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Posts Tagged ‘GMO’

Cheerios Anti-GMO Move: PR Win, Marketing Stunt, or Both?

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Lots of people really don’t like the concept of genetically modified organisms in their food; just check out what happened to Cheerios when they tried to let Facebook fans get creative back in 2012.

The people who hated on General Mills for GMOs a year ago were probably glad to hear the news that the company will no longer include any “genetically engineered ingredients” in its primary product, plain old Cheerios. In the words of The Motley Fool, GM “[said] no to Monsanto” in the interest of corporate reputation and sales.

Seems like a case of social media outrage leading to positive change, right?

Not so fast.

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Big Food Brands Spend Millions to Avoid GMO Labels

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You may have heard that, for some reason, food companies really don’t like the idea of having to let customers know if they use genetically modified organisms in their products.

It’s not like they’ve been talking to the public: a whopping 93% of us say food containing GMOs should be labeled as such. Yet Prop 37, which would have required GMO labeling on products sold in California, failed at the ballot box by a slim 2.8% margin. Why? Lobbying and spin.

Now the companies with the biggest horse in the race want to prevent a similar law from passing in Washington State. No on 522, a campaign “bankrolled by out-of-state biochemical corporations and food industry heavyweights”, just set a Washington State fundraising record, and a list of the companies involved reads like a who’s who of faceless corporate “bad guys”: Monsanto, DuPont, Dow and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a political action committee sponsored by Coca-Cola, Pepsi, General Mills, Nestle, etc.

The story earned a full write-up on PR Watch, which is worth mentioning for some key points:

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Chinese Chicken Creates a PR Challenge for Food Distributors

Any business selling America’s favorite flightless bird faces a bit of a conundrum after authorities decided to allow our own fowl to be processed in China before hitting stores and restaurants stateside.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to let a limited number of Chinese plants process chicken for sale in the United States—and it’s not even Chinese chicken. That’s right, these feathered sandwich fillers, which were raised and slaughtered on this side of the Atlantic, will travel East for a bit of re-dressing before returning in time for a dip in the deep fryer.

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Naked Juice Bares All in False Advertising Settlement

Naked Juice bottle Today in Put Your Clothes Back On news: we can add Naked Juice to the quickly growing line of foodstuff brands settling class-action lawsuits over deceptive health claims. Parent brand PepsiCo clearly missed the message about transparency being the best PR practice around, effectively admitting in the settlement that its “all natural” marketing claims are less than 100% accurate.

We’re not talking pasteurization here, people: the smoothie fakers include such “unnaturally processed and synthetic” ingredients as zinc oxide, ascorbic acid, and calcium pantothenate, all of which sound better suited to a meth lab than an orange grove (insert your Breaking Bad shout out here). In fact, that last one is derived from formaldehyde, to which we say: ewww, man. Ewww.

The juice may taste good, and it’s a hell of a lot healthier than much of the stuff we shove into our faces on a regular basis, but it’s hardly the “freshest” or the “purest” thing around, no?

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Chipotle Becomes First US Restaurant Chain to Voluntarily Label GMOs

Chipotle has marketed itself as a healthier alternative to fast food since the beginning, using many organically grown and locally sourced ingredients, and eliminating additives, preservatives and other toxins often found in fast food.

Last year, the restaurant chain even took a stand in favor of California’s Proposition 37 (voted down last November), which would have required all food containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as such. The company stated at the time:

“At Chipotle, telling the story of our food has always been important. We want our customers to know exactly what they are eating. For us, this is real transparency—because knowing more about where our food comes from is always better than knowing less. In light of this, and our vision of Food With Integrity, we wholeheartedly support the cause of Prop 37, having endorsed the measure as soon as we heard it was on the ballot. We want to encourage you to learn as much as you can about the foods you eat, because the truth should never be hidden, and you have the right to know.”
The restaurant even went so far as to call out the big agriculture and chemical companies that spent over $30 million urging the public to vote down the bill.

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Could the Continuing Food Label PR Wars Lead to Healthier Products?

When we hear the words “deceptive marketing”, we generally think of campaigns that promote the blatantly false or grossly exaggerated “benefits” of a product (i.e. the butt-sculpting superpower of Sketchers Shape Ups or the death-cheating health claims of POM juice). In cases like these, the offending parties are held accountable by the FTC for intentionally misleading consumers. The public doesn’t like being lied to, and we rely on governing bodies and uniform regulations to protect us.

But what about the marketing we encounter every time we visit a grocery store? In our increasingly health-conscious society, more and more people are checking labels to make sure they are feeding their families the most nutritious, least harmful foods possible. But what many don’t realize is that labels reading “all natural” or “farm fresh” don’t necessarily mean what people think they mean; in fact, due to a lack of regulation, many such buzz words mean virtually nothing at all.

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Frankenfish: The GMO PR Wars Continue

The PR battle over genetically modified food (and how/whether it should be labeled) just got fishier.

AquaBounty Technologies (ABT), a biotechnology company in Massachusetts, has developed a fish called the AquAdvantage Salmon, which grows twice as fast as its naturally-bred counterparts. Pending FDA approval, this flashily-named fish could be the first genetically-altered animal marketed for human consumption. We’ve previously discussed the fact that there is no law on the books requiring genetically modified foods to carry labels identifying them as such — and this makes matters even sketchier. Unless customers purchase organic or “free range” seafood, they won’t know whether the fish they’re buying is plain old farm-raised salmon or this new brand of “frankenfish.”

Here’s the quick (and extremely simplified) version of how the “AquAdvantage Salmon” engineering process works: Atlantic salmon don’t grow continuously because their growth hormones are only active for roughly three months per year. In order to “fix” this, ABT created a new gene construct that combines a regulator gene from a fish called an ocean pout with the growth hormones of Chinook salmon. This combination is then injected into the eggs of Atlantic salmon–and the resulting fish take 18 months to grow to the same size regular salmon spend three years achieving.

The company claims that the frankenfish is an answer to global food shortages thanks to its “shorter production cycles and increased efficiency of production”.

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GMO Labeling Wars: Big Agriculture and Chemical Companies Win the Day

The U.S. remains one of only a few developed countries that do not require genetically engineered foods to be clearly labeled. In fact, roughly 80 percent of our processed foods contain GMO ingredients in some form, yet the FDA still allows their makers to use labels like “all natural,””naturally derived,” “naturally flavored,” etc.

After learning in June that a Right to Know initiative mandating GMO labels would appear on California’s ballot this year, observers engaged in a good bit of speculation over how the agricultural and chemical corporations that create these products would handle an industry-wide PR issue. The answer came in the form of a $46 million PR effort that blitzed radio waves and flooded mailboxes with negative advertising.

Those ad dollars now seem well-spent: voters defeated Prop 37 at the polls yesterday by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent. The initiative would have required the packaging of all processed foods to bear the labels “partially produced with genetic engineering” or “may be partially produced with genetic engineering” by 2014. The rule also would have required “genetically engineered” labels for produce and prevented the producers of GMO products from using words like “natural” or “naturally made” in their advertising.

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