. Food safety issues continue to plague China, and there is widespread belief that GMOs are a foreign conspiracy against Chinese health, reported Bloomberg News. Yet, one of China’s state-run companies, ChemChina, is vying to acquire Swiss agricultural biotech giant Syngenta for $43 billion, which would make it China’s largest foreign purchase ever, reported the New York Times. China is increasing spending on research and development and supporting a nascent domestic industry that it hopes can someday become China’s answer to Monsanto and DuPont. In a 2013 speech, Xi Jinping, the country’s president, said, “We can’t let big foreign companies dominate our GMO crops market.” According to the New York Times, Chinese officials see GMO science as a way to bolster production in a country where large-scale farming is still uncommon – a legacy of the Communist Revolution, when land was stripped from landlords and given to peasants – and better feed its growing and increasingly affluent population on its own. 

The New GMOs 2.0: Will They Be Labeled? 

Silenced genes, edited genes, algae engineered to produce compounds that taste like food: new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) made with these experimental techniques are making their way to your dinner plate. It’s the next wave of genetic engineering, or GMOs 2.0, reports Stacy Malkan, Co-Director of US Right to Know and author of Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry. In a Huffington Post interview featuring Consumers Union Chief Scientist Dr. Michael Hansen, Malkan warns that vague wording in the new federal GMO labeling law opens the door for industry pressure on the USDA to exempt many – possibly even most – GMOs from labeling at all. Read Stacy’s article, GMO 2.0 Foods Coming Your Way: Will They Be Labeled?, here.