As we enter a new year, there is a tremendous amount at stake and these are the top 5 organic food news stories that I’ll be keeping a close eye on in 2016.
GMO LABELING IN VERMONT / DARK ACT
While these are two separate issues, they are deeply connected.
In the summer of 2016, Vermont’s mandatory GMO-labeling bill is scheduled to go into effect. If this actually happens, it will be a watershed moment for the organic movement.
However, Big Food is using two different tactics in order to prevent this from ever taking place – (1) suing the state of Vermont to overturn this bill and (2) attempting to pass a federal law that, among other things, would make it illegal for states to label GMOs.
This federal bill, widely referred to as the DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know Act), has already been approved in the House of Representatives but has not made it through the Senate just yet.
GMO-labeling opponents tried to slip it into the federal spending bill this month but were unsuccessful.
Beginning in January, we can expect a massive push to get the DARK Act passed in the Senate.
Time is of the essence here, and a loss would be catastrophic for Big Food and its very powerful lobbying arm, the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
APPROVAL OF ORGANIC FISH
The prospect of having USDA certified organic fish is very real and a controversial one at that.
The National Organic Standards Board has already proposed a set of standards, and now it is in the USDA’s hands as to what it wants to do next.
There are many, many problems with the proposed standards for organic fish, including the fact that fish farms at sea cannot contain or control inputs and outputs.
The Center for Food Safety believes that a land-based, closed-loop, recirculating organic system could be possible, but if organic fish gets approved, it is highly unlikely that this is what we’ll be getting.
PASSAGE OF TPP / TTIP
The passage of either of the major global trade agreements, Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), would be disastrous for organic.
Among many other reasons, these agreements contain a seldom talked about clause called the Investor State Dispute Settlement, which allows corporations to sue governments for passing laws that are unfavorable to them.
So, if governments were to pass a GMO-labeling bill, corporations could sue these governments for lost profits and essentially force them to reverse their laws.
TPP has already been negotiated and is now awaiting approval in Congress.
Even though it was reported last month that Obama’s trade deal was in trouble, I am not holding my breath.
Everything in Washington is a negotiation, and the President usually gets what he wants, especially in light of the fact that he has said TPP ratification is his top priority for 2016.
THE LAUNCH OF 365 BY WHOLE FOODS MARKET
From a business standpoint, the launch of the lower-priced grocery chain 365 by Whole Foods Market should be the highlight of 2016.
In the second half of next year, we’ll see the opening of the initial five locations — the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles (the first to open); Houston, Texas; Santa Monica, California; Bellevue, Washington; and Portland, Oregon.
Co-Founder and Co-CEO John Mackey has said that this chain would be “hip, cool, and tech-oriented” but other than that, we really don’t know much.
Needless to say, it will be fascinating to see what this new retail concept looks like, and the grand opening of the Silver Lake location is sure to be quite an event. I hope to be there for that.
IMPENDING LITIGATION AGAINST GENETICALLY-ENGINEERED SALMON
As I mentioned above, the FDA’s approval of genetically-engineered salmon was a major loss for organic advocates.
Not only are there major health and environmental concerns regarding GE-salmon, but this approval opens the door for GE-steak, GE-lamb, GE-pork, and other genetically-engineered foods and cloned animals to make their way onto our dinner plates.
Fortunately, there are many non-profit groups that are working hard to protect organic consumers from these disastrous decisions.
The Center for Food Safety has said it will sue the FDA for the way this agency approved GE-salmon and for its failure to adequately assess the environmental impact.
I just got off the phone with Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Directory of The Center for Food Safety, who said that we can expect this lawsuit to be filed next month.