Prominent voices have been talking about the sustainability of agricultural practices in recent weeks. Earth Day brought with it new sets of commitments from major companies and organizations and a new report suggested a decrease in meat consumption. Read about these moves and more in this edition of Influence Feed.
Several recent moves reiterated the role of large corporations in setting food production standards. When Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., announced it would transition to cage-free eggs, prominent voices hailed it as a tipping point for egg sourcing policies. Additionally, a group of British investors urged major restaurant chains to change antibiotic use policies when sourcing meat products. See how other companies are shaping the market and more in this edition of Influence Feed.
Food safety concerns drove influence discussions in recent weeks: USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released new standards for pathogens in poultry products, and Chipotle Mexican Grill’s food safety saga continued. Additionally, concerns about technology in food production drew attention to GMO labeling, food dyes and pesticide residue. Read about these topics and more in this edition of Influence Feed.
In recent weeks, activist groups have reinforced a push for greater transparency in the food and agriculture industries. In a ruling that animal rights groups touted as a victory for free speech, a judge overturned Idaho’s “ag-gag” law. Meanwhile, celebrities lobbied the Senate concerning labeling foods with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). See why each side of these issues questioned the other’s motivations in this edition of Influence Feed.
In a move that streamlined trade negotiations, Congress granted the White House fast-track authority on making trade deals, sparking strong commentaries on all sides of the issue. Beyond trade, trans fats took a blow and the pope offered a tempered view of modern agriculture practices. See how influencers reacted to these developments in this installment of Influence Feed.
Even around the Labor Day weekend, there was no holiday from debate over the substantive issues facing our food industry.
Take a New Yorker piece on environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva, whose global campaign against genetically modified crops prompted reaction, reflection and rebuttal. Or consider legislative efforts to address the drought in California through water regulation. Although the legislation gained support in government, the focus on regulating groundwater use will result in family farmers and ranchers “dealing with the consequences of the legislation for years to come,” as one California farm leader pointed out.
Causes and solutions are seldom black and white. You’ll find some deep reflection on the details in this edition of the Influence Feed.
Our eating habits are in the spotlight. From reporting new research to advocating calls for urgent action, the media understands that consumers want more information about food. That’s why the changing nature of how we’re consuming food is the major theme for this edition of Influence Feed.
“Food has become America’s all-consuming passion,” writes Bruce Horowitz in a June 4 USA Today article. “Blame it on the Food Network. Blame it on a culture of celebrity chefs whose names are no longer limited to Wolfgang. Blame half on Whole Foods. Blame it on a generation of Instagram-loving Millennials, many of whom would rather post a photo of themselves eating a veggies Thai lettuce wrap than lounging on a Thai beach. Food is the new cool. Food is consuming us” (emphasis added).
In recent days, we saw a series in The Wall Street Journal focusing on “How We Eat.” Butter made the cover of Time magazine in a piece rethinking how we look at fat. Things we once took for granted are under fire, including whether our cereal has too many vitamins and minerals. After decades of being vaguely defined, the word natural is under assault.
Influential voices are weighing in on all these issues, and you’ll find them in this latest summary of the conversations focusing on food and agriculture.
As the debate on wholesomeness and healthfulness continues, dedicated advocates from every perspective are digging in their heels. The definition of what is good is evolving, with its story punctuated by attempts to officially label what constitutes healthy. In the past couple of weeks, the status of trans fats and their Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status continued to elicit heated debate. Walmart and Target made waves when they announced new lines of organic and better-for-you brands. Regarding health, foodborne disease rates proved stubbornly immoveable between 2006 and 2013, according to a report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Finally, nothing has garnered more attention recently than the battle over genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling at the state and federal government levels; specifically, Vermont appears likely to pass a GMO label mandate, and Congress is mulling the role of the federal government in the debate. President Obama weighed in via an April 11 letter to Dr. Norman Borlaug’s granddaughter, “I share his belief that investment in enhanced biotechnology is an essential component of the solution to some of our planet’s most pressing agricultural problems.”
Two highly respected individuals bookend this edition of Influence Feed. On National Agriculture Day, the U.S. commemorated the 100th birthday of Dr. Norman Borlaug, the deeply influential “father of the green revolution,” with a life-size statue in Washington, D.C. Secondly, food and agriculture lost an outspoken advocate for animal health and food safety in Dr. Scott Hurd. These two had tremendous influence on improving the quality of our food supply.
Several hotly-debated topics are covered in this edition. The FDA published a progress update on Guidance 213, and we provide some key feedback from different perspectives. Reporter Lynn Terry’s piece on Salmonella prevention in Denmark received major attention after Food Safety News’ Bill Marler shared it. Additionally, we saw how a labeling mistake at Whole Foods served as an opportunity for New York Times reporter Stephanie Strom to bring plant-based protein into the spotlight. Read about these and more.
The past two weeks saw a relative absence of pivotal new issues in food and agriculture, but several topics maintained high-level dialogues among influencers. The discussion regarding the definition of wholesomeness and healthfulness continued on several fronts, while food manufacturers felt pressure in the form of identifying and limiting added sugars. Traditional grocery and quick-service chains continue to capitalize on “free-from” labeling to compete with growing competition from “supernatural” outlets. In addition, skeptics of the current school lunch program became increasingly vocal, requiring its defenders to underscore its benefits and successes.
Critics specifically challenged poultry production during this period, demanding—and receiving—responses from industry leadership. The Meat Racket continued to make waves in major media outlets. Meanwhile, the Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection rule met heavy criticism in Congress.