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EU Continues Debate Over Glyphosate, General Mills Partners with Organic Valley to Increase Organic Acreage, more

June 13, 2016

The EU Continues Debate Over Glyphosate Renewal

On June 23, 2016, the European Commission’s Appeal Committee will consider a short term proposal to extend the EU’s approval of the herbicide glyphosate, marketed as Monsanto’s Roundup, until the end of 2017. Currently, the European Chemicals Agency is set to release its own assessment of the product’s safety. The member countries of the EU have been at odds over the role that glyphosate should play in the region’s agriculture industry, with German policymakers calling particular attention to the alleged dangers of the herbicide.

General Mills Partners with Organic Valley to Help Conventional Dairy Farms Transition to Certified Organic

General Mills has launched a new partnership with the largest organic cooperative in the U.S. that will help about 20 dairy farms add around 3,000 acres to organic dairy production over the next three years. The program with Wisconsin-based Organic Valley will drive more acres in the US into the organic certification process and builds upon General Mills’ commitment to double the organic acreage from which it sources ingredients by 2019. General Mills has transformed its portfolio in recent years and is now the third largest maker of natural and organic foods with nine brands including Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, LÄRABAR, Liberté, Mountain High, Food Should Taste Good, Immaculate Baking, Annie’s and EPIC Provisions.

The strategic alignment with Organic Valley will build General Mills’ relationships with the organic farmers who will be supporting its yogurt operating unit in the US, which includes brands like Yoplait, Annie’s, Liberté and Mountain High. Earlier this year General Mills introduced the Annie’s brand to the US yogurt category with a new line of certified organic whole milk yogurt.  In addition, the company is transitioning its Liberté yogurt brand in the US to USDA certified organic, which will roll out nationwide this summer.

Tiny Worm Could be ‘Canary in the Coal Mine’ for Environmental Toxins

A Eugene, Oregon startup has developed a new technology that uses tiny, transparent worms called nematodes to test water samples quickly for a broad range of environmental toxins that impact human health. The breakthrough could dramatically speed testing, cut costs and reduce training time required for technicians doing environmental testing. Developed by NemaMetrix, the technology is a new application of the company’s existing ScreenChip technology, which was designed for drug screening and uses microfluidics to extract individual nematodes from a reservoir then monitor electrical signals from the worm to quantitatively measure the effects a drug or chemical has on an animal’s overall biology. This nematode measures one millimeter in length and has only a two-week lifespan. According to the company, using the nematodes dramatically reduces the time and costs associated with current testing methods, which often involve small fish or, in longer term studies, mice or rats that live for two years and are expensive to maintain.


Algae Boom Dead Zone in Gulf of Mexico is Size of Connecticut

According to a forecast released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Geological Survey, the section of the Gulf of Mexico that has been stripped of marine life as the result of hypoxia will stretch to nearly 6,000 square miles—roughly the size of Connecticut. The hypoxic zone, which results when oxygen is depleted from the water, is largely attributed to the vast amounts of fertilizer runoff and wastewater that travel through the Mississippi River basin to the Gulf. The low oxygen levels cannot support most marine life and habitats in near-bottom waters. Organisms that can flee leave the dead zones, while others which cannot leave are stressed or die of suffocation. Reducing nutrients flowing to the Gulf would help the situation since, under normal conditions, this area contains a diversity of marine life, critical habitats, and a number of key fisheries, say the agencies.

Celebs Come Under Fire for Marketing Unhealthy Products

A researcher at New York University has concluded that celebrities may not be lending their endorsements to the healthiest options. According to Marie Bragg’s report, more and more celebrities in the music industry are backing drinks and snacks with a large portion of these ad deals targeting minors and children. Some notable example include Snoop Dogg’s deal with Hot Pockets and Monster Energy drinks, Beyonce’s and Katy Perry’s deals with Pepsi, and Justin Timberlake’s partnership with McDonald’s.

In other marketing news, The Clif Bar Family Foundation is hoping that an animated talking seed can raise public awareness about what it deems as the threat that farm consolidation poses to the industry. According to the health-focused snack bar maker, more than half of the world’s seeds are concentrated among six companies. Recent M&A activities could slice that control down to three companies. In the nearly five minute video, the cartoon seed, Mr. Seed, calls out many criticisms of the chemical seed industry and highlights certain benefits of organic seeds. According to Matthew Dillon, the director of the Clif Bar Family Foundation’s Seed Matters initiative, the video is meant to call into question the assertion that agrochemical companies feed the world.

Former FDA Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine to Take on Food Security

Mike Taylor, who recently left his tenure as the FDA’s commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, has announced that he will now serve as a senior fellow at Freedman Consulting in Washington D.C. He will also dedicated some of his time to advising the Aspen Institute’s Food and Society Program to tackle food system challenges and pursue opportunities that will strengthen the food system globally. During his time at the FDA, Taylor was one of the key agency members responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, a major overhaul of our nation’s food safety regulatory scheme. One of his most notable career landmarks is his decision to declare that the pathogen E. coli O157:H7 is a per se adulterant in meat following the outbreak tied to Jack-in-the-Box restaurants in 1993.

Other News That’s Fit to Chew

  • Former FDA Commissioner FDA Margaret Hamburg expressed concern about a proposed mandatory GMO labeling scheme, cautioning that it could convey a sense of danger surrounding genetically engineered foods among other concerns, on The Daily Intake.
  • FLOTUS reflects on her marketing efforts to get Americans eating healthier, on Adweek.
  • The FDA recently unveiled a new format for the infamous Nutrition Facts Panel that may cause some food segments to take a serious second look at their offerings, on FoodDIVE.

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