Labeling GMOs and organic foods

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Labeling GMOs and organic foods

Back in the 1970s when I began my adult life, I was becoming increasingly conscious that many of the choices we make, whether in terms of climate change, energy use, waste, or how we grow our food were being made with a kind of mythology. That is that the earth is a subsidiary of us, that we're in control. And you see this example time and time again as we mine the earth for all kinds of resources and then deplete or overuse chemicals and then pollute. And I really wanted to find alternatives to this idea that we have to have a modern society, we have to toxify everything and make ourselves sick. I also really became aware of that, that we are among the most modern nations on the planet, and yet actually our food is making us sick. And really this results from our obsession with cheap food. We're very focused on lowest price. But the reality is there are costs with lowest price. There are costs when we deplete top soils. There are costs when we put family farmers out of business. There are costs when we toxify. There are costs when we have toxins in our urban air, water, and soil. We're paying for those costs somewhere else. We might not pay it at the cash register, but we're paying for it with our health care. We're paying for it with the most expensive form of health care there is - getting sick. Whereas the cheapest form of health care is not getting sick. And so I became very fixed and focused on how we could grow food in a way that doesn't require using these toxins, for example. And I discovered in the 1970s that we could grow food in a tenth of an acre, almost the size of a backyard, enough to feed a family 3 meals a day, 365 days a year with no recourse to chemical fertilizers, fossil fuels, pesticides. And actually the food tasted better. And I learned in aquaculture we could do the same thing. And I started to learn about tree crops and forestry. And so it's been particularly my mission that we create a food system that doesn't use this stuff. Stonyfield is living proof of that. It's one of the largest yogurt companies in America. It's the largest organic yogurt company in the world. We have 100s and 100s of family farmers on 100s of 1000s of acres with no chemicals. So I've proven it commercially. I've proven it can work. Just Label It though has come about because even with us building this wonderful organic industry, and it's now $35B in sales, and it's 4% of US food, so it's growing very nicely. Organic produce is 12% of US food in our country. Nonetheless, we have this other force really working to undermine everything we've done, which is this proliferation of genetically-engineered foods, which actually results in much more chemical usage. Just Label It is not anti-GMO, but it's pro your right to know. Just Label It is based on a very simple premise, which is when you go to a supermarket and you buy something, you're voting. When you run an item past a scanner, you're voting. And if you can be informed, if it's on your label, and you can have that right to choose whether you're going to support a system that results in more chemical usage or not, then we have a real democracy. But without that, consumers can't be informed, and we can't exercise our real right to know and our real vote for the kind of food system we want.

View Gary Hirshberg's video on Labeling GMOs and organic foods...


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Gary Hirshberg

Gary Hirshberg is Chairman of Stonyfield Farm, the world’s leading organic yogurt producer, and Managing Director of Stonyfield Europe. He is also the Chairman and Founding Partner of “Just Label It, We Have the Right to Know,” the national campaign to label GE foods. Gary has received twelve honorary doctorates and numerous awards for corporate and environmental leadership including a 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award by the US EPA.

Avoiding Chemicals and Toxins
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