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FDA and FTC need to end anti-GMO deception in organic food advertising

The Hill | Posted on August 16, 2018

For a long time, American consumers had it pretty good. They could read a food label or product advertisement and trust that the information it contained was reasonably truthful. That’s because ever since their formation over 100 years ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) were there actively to enforce laws against false and misleading marketing schemes.Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. While the laws against phony food claims and misleading statements are still enforced in some areas, the FDA and FTC now treat one segment of the food and agriculture industry as if the laws do not apply. That’s the $47 billion and growing organic food industry, where misleading health claims about conventional agriculture are almost universal – especially claims against GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, mostly grains.Take, for example, the seemingly ubiquitous Non-GMO Project butterfly label appearing today on more than 50 thousand products. The Project – much of whose board is drawn from the organic industry – states on its website that its purpose is to help consumers avoid “high risk” products containing GMO “contamination.” To that end the Project provides, for a hefty price, testing and certification – none of which is government verified -- and the right to stick their butterfly on your package.The law is clear that food claims made on websites come under FDA’s labeling guidelines. It is also clear that the assertions the Project makes on its website should be captured under FTC’s equally strict laws against misleading advertising.

Ben & Jerry's 'Milk With Dignity' Pact With Farmworkers Seems To Be Paying Off

NPR | Posted on August 16, 2018

Some Vermont dairy workers say their wages and living conditions have improved, thanks to an agreement reached last year between the workers and Ben & Jerry's, a division of global consumer products company Unilever. Times are tough on dairy farms around the country, with milk prices declining for the fourth year in a row. But 72 farms that supply Ben & Jerry's earn a little more by agreeing to follow labor and housing standards.

‘Local’ is trendy, but is it safe?

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on August 16, 2018

Most any foodstuff sells faster these days, often at a premium, when it’s tagged as being “locally grown.” Christy Bratcher, associate professor of Animal Sciences at Auburn University, wondered what that designation really meant to consumers, and how that understanding differed from what they were getting. In her ongoing research, “A Systems Approach to Improving the Production and Distribution of Local and Regional Foods for a More Secure Food System,” Bratcher and her team researched meat production facilities of all sizes, federally and state-inspected, across the Southeast. She is looking to catalog the processes being used and their effect on food safety, as well as compare them to consumers’ perceptions. 

Kroger sets timeline for gestation stall-free pork

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on August 16, 2018

he Kroger Co. has announced plans to source pork only from producers who do not use sow gestation stalls. The nation’s largest supermarket chain specified in its recent sustainability report that it aims to buy 100 percent of its pork from producers using group housing or free-range methods by 2025.

FDA’s Gottlieb looking at organic label claims

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on August 16, 2018

he Food and Drug Administration is poised to weigh in on labeling claims in the organic market after a recent op-ed piece by a former FDA official accused the food industry of deceiving consumers. “I'm going to put out more detailed information on what different terms mean on food packaging, to help consumers best use claims like organic, antibiotic free, etc.,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote this week, beginning a series of Tweets on the subject.

Gene-editing startups ignite the next 'Frankenfood' fight

Nasdaq | Posted on August 16, 2018

In a suburban Minneapolis laboratory, a tiny company that has never turned a profit is poised to beat the world's biggest agriculture firms to market with the next potential breakthrough in genetic engineering - a crop with "edited" DNA. Calyxt Inc, an eight-year-old firm co-founded by a genetics professor, altered the genes of a soybean plant to produce healthier oil using the cutting-edge editing technique rather than conventional genetic modification.

FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine’s Investigation into a Possible Connection Between Diet and Canine Heart Disease

FDA | Posted on August 16, 2018

FDA is investigating a potential dietary link between canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and dogs eating certain pet foods containing legumes like peas or lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients. We began investigating after FDA‘s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) received a number of reports of DCM in dogs eating these diets. DCM itself is not considered rare in dogs, but these reports are unusual because many of the reported cases occurred in breeds of dogs not typically genetically prone to the disease and were reported to have been fed the same type of diet (labeled as “grain-free”).

Here's Why PETA Uses 'Shock Tactics' To Freak You Out

Food Beast | Posted on August 16, 2018

No one enjoys being called a murderer or likes being shown images of goats being beaten to produce milk, but PETA has never had a problem with those approaches in delineating their message, and has a reputation for such shocking campaign tactics. Hell, who can forget the "Don't swallow, ditch dairy," campaign where they depicted a woman with a face full of, um, bodily fluid.These guerilla tactics are very much done consciously, and it is something PETA feels is necessary to bring attention to their animal-friendly mission.PETA Media Director Ben Williamson joined The Katchup podcast, Thursday, and explained these "shock tactics," and why they are done.

The maker of the Impossible Burger tested its secret sauce in rats. Then PETA went on the attack

Stat News | Posted on August 16, 2018

Is the death of 188 lab rats justifiable if it spares the lives of millions of cows?That’s the question animating a heated war of words between two organizations that share a core value: saving the lives of animals.On one side is Impossible Foods, the Silicon Valley company behind the Impossible Burger and other meatless products that actually taste like meat. The company wants to get more people to eat its burger instead of the usual kind, and, in so doing, spare the lives of countless cows that would otherwise be slaughtered for beef.PETA takes issue with several rat experiments that Impossible Foods conducted to test an ingredient in its products.Part of the reason that the Impossible Burger tastes like beef is because of the secret sauce used to make it: an ingredient called soy leghemoglobin. It’s a protein that contains the molecule heme, which is found in actual meat. By synthesizing heme from the roots of soybean plants, Impossible Foods aims to trick the palate and emulate that burger flavor.The company determined that it would have to test its special ingredient in animal models in order to get the stamp of approval it wanted from the FDA. So it did so, on a total of 188 rats in three separate experiments. As is typical in medical research, the rats were sacrificed.

Genetics technology could lead to more crops, fresher food

San Francisco Gate | Posted on August 9, 2018

J.R. Simplot has acquired gene editing licensing rights that could one day be used to help farmers produce more crops and make grocery store offerings such as strawberries, potatoes and avocados stay fresher longer.  Simplot Co. announced the agreement with DowDuPont and the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, developers of the nascent gene editing technology. Simplot is the first agricultural company to receive such a license.