My Top 10 Organic Food Moments of 2013

Written by Max Goldberg on December 24, 2013. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.

Here is a list of of my top 10 organic food moments from 2013, and these are both industry achievements and personal highlights.

1) Whole Foods announces that all GMOs in its stores will be labeled by 2018

Unwilling to wait for a federal labeling law, Whole Foods decided to take matters into its own hands and made this historic announcement in March of this year. The importance of this decision cannot be underestimated as it has already kickstarted an enormous shift in the non-GMO and organic supply chain.

Immediately after the company released this news to its vendors and to the media at Natural Products Expo West 2013 in Anaheim, I spoke with Co-CEO Walter Robb and President A.C. Gallo about the announcement.

Without question, this has to be the most important event of the year and its reverberations will be felt for decades to come.

2) I-522 fundraising dinner at Natural Products Expo East

At Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, Vani Hari and I hosted a dinner to raise money for I-522, the campaign for GMO-labeling in Washington state. This was the second fundraiser that we have done together and just like last year’s Prop 37 dinner that we had in NYC, this, too, was a very special night.

The sold-out dinner was packed with organic food industry executives, CEOs, and founders, and we flew in two amazing GMO-activists to speak to everyone: Birke Baehr, the 14 year-old YouTube sensation who made a name for himself at a TedX talk a few years ago, and Rachel Parent, a 14 year-old and Canada’s most high profile GMO-activist, who successfully debated Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary on national TV.

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It is a shame that we didn’t record their talks because these two completely wowed the audience. Below are the two videos that made each of these two activists so well-known.

3) Launching Suja Elements

suja-elements

Suja, the biggest success story in the organic industry this year, asked me to help them launch their new line of smoothie drinks called Elements. It was a big thrill working with Suja to introduce this very innovative product – the first certified organic, HPP, pressed juice/smoothie beverage of its kind.

Not only are the people who run this company incredibly impressive, but they are ultra-committed to giving back. Suja sponsored our I-522 fundraiser dinner at Natural Products Expo East, and $.20 for every bottle of Suja Elements sold will be donated to a different non-profit, including Food Democracy Now!, Citizens for GMO-labeling, Teens Turning Green, Whole Planet Foundation, and many other great ones.

And possibly the best part about it is that there is no cap or ceiling on how much they’ll donate. This means that some of these non-profits could wind up getting checks for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. How awesome is that!!

4) GMO-labeling passes in two states

This year, Connecticut and Maine were the first two states to pass GMO-labeling laws. Even though these laws come with stipulations – bordering states must pass their own laws as well in order for these bills to kick in – having two states with GMO-labeling laws is a great, great start for our movement.

5) David Bronner coming up HUGE for I-522

The amount of time and money that David Bronner and his company, Dr. Bronner’s, donated to I-522, the GMO-labeling initiative in Washington state, was absolutely incredible. By far, he was the largest donor – $2.67M out of a total $8M raised – and he also had special packaging made for the campaign.

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I cannot thank you enough, David Bronner! Your commitment is beyond words, and I am so deeply appreciative for all that you and your family have done and continue to do for our cause.

david-bronner

6) On Fox News Channel talking about GMO-labeling

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A few months ago, I had the good fortune to be invited on supermodel Carol Alt’s talk show to discuss GMO-labeling.

I was shocked that a national news network would allow the truth to be told about the health risks of GMOs, and Collective Evolution ended up calling the segment “the most hard-hitting GMO report ever aired by the mainstream media.”

Many, many thanks to Carol Alt for helping to get our message out to a national audience.

7) Whole Foods kicking Chobani off of its shelves

Is there anyone who didn’t just LOVE it when Whole Foods decided to kick Chobani off its shelves for refusing to stop using GMOs in its products???

Chobani can spin it anyway it wants, but this is very damaging to its brand and is a total embarrassment. Also, this move sends a real message to Whole Foods’ vendors that they better get serious about non-GMO or there will be real consequences. 

We are very, very fortunate that Errol Schweizer (below), Executive Global Grocery Coordinator for Whole Foods, is such an amazing and tireless advocate for non-GMO, organic, and GMO-labeling.

errol-schweizer

8) My Pressed Organic Juice Directory launches

pressed-juice-directory

The idea for a Pressed Organic Juice Directory was one that I had for quite a while, and it grew out of my desire to find pressed organic juice whenever I would travel.

Since there wasn’t one centralized place that had all of the pressed organic places around the world, I decided to build it myself and figured other people would want it as well. The reception so far has been fantastic, and I love being able to meet and promote organic juice entrepreneurs across the globe. Right now, we have more than 1,200 listings with 10 countries represented.

A big re-design with improved functionality is being finished as we speak, and version 2.0 will be launching next month. An iPhone app should be out sometime next year as well.

9) Kraft doesn’t donate to I-522

Last year, every single major food company donated money to defeat Proposition 37, California’s GMO-labeling initiative.

This year in Washington state’s campaign to label GMOs, I-522, all of those same companies donated money again. That is, all of them except one, Kraft.

The fact that one of the country’s biggest food conglomerates didn’t financially support this initiative is very significant and is largely due to the tremendous backlash it faced for using synthetic ingredients in its Mac & Cheese. Not wanting any more negative publicity, Kraft bowed out of trying to defeat I-522.

We can give my friend Food Babe tremendous props for this and for also causing a national stir by showing up to Kraft’s corporate offices with 270,000 signatures and demanding that the company change its ways.

10) Hawaii passes pesticide disclosure and GMO-planting restrictions

For those who don’t know, the fields of Hawaii have been used for decades as the experimental laboratory for all of the major GMO-companies. This is where they run their tests, contaminate organic and non-GMO crops, and poison the land and water with their super-toxic chemicals.

Unable to tolerate GMOs and pesticides ruining their paradise, citizens of Hawaii have been staging a major revolt for the past few years, and a victory was finally achieved a few months ago when the island of Kauai passed Bill 2491. This bill will require companies to disclose which pesticides they are spraying and where, farmers to disclose which GMO-crops they are growing, and it creates buffer zones between fields sprayed with pesticides and schools, parks, medical facilities and private residences.

Several weeks after Kauai passed this measure, the Big Island signed Bill 113 into law, which prohibits biotech companies from operating on the Big Island and banning farmers from growing any new genetically-engineered crops.

If you haven’t seen this YouTube movie about the havoc that these big chemical companies have been causing in Hawaii, please watch it. You absolutely won’t believe what is going on there.

IN CLOSING…….

Looking back, 2013 was a fantastic year and the big takeaway is that we must continue to have our voices heard. We can never ever give up until we have the type of food policy that is just, fair, and beneficial to our people and our planet.

Thank you so much for supporting organic food, and we are all in this together!

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22 Comments

  1. great top 10 list!! have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
    with great folks like you and Vani working everyday to make changes, i think 2013 has been wonderful!

    Written by kerry surface on December 24, 2013 @ 3:10 pm
  2. Great list Max! I’m so glad that these alternative approaches and tactics are working. Getting GMO-cow-feed Chobani out of Whole Foods is a good wake up call. It hopefully gets other vendors to figure out how to go non-GMO and hopefully organic. Best in the New Year! Happy Holidays.

    Written by JMC on December 24, 2013 @ 3:53 pm
  3. Wow, Dr. Bronner so easily changed his product label! What? It’s not difficult or costly? Imagine that ;) :)

    Written by Emi on December 25, 2013 @ 2:23 am
  4. Please come upstate to rural NY and take a look at the beautiful landscape of Dairy Farms, several hundred of us who Supply Chonani and 20 plus other NY Yogurt plants. We pay ag land taxes of thred times the national average, our workers comp is among highest in.the country. Non gmo grain is scarce and highly expensive here. How can.we afford any more costs? As Farms fall, most are replaced by subdivisions here. Shocking that you say ths milk from our Farms is no good.

    Written by nyfarmer on December 25, 2013 @ 8:29 pm
  5. Thank you so much, Kerry!!! I am so appreciative of your continued support and happy holidays!!

    All the best,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on December 25, 2013 @ 10:01 pm
  6. Thank you JMC! Yes, these tactics are working, and when Whole Foods decides to do something, it can really make a difference because of their tremendous power in the marketplace.

    Happy holidays!
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on December 25, 2013 @ 10:02 pm
  7. Hi Emi,

    Yes, can you imagine???? Swapping labels, as we are told, is an incredibly expensive process. David Bronner and his whole family are amazing.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on December 25, 2013 @ 10:03 pm
  8. NY Farmer,

    I have no doubt that your farms are beautiful but people don’t want dairy products from animals that are fed GMO-grain. You can’t argue with what consumers are demanding.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on December 25, 2013 @ 10:05 pm
  9. I can see that the issues the farmers face are of no concern to you.

    Written by nyfarmer on December 26, 2013 @ 4:40 am
  10. Great!

    I loved 2 states accepting GMO labelling and Hawai getting into true paradise mode.

    Hope Organics will have Great 2014 and years to come.

    Organically…..

    Amol

    Written by Amol on December 27, 2013 @ 7:31 am
  11. Max,
    Excellent recap of the year! We have had so many moments to celebrate in the organic movement this past year and you have elevated some of the most important. We do have some challenges such as funding for organic research and getting a farm bill that includes organic priorities. It is great to keep our eye on the positive while working to create our future vision. Organics holds so much potential for the environment, the economy and our health. I appreciate all that you do to increase that potential! Happy New Year.

    Written by Melody Meyer on December 27, 2013 @ 4:45 pm
  12. It is sad to see a NY dairy farmer is more concerned about saving his own ass than he is about the healthful quality of his milk. Having grown up on a NY dairy farm that shipped honest, healthful milk, it is a great moral disappointment to know that most farmers are now willing to grow product for others they are not willing to eat themselves or feed to their families. Polling shows this, and I know farmers growing transgenic crops who go straight organic in what they buy for themselves.

    When the Canadians right across Lake Ontario found Bt toxin in the blood of 93% of women of child-bearing age and 80% of their still unborn children, they believe it came from the meat and dairy fed Monsanto’s transgenic corn and cottonseed meal. Monsanto said their toxin would be neutralized in the gut, but everyone should know it is not, and the health consequences are not minor for animals or people. That has been known from European studies for most of two decades. Yet, no action has been taken in the United States to fix the problem. Many farmers have been more a part of the problem than they are part of the solution.

    Thirty years ago when we rolled tractors to Washington to get better farm policy, only one NY farmer joined us. The dairy farmers sat on their duff because they thought they had a better deal already wired into the political system. Now they are crying as we can see here from what NYfarmer has written. Maybe if they had joined us back then, things would have worked out better for everyone. We had major groups from 35 states but not from NY and other northeast dairy states. The goal of that effort was to stop policy from continuing to run more farmers out of business, and farmers from the northeast would have helped a lot in winning consumer support for economic justice on the farm. We needed their help to win support from city and suburban people in the Northeast, but we did not get it. That could have made a big difference.

    Finally, I would also have more respect for the argument of a farmer with the Moxie to use his own name than I do for someone hiding behind a pseudonym. The point here is to find out the truth, create a wise and honorable food system, and to separate right from wrong. With healthcare costs rising as they are, we cannot tolerate any more people who want to hide the causes to save their own skin. This is a moral issue, and I would invite NYfarmer to engage it..

    Don Patterson

    Written by Don Patterson on December 27, 2013 @ 6:20 pm
  13. P.S. Mars was another major company that did not contribute to the anti-labeling effort in Washington state. They contributed $500,000 in California on Prop. 37 but nothing in Washington a year later. It seems likely to have been a board level decision to no longer ride the Monsanto band wagon.

    Written by Don Patterson on December 27, 2013 @ 6:30 pm
  14. Max
    Doing fantastic job, great to see Whole foods stepping up to the plate i am sure 2014 will be better year for Organic products.
    Society should concentrate on buying organic not worry about price of organic food compare to what u pay for medical bills later in ones life!
    Happy New Year Seamus. NY

    Written by Seamus on December 29, 2013 @ 12:38 pm
  15. @nyfarmer – To say that I have no concern for the issues that farmers face is just laughable. What about the organic farmers whose farms are contaminated by GMOs from conventional farmers and then get sued by Monsanto?? What about the farmers that use toxic pesticides and contaminate our water supply???

    You obviously weren’t at the NY State GMO-labeling hearings where several NY farmers rallied against GMO-labeling in our state.

    @blackjudahking, @amol – Thank you!

    @melody – Thank you so much and happy new year to you as well! And, yes, we have plenty of issues ahead of us.

    @don patterson – Thanks for your comments and i agree with you 100%!

    @seamus – I agree, Whole Foods Market is really stepping up! happy new year as well!!

    Have a great 2014 everyone!!
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on December 29, 2013 @ 10:18 pm
  16. Max,
    As ever I am so grateful to you for your vigilance, dogged determination to get to the bottom of these critical stories.
    Things are changing ! You are a large part of that tipping !
    Happy 2014 !

    Written by Caroline Nation on December 30, 2013 @ 5:58 pm
  17. Fantastic progress, however I am less than impressed with the Whole Foods announcement to label GMO’s by 2018. There is no justifiable reason they need to take FIVE YEARS to accomplish this. They can and should do better.

    Written by Sierra on December 31, 2013 @ 9:18 am
  18. I am so happy to see all that has been accomplished by people like you who actually do something about our food supply (as opposed to ungrateful people who write negative comments on your blog!). I look forward to following you into 2014 and anticipate that your continued efforts will bring more progress to the food industry. Thank you!! Happy New Year!

    Written by Katie on December 31, 2013 @ 12:53 pm
  19. We in NY are farmers smaller than the national average. 7.2 million acres of land. Fully 1/3 of that land in forests and perennial pastures. Many grazing herds. Grasslands serve as the natural resource base. Some of NY’s dairy farms actually filter NYC’s water supply.
    Consumer groups have long demanded the cheapest of milk from rural NY. In fact, your representatives have fought for it to the point of crushing thousands of farmers. In 1998, NY farmers tried to establish a collective bargaining mechanism to help us negotiate milk prices with global scale companies. NYC food groups and politicians smashed that effort w/no concern as to what was to happen upstate next. The NY Times denounced family farmers and letters to the editor called for more efficient family farms.
    2009 Dairy farmers upstate were committing suicide and some of us approached NYC food groups for help. Very few showed any interest. 2010. Food antitrust hearings were held in NY. Again, farmers asked consumer groups to testify about the massive consolidation going on in food. None responded and farmers testified alone.
    We have lost 9 out of 10 dairy farmers in my life and fully half of NY’s agricultural land. Please don’t tell me that simply becoming an organic dairy farmer is the pat answer for a farm, either. My organic dairy farmer neighbor burned down his farm, his house and comitted suicide last summer.
    We are a disrespected group of people. In your urbancentric view, it is only the consumer who matters….the consumer who will bully and shout at farmers that they are not good enough without knowing the farmer’s constraints. And, a consumer who does not show up to help out in horrible times of need for political help, for help with massive land taxes and a consumer who doesn’t care what or where the landscape is that produces his or her food….so long as it is labeled as “organic.” More organic food will be coming in from overseas with the widening of the Panama Canal and the dredging of ports up and down the east coast.
    What is the point in even trying to speak with you or people like Food Babe? I saw NYC consumers celebrating that WF will replace NY made Chobani with “Brown Cow” (owned by Stonyfield) (Owned by global Dannon) hauled in from California. Score one for Big Organic…and a stick in the eye to the farmers of hill country NY.
    And, Don Patterson, I don’t need your braggert attitude. I have worked in the farmer justice movement since the mid-1980′s where we fought for a fair and just farm economy. I was still in college during the February 1979 tractorcade if that is what you are referring to. ANd, I have been in every milk strike and farmer demonstration in upstate NY since 1963. We have a long history of farmer justice in deep rural NY. But, I guess, these days….the idea of farmer justice or even speaking to actual farmers is outdated as consumers get further and further from the land and feel it is more and more their right to hurt farmers without ever having spoken with them.

    Written by Lorraine Lewandrowski on January 1, 2014 @ 2:29 pm
  20. Responding to Lorraine. No bragging intended. We just need the facts. The point should never be pit farmers against urban consumers or vice versa. That is the problem. Now we need to fix it. I have spent years fighting to keep farmers on the land, including those whose methods I disagree with. Farmers are an important national resource, but we need to find the way to get back to farming wisdom, justice, and truth. That cannot happen as long as many farmers have swallowed the Monsanto propaganda without examining the destruction of health and the environment. Economic survival is worth nothing when the damage is greater than any benefits to farmers or anyone else.

    Written by Don Patterson on January 1, 2014 @ 9:19 pm
  21. @Caroline and @Katie – Thank you so much!!

    @Lorraine – I agree with Don. Too many farmers have swallowed the Monsanto Kool-Aid and believe all of their propaganda. They are promoting the use of highly toxic chemicals and GMOs, both of which are causing serious damage to our citizens and planet. Consumers do not want these things ruining our food supply, and it is not reasonable to say that consumers are against farmers simply because they express this opinion. Without farmers, there is no food. We understand that. But we are fighting for a food supply that does not harm us or the environment.

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 2, 2014 @ 3:02 pm
  22. You have no idea whether I drink Monsanto Kool Aid or not. Any farmer who tries to speak is automatically accused of kool aid drinking. This is why there are few rural urban conversations. Farming takes years and goes from annual planting season to season. You all can change on a dime as to what shelf you buy food from, whereas farmers cannot change crops or methods of production on a dime.

    Written by Lorraine Lewandrowski on January 6, 2014 @ 4:17 pm

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