(From left to right: Andrew Kimbrell, Deepak Chopra, Gary Hirshberg)
Last night at ABC Home in New York City, Deepak Chopra hosted a discussion about the dangers we face from genetically-modified food.
On stage with Deepak were some of the organic industry’s leading players including:
His organization is constantly suing Monsanto and the USDA to protect the rights of organic food consumers and farmers.
– Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield. Gary started his organic dairy company in 1983, well before there were official organic standards, and is the industry’s most visible organic food CEO and proponent.
– Debbie Barker, International Program Director of The Center for Food Safety. Debbie is charged with keeping a very close eye on the foreign markets, a place where the GMO-companies are very, very active and aggressive.
Salient Points from Each Panelist
– We use 153 million more pounds of pesticides each year because of GMOs.
– The U.S. has 10-20 million acres of farmland (mostly cotton fields) which contain weeds that we cannot kill. These weeds have developed resistance to the chemicals being sprayed on them and have morphed into superweeds.
Monsanto and others are now trying to get approval for more noxious and powerful chemicals, such as 2-4D, to try to kill these superweeds. This will only exacerbate the problem and makes things much, much worse.
– Due to the work of The Center for Food Safety and others, we have stopped genetically-modified wheat, rice, bio-pharmaceuticals and sugar beets. There have been many successes.
– Farmers used to spend between 4-11% of their income on seeds. With GMOs, farmers now spend between 17-41% of their income on seeds.
50% of Monsanto’s profits come from seeds.
– The GMO companies have spent $28M on lobbying since President Obama came into office.
– The President’s Cancer Panel report calls for people to avoid food that contains chemicals and artificial growth hormones.
– The White House did not detect a massive outcry to the deregulation of GE-alfalfa. A few hundred thousand emails opposing this terrible decision is a rounding error. It needs to be millions.
– What will drive the price of organic food down is volume. He has witnessed it first-hand with his own company when he buys sugar cane from Brazil.
(From left to right: Deepak Chopra, Gary Hirshberg, Debbie Barker)
– The major GMO companies have filed patents for more than 1,600 climate-ready GMO-seeds and crops. However, these seeds do not yet exist.
– President Obama appointed Dr. Rajiv Shah to head the USAID. A former employee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Shah is a MAJOR proponent of GMOs and pushes this agenda to developing countries around the world. Horrifying.
– GMOs have created such problems and wreaked such havoc that they have caused over 250,000 farmers in India to commit suicide. It is referred to as “bio-colonialism”.
– The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have committed tremendous resources to Africa for the widespread adoption of genetically-modified seeds and food.
My Key Takeaways
As I have written many times before, organic food is the only way to feed the world and GMOs are unequivocally not the answer.
I left the event with these few takeaways.
1) Huge Sense of Urgency. The deregulation of GE-alfalfa has created serious alarm within the organic community that something needs to be done. And done quickly.
Gary Hirshberg mentioned a few times that we only have about 17 months before the next election. It is imperative that we have someone in the White House who will protect organic food — because right now we do not.
If you want to learn more about all of the “anti-organic” appointments and policies that President Obama has initiated, please watch my interview with Andrew Kimbrell that I shot last month at Expo West. It will shock you.
2) National Branding/Advertising Campaign for Organic is Coming At the Q&A session, I said (at the 1:04:17 mark) that the organic industry has a marketing problem and asked whether the industry leaders have discussed creating a national campaign to raise awareness of organic. Advertising whiz Alex Bogusky at Expo West led a panel talking about this very issue.
Much to my surprise, Gary Hirshberg said that 65 CEOs of the top organic food companies met recently and we should be hearing something within the next few weeks. This was very, very good news.
3) This Fight is about Survival Deepak Chopra and others talked about how this isn’t just a fight of GMO vs. organic. It is a fight for our survival as humans, and this was the first time that I have heard the GMO vs. organic debate phrased as such.
If we continue to allow GMOs to spread and millions of more pounds of chemicals to be sprayed, the potential consequences are dire. According to a study from Washington State University, researchers suggest that bee colonies are collapsing due to the high level of pesticides we use.
Without bees to pollinate our plants, we will have four years to live.
(After the talk with Debbie Barker from The Center for Food Safety and my good friend Alberto Gonzalez, owner of GustOrganics, the only 100% certified organic restaurant in NYC.)
This great event was streamed live on the Internet, and I am very happy that someone of Deepak Chopra’s name recognition is bringing attention to this critical problem.
Also, if you have never been to ABC Home, please do so the next time you are in New York City. It is one of the most spectacular stores in Manhattan and the woman who runs it, Paulette Cole, is a star.