February 26, 2020

GMO Labeling and Consumer Preferences

Categories: Biotech

Gregory Meyer reported yesterday at The Financial Times Online that, “Cargill, one of the world’s biggest wholesale food suppliers, has bowed to consumer trends by offering its first products with a seal of approval from the leading US verifier of products free of bioengineering.”

The FT article explained that, “On Thursday, Cargill said it had for the first time received verification from the Non-GMO Project, a voluntary labelling organisation, for three of its food ingredients. The approval means packaged food companies that are Cargill’s customers can slap the project’s widely recognised butterfly logo on their products.”

However, Mr. Meyer noted that, “The three Cargill ingredients meeting project standards were cane sugar, high oleic sunflower oil and erythritol, a zero-calorie bulk sweetener made from corn. Of the three, corn is the only crop currently grown with genetically modified traits.

‘”There is no GMO sugarcane, and there is no GMO sunflower,’ said Peter Golbitz of Agromeris, a consultant to the natural food industry. ‘It’s somewhat capitulating to the growing consumer fear that there is something to be concerned about in all foods, as opposed to just the foods that may have commercial GMO varieties.'”

Yesterday’s article reminded readers that, “In July, President Barack Obama signed into law a measure requiring food companies to label products containing ingredients from genetically modified crops, pre-empting a Vermont state labelling law.”

Meanwhile, Jacob Bunge reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “Consumers’ desire for deeper transparency into how food is made will continue pushing food companies to label ingredients made from genetically engineered crops, company executives said.

“‘Transparency is the coin of the realm,’ said Denise Morrison, chief executive of Campbell Soup Co., which earlier this year unveiled a plan to voluntarily label such GMO ingredients on its products, as federal and state lawmakers debated their own standards.”

The Journal article indicated that, “For shoppers at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., price, quality and safety are customers’ top priorities when it comes to food, rather than GMO content, said Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety for the company, speaking at the [WSJ Global Food Forum] event Thursday.

“‘The debate never should have been about labeling,’ Mr. Yiannas said, but rather about whether GMOs are safe or not, and relying on science as the guide.

“When asked if catering to customers based on perceived risk might be overreaction, Mr. Yiannas said food producers and retailers may have to educate consumers to close the gap between perceived and actual risk, but meanwhile Wal-Mart ‘will always offer what the customer wants.'”


WIC Changes Impact Food Choices, Without Adding to Government Costs

Categories: Farm Bill /Food Aid /Obesity

Stephanie Strom reported yesterday at The New York Times Online that, “Can people make healthier food choices without spending more money?

In a review of federal food subsidy programs, researchers found that nudging shoppers toward more healthful foods pushed cheap junk food out of the family shopping basket without adding to the government’s costs.

“The data come from a study of purchases by users of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC, before and after changes were imposed to encourage healthy eating.”

Ms. Strom noted that, “In 2009, the Department of Agriculture, which administers the WIC program, added vouchers aimed at increasing consumption of fruit, vegetables and whole grains while reducing saturated fat, cholesterol and sugar. To avoid raising overall costs, the program limited other items. The program restricted the amount of reduced-fat milk, cheese and juice recipients could buy, and eliminated whole milk from the program. If WIC users wanted to purchase foods not on the list, they had to use their own money, rather than the WIC vouchers or cards.

“While many nutritionists today would not agree with all the changes, particularly the focus on lowering fat, the net effect was an overall improvement in the quality of foods and beverages the shopper purchased.”


Agricultural Trade and TPP

Jacob Bunge reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “U.S. agriculture officials warned Thursday that farmers, ranchers and food companies could lose out in the long-term if lawmakers shy away from pursuing big trade deals.

“While some hold out hope that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a wide-ranging trade bill championed by the Obama administration, could yet pass this year, concerns are growing that the U.S. elections may spur a more protectionist stance that could shrink U.S. exports of agricultural goods ranging from meat to grains and dairy.”

Darci Vetter, ambassador and chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, says the Trans-Pacific Partnership would open up growth opportunities for U.S. agriculture in Asian markets. She spoke with WSJ’s Rebecca Blumenstein at the WSJ Global Food Forum.

The Journal article noted that, “‘The issue of trade has become a political football, unfortunately,’ said Julie Maschhoff, co-owner and vice president of the Maschhoffs LLC, an Illinois pork producer.

“Ms. Maschhoff, speaking at the WSJ Global Food Forum in New York, estimated that about one-quarter of U.S. pork is exported, and trade agreements are critical to expanding those sales as U.S. pork production ramps up.”

Julie Maschhoff, co-owner and vice president of the Maschhoffs LLC, an Illinois pork producer, explains why trade agreements are critical for expanding markets for excess U.S. protein supplies. She spoke with WSJ’s Joanna Chung at the WSJ Global Food Forum in New York.

In his Journal article, Mr. Bunge noted that, “U.S. farmers and ranchers broadly have been supportive of TPP, seeing the chance to break into Japan’s lucrative rice market for the first time, and potentially securing significant reductions in tariffs for markets in Southeast Asia and Canada.”

Darci Vetter, ambassador and chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, said at the WSJ [Global Food Forum] event that she saw ‘a narrow window’ to approve the Pacific trade agreement in the lame-duck session, following the November election. ‘I’m an eternal optimist,’ Ms. Vetter said, and implementing TPP would help keep the U.S. on ‘a level playing field’ with competing countries.”


Perdue Farms Eliminates Routine Antibiotic Use in Chicken Production

Jacob Bunge reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “Perdue Farms Inc. eliminated all antibiotics from its chicken supply, the company’s chairman said, in a move he said makes the Maryland company the first major poultry supplier to do so.”

(Note that recent updates have highlighted issues associated with antibiotics and livestock production (Sept. 20; Oct. 6)).

Mr. Bunge explained that, “Perdue’s move completes 14 years of efforts to replace antibiotics with vaccines and re-engineered chicken barns, and could help the company ramp up production of organic chicken, a market that is growing far faster than that for conventional poultry.

“‘It completes the journey,’ Perdue Chairman Jim Perdue said in an interview Thursday at the WSJ Global Food Forum in New York (See video below).”

Perdue Farms Inc. is the first major poultry supplier to remove all antibiotics from its chicken supply, the company’s chairman Jim Perdue said Thursday. He also spoke about the growing demand for organic chicken and how Perdue’s business model is adjusting, in a conversation at the WSJ Global Food Forum.

The Journal article added that, “Growing pressure from consumer groups has prompted big restaurant chains, including McDonald’s Corp. and Subway, to unveil plans in recent years to reduce the use of antibiotics in their chicken supplies, following earlier efforts by companies such as Panera Bread Co. and Chick-fil-A Inc.

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in late 2013 called on animal drugmakers to stop permitting the use of antibiotics to speed up animal growth, and companies have agreed to comply by 2017,” the article said.

Mr. Bunge also pointed out that, “By the end of September 2017, Tyson Foods Inc., the biggest U.S. meat company by sales, aims to stop using on its chicken farms antibiotics that also are used to treat humans. The company also is expanding its business in pork and beef raised without antibiotics, said Tom Hayes, Tyson’s president.

“Mr. Hayes said the shift, which was driven by consumer demand, has helped Tyson better understand the flexibility of its production system to respond to changing tastes. ‘We have learned a lot about our supply chain, and it’s good,’ he said.”