Food industry is misleading the public about GMOs ion food

Letter to the Food Industry from a Frustrated Registered Dietitian

Using fear to sell food isn’t right and it may hurt you more than your customers in the long run

Dear food industry,

We have been working together for years – decades actually – and I have not felt the need to write to you until now. Even though our relationship hasn’t always been easy, I think we both realize we get the best results when we work together. That has generally meant I educate the public about food and nutrition for good health and you provide food choices to meet their needs. Deliberately misleading consumers was never part of the arrangement. So my question is this: Why are you using non-GMO claims as a marketing ploy?

We both know that GMO, or genetically modified organism for those who don’t, refers to crops developed through genetic engineering. Farmers think of it as another form of plant breeding, and that’s what I tell consumers it is. I also tell them it helps farmers get the best yields on the smallest amount of land using the fewest inputs (fertilizer, weed and pest control, water, etc.) so they can grow enough food to feed us all. And since we’re relying on just 2% of the entire U.S. population to grow all of our food, it makes sense to let those hard working farmers use all of the tools in their tool shed.

Farmers need to use every tool in their tool shed

Farmers have always relied on plant breeding to improve their crops

We both also know genetic engineering is a safe, thoroughly tested technology that has been used in food crops for over 20 years, but did you know it was used to make drugs before it was used for food? Genetically modified bacteria first produced insulin in 1976 and has been saving lives ever since. The first genetically modified foods didn’t come on the market in the U.S. until 1995.

What I can’t understand is why you would want to make GMOs look like something that should be avoided when you proudly sell so many other wholesome foods that are made with GMO crops?  It sends a mixed message to consumers when they see foods with GMO-free claims on their grocery store shelves right next to other foods without those claims. Even worse is when you pay to put a Non-GMO Project Verified seal on foods that couldn’t contain GMOs in the first place since they aren’t made with any of the eight GMO plants that humans eat (apples, canola, corn, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash and sugar beets). That means putting GMO-free claims on foods like canned tomatoes, wheat pasta, and olive oil is simply deceptive since all tomatoes, wheat and olive oil are GMO-free. And putting the claim on products that don’t even have genetic material, like salt and water, is absurd.

I hope you can see how this makes my job more difficult.

Fortunately, it looks like the Food and Drug Administration is going to take a closer look at the misuse of these claims. If they take action that will stop you from falsely suggesting that products with a GMO-free claim are safer, more nutritious, or are otherwise better than comparable products without the claim, and it will certainly ease my burden.  Plus it will save consumers all the money they now pay for the inflated prices you charge for these products.

There are no GMO oranges even though some brands of orange juice say they are GMO-free

Oranges are being wiped out by a bacterial disease that could be controlled by genetic engineering

There is one more reason why you may want to rethink your misuse of these claims. Food manufacturers might actually need GMO crops one day to continue making some of their bestselling brands. Isn’t it short-sighted to sabotage that possibility? I’m sure you’re familiar with the crisis Florida orange growers are facing due to a widespread bacterial disease that causes Citrus Greening. The use of biotechnology could save the orange juice industry, but that will present a problem for the companies with non-GMO claims all over their OJ (even though GMO oranges do not exist). If the only option available for them to stay in business is to use disease-resistant oranges made from genetically modified trees, they will have to drop the non-GMO claims on their juice. I can only imagine how confused their loyal customers will be when that happens.

Now that I’ve brought this issue to your attention I hope you will make amends so we can resume the cooperative working relationship we’ve had for so long. We certainly wouldn’t want to have to modify that.


A look at this year’s trends in marketing foods and best new food product ideas

Marketing Foods in 2013: Top New Food Product Ideas

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013 but you can view the original blog here.


At the close of each year I eagerly look forward to the predictions about the new food product ideas that we can expect to find in grocery stores and on restaurant menus in the New Year. Fortunately, there is never a shortage of tempting innovations to whet my appetite another year of good eating. But I also know that it isn’t all fun in games in those test kitchens. Developing and marketing foods to a fickle American public is a risky business.

In an effort to help our struggling economy and keep all those creative food scientists employed, I’ve sifted through dozens of food trend reports released for 2013 and picked the top 13 new food products ideas that I believe should get your support. I hope you’ll do your part and purchase these items when you see them. When marketing foods is everyone’s business, we all get to eat well!

Top 13 New Food Products Ideas for 2013

Sophisticated Snacks – Sold everywhere from food trucks to drug stores, our round-the-clock eating culture has spurred an explosion in snacks designed to appeal to Millennials with an insatiable appetite for new, yet portable food.

Powered-Up Protein – No longer just for athletes trying to bulk up, protein is attracting boomers who know they need it to preserve their muscle mass so they can remain upright and active. “High in protein” will be a popular new label claim as it is added to foods not traditionally a good source.

“No” Foods – The focus on what’s not in the food will attract more attention this year as more shoppers seek out gluten free, lactose free, and animal-free (vegan) options. This will make is easy to say yes to what you can have.

Fermented Foods – One of the oldest food preservation methods in culinary history, fermentation is gaining traction for its unique flavor profile. New takes on sauerkraut and kimchi will lead the way, followed by pickled radishes, turnips and Brussels sprouts to replace the familiar deli pickle.

Creative Cocktails – Bartenders will be infusing drinks with spices and fresh herbs taken from their own gardens and making alcohol –free adult beverages with specialty syrups and homemade seltzer. Innovative cocktails will feature everything from tropical fruits to hard ciders, with smoked drinks taking your barbecue to a whole new level.

Vegetable Supremacy – Whether filling a small plate or taking over as the entrée, foods from the garden will be nudging out barnyard animals. You’ll find them locally sourced or foraged from your supermarket; raw and roasted; and always more affordable than meat.

Customized Condiments – Homemade and specialty brands will provide signature flavors to elevate whatever they adorn, which is the role of a condiment. The days of making everything on the plate taste like ketchup or Dijon mustard are over.

Going Grapefruit – The juice figures prominently in Mexico’s favorite cocktail, The Paloma, when mixed with tequila and a splash of club soda. Other original uses of the fruit and juice will give this neglected citrus fruit it’s day in the sun.

Limited Edition Chicken – This staple is now being fed, housed and raised to taste like anything but the chicken. It’s the new white meat all over again, and worth another taste.

Glamorous Grains – Revivals of the grains once eaten by Pharos, such as farro, will fill more of our plates. Not just for those avoiding gluten, a side of spelt, kamut or quinoa delivers more protein and fiber than more familiar whole grains.

Better Bread Basket – Eating a basket full of nondescript bread with hard butter before a restaurant meal is being replaced by the chance to order an artisanal bread to complement your meal. Americans may finally learn the difference between a French baguette and Italian bread.

Greens From Land and Sea – Be prepared to see more kale on the menu, along with underutilized mustard, turnip and beet green, while seaweed will have a presence in places other than sushi.

Asian Invasion – Tastes originating in Thailand, Korea and Viet Nam will win over our palates as they appear in tangy fried chicken, spicy baby back ribs and fiery hot chili. Chinese take-out won’t be able to compete.

You can check out last year’s predictions here to see how many of those came true!