The Big Mac Boot


The gringa’s oldest son is doing her proud. Like many millenials, my son has a strong desire to make the world a better place. He has aspirations of doing this by becoming a community organizer and rallying people around important issues of social justice, working together to bring about public awareness and positive change. He has taken his first steps toward achieving his goal by volunteering with a local organization and participated in a press conference.

As a proud and supportive parent, and a bit of a rabble-rouser myself, I simply had to devote a post sharing the good work this organization is doing. Please see their press release below. Links are provided to other media coverage or research documents for your own browsing pleasure!

MEDIA RELEASE

Doctors, dieticians, parents call on Texas Children’s, Ben Taub hospitals to give McDonald’s the boot

Coalition announces campaign to eliminate junk food marketing in hospitals

HOUSTON –Today, as part of coordinated actions in five cities nationwide, doctors from the Baylor College of Medicine, Rice University, and Texas Children’s Hospital joined more than 35 health professionals and community organizations to demand that McDonald’s and other junk food corporations end all marketing inside Texas Children’s and Ben Taub hospitals. The coalition is calling on the CEOs of Texas Children’s Hospital and Harris Health System, which oversees Ben Taub Hospital, to close on-site McDonald’s stores, citing health concerns.

The call comes on the heels of Cleveland Clinic’s decision in August and Allina Health/Abbott Northwestern Hospital’s decision in December to sever ties with the burger giant, due to concerns for their patients’ health. It also amplifies the voices of more than 3,000 health professionals and advocacy organizations like Corporate Accountability International who have called on McDonald’s to stop marketing to kids and 12,000 physicians of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine who have urged hospitals, including Texas Children’s Hospital, to go “fast-food-free.” Increasingly, hospital administrators are equating McDonald’s in hospitals to the tobacco industry’s tactic of selling cigarettes in hospital gift shops decades ago.

“In the midst of an epidemic of diet-related diseases, it makes no sense for kids to be treated on one floor of Ben Taub and Texas Children’s and see a McDonald’s on another—it sends the wrong message,” said Rosalia Guerrero, president of Healthcare for All Texas.

Texas Children’s and Ben Taub hospitals would become the twelfth and thirteenth to sever ties with McDonald’s since 2009, joining the ranks of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Truman Medical Center, Vanderbilt Medical Center, and others.

“I was shocked and disappointed to find McDonald’s in the world’s largest medical center,” said Azeen Anjum, first year Baylor College of Medicine student and member of Choosing Healthy, Eating Fresh (CHEF). “McDonald’s symbolizes the toxic dieta ry climate that contributes to America’s current epidemic of diet-related illness. It should not be allowed to continue damaging health in hospitals that serve our community’s most vulnerable populations.”

Siting stores in hospitals is one of the many ways McDonald’s attempts to “nutriwash” its brand.   Increasingly, health professionals are linking the skyrocketing rates of diet-related diseases like Type 2 diabetes to pervasive junk food marketing. Research from the Institute of Medicine and the National Bureau of Economic Research has found that ending kid-targeted junk food marketing could benefit the health of millions of children.

Dietitians from across Houston also weighed in on the issue.

“We are learning more every day about the roles of preservatives, refined sweeteners, oxidized fats and their role in diabetes, blood pressure, cancer, obesity and more” said Ali Miller, RD, LD, CDE author of Naturally Nourished: Food-as-Medicine for Optimal Health. “As a nutrition expert I am confident in saying processed fast food like McDonald’s has been shown to have harmful deleterious effects not neutral.”

This week, hundreds of people in Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis and Tampa are also calling on McDonald’s and other junk food corporations to end targeted marketing through schools and other institutions. The groups are organizing to support of school boards and hospital administrators to strengthen existing policies and sever ties with junk food corporations.

In the coming months, the Houston coalition will continue to build community support for Ben Taub Hospital and Texas Children’s Hospital to prioritize its patients’ health over corporate profits.

 

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GMO’s And The Power Of The Consumer


Over the past several months, I have engaged in discussions regarding GMO crops and food products. I am most definitely not a scientist so I will not write from that perspective. I will put in my two cents worth as a consumer. The first thing I will say is, “Consumers, DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE YOUR POWER!” As a consumer, if you do not want to purchase and consume GMO products, that is your right as a consumer. If manufacturers of products containing GMOs do not want to label their products, do not be disheartened. If your local grocer does not stock many products that are labeled “certified non-GMO”, you have the power to change this!

I believe every consumer has the right to be an informed consumer and spend their money on exactly the type of product they desire. If a person is endeavoring to purchase food products to support an organic diet or simply wants to exercise their own personal preference not to consume GMO products, that is what living with freedom and liberty is all about.  The gringa is FOR the consumer.

That being said, dear readers, please remember that America is a capitalist society. Big GMO companies have the capital to pay for influence when it comes to legislative response when consumers are crying foul. It’s in the best interest for GMO industry profit to get Americans to buy their products that have been rejected by Europe. America is their only large market. They know labeling will lose sales so they will use whatever influence they have in Washington to avoid having to label their products.

More success may be found if consumers begin a letter writing and petition campaign on a grass roots level with local grocers to supply consumers with products that are certified NON-GMO. Consumers have to think from a capitalist perspective rather than a civil rights perspective on this one. The local grocer, if inundated with requests for Certified NON-GMO products, is more likely to respond than Congress, who very well may be in the back pocket of powerful GMO companies that have the means to fund special interest groups that can lobby Congress and also make sizable contributions to the campaign funds of politicians.

In a capitalist system, certain methods are more effective than others, especially if a person, or group, lacks the wealth that greases the wheels in a capitalist system. Take back your power. Write a letter and meet with your local grocer. Take all your friends with you. Then, drop the gringa a note and let me know how it went! I’m dying to know!

Please feel free to copy the following form letter. Mail or, better yet, hand deliver it to your local grocery manager. I assure you they will be willing to stock what they know the customer wants. They are in business to make money. Make many, many, many copies of this letter and share with your other non-GMO friends.

Be respectful in your efforts. Try not to “evangelize”. There are many American consumers who don’t give a hoot what they ingest. This is not about interfering with such a consumer’s right to ingest GMO food products. This is about the non-GMO consumer having the right to express to their food supplier the products they want. Just as you don’t want your food consumption rights interfered with, please don’t interfere in the rights of others. That being said, please share this letter with as many friends and grocers as you please. Happy Consumer Activism!

To Whom It May Concern:

I am a loyal grocery customer. As a customer, I would like to let you know that I appreciate the fact that you have a responsive customer service department. At this time, I would like to share some of my personal grocery needs in the hopes that you will stock these types of products that I would most earnestly purchase.

I am a conscientious consumer and have become aware of the controversy surrounding GMO food products. Considering that the GMO food industry has not responded favorably to consumers expressing their desire to know what they are consuming and label products that contain GMO ingredients, I look to another solution. I wholeheartedly support products that are labeled “certified non-GMO”. I understand that you, as a grocer, are in a retail business whose aim is to make money. I also understand these new “certified non-GMO” labels may increase the price of these foods as they have the new expense of registering these products and creating new labels. These higher prices may discourage you from stocking them in favor of a lower priced food that may possibly be a GMO food. I assure you that I most definitely will choose a certified “non-GMO” food over the same food product that is unlabeled. I will reject the unlabeled product due to the suspicion that it may be a GMO food.

I am aware that more than 20 European and Asian nations have banned or restricted GMO crop cultivation and/or imports. The scientists of these communities have concluded that their agricultural industries are unable to maintain crop purity and risk contamination by GMO crops. Upon their recommendations, their respective governments enacted legislation to ban or restrict GMOs. Because of this, United States companies that have invested heavily in GMO products now have only the American grocery market as their largest market place in which to generate a return for their investors. As a conscientious consumer, my loyalty lies with what is better for the environment, rather than what is better for the scientists and investors of the GMO industry. That is why I would be a loyal customer who would purchase the “certified non-GMO” products you would stock.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

 

You may wonder if this will really work. I assure you it will. I have personal experience in just such a thing. When my oldest son was a toddler he had some serious dietary allergies. There was a specific milk substitute that tasted great but was not on the shelves of our local Kroger. I asked the manager if he could get this product. Not only did he assure me that he would, but he asked me if there were any other products I was interested in. I then named off a few snacks and treats that I was trying to duplicate in my own kitchen because they did not stock them. He began to stock not just the items I requested, but many more products made by these same companies. He did all of that simply by the request of one, single customer.

The gringa believes that non-GMO consumers may very well be the next up and coming niche market that the food industry producers of non-GMO foods will eventually pounce upon. Non-GMO food producers are realizing consumers are willing to absorb the added cost of qualifying for the “certified non-GMO” label. I believe it will be found that, just as “organic”  and “gluten-free” became popular, profitable foodie trends, “certified non-GMO” will be the next foodie trend. There are plenty of consumers out there who don’t care one way or another what they eat, but there are niche markets that are very particular, very loyal, and willing to pay a premium to get exactly what they want. If GMO producers refuse to label their products, the gringa says, “Who cares!” I’ll just support another solution. The gringa will support non-GMO producers that proudly label their products. By supporting these products with your purchase, eventually, more companies will follow suit, jump on the bandwagon, and label their products “certified non-GMO” because they want your money, too.

In discussing the GMO issue, remember, it really is a consumer issue. When GMO supporters or scientists get hostile, remember, your criticism of their product threatens profits that are being demanded by investors. It also threatens funding of research that scientists may have invested a lifetime in. This threat creates a level of frustration that blinds them to the fact that the product they have developed was never guaranteed to be wanted by a consumer. This can sometimes result in a reaction that seems very arrogant and condescending because they do not understand that consumers are not obligated to want their product no matter how much science may prove it is superior. Such people need to be reminded that if consumers don’t want your product, the fault is not with the consumer.

Another thing GMO supporters forget, especially the scientists of this industry, is that there are plenty of people who do not trust the credibility of scientists in a country that operates as a capitalist model. Many people understand about corporate greed and corporate corruption and are suspicious. Especially when GMO’s have been rejected in Europe in countries that are non-capitalist models. That is the biggest elephant in the room when arguing with GMO supporters, the fact of GMO rejection by a large bloc of European and Asian countries. European and Asian scientists have done their own research and many have recommended rejection of GMOs to their respective governments who respected the wisdom of their scientists and acted accordingly.

When the European subject comes up, the GMO supporter may try to change the subject and make some claim that GMO product rejection is just silly because we’ve all been consuming them for decades anyway, we just didn’t know. The gringa is then reminded of many harmful drugs that were used for years and finally banned when cancers and the like showed up twenty or thirty years later. Also, the fact that consumers may have been consuming these products for years is irrelevant to putting the consumer’s mind at ease. In fact, a consumer who is already skeptical will probably only have their suspicions reinforced if they believe they have been eating corn on the cob for twenty years, erroneously believing it was the same, old corn on the cob grandma used to make and the scientific community never informed the public what they were doing. The reason suspicion becomes heightened is because the average person will think, “If it’s so great, why, then, hide your light under a bushel? What have you got to hide.”

The GMO supporter may also argue that the European ban is because of a few loud-mouth interest groups who have loads of money to gain by people joining their cause or logging on to their website. South Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, France, Madeira, and Switzerland have all banned or restricted GMO crops and/or imports. It is not anti-GMO rhetoric from a few individuals and companies that has this issue in the headlines. This issue is in the headlines because educated consumers are speaking out about legitimate concerns based on the rejection of GMO’s by many European countries whose testimony, reports and research contradict what America’s GMO industry claims.

These are technologically advanced, well educated nations with well respected scientific communities whose research resulted in the governments of these nations adopting legislation that effectively banned or restricted GMO crop cultivation and/or import. These scientific communities evidently do not agree with the science of American companies. As far as many informed consumers are concerned, the American scientific community is in the minority in their published opinions supporting and promoting GMOs when compared to the combined scientific communities of these twelve scientifically advanced European nations. And these twelve nations do not stand alone in their position on GMOs. The gringa has decided for reasons of space and word count to stop the list at these twelve.

Some GMO supporters will disrespect the scientists of these European and Asian nations by blaming environmental interest groups like Greenpeace for influencing the outlaw of GMO’s in these countries. They are not being honest at all. Below are just three examples illustrating what really motivated GMO bans:

  • GMOs were outlawed in Tasmania over a decade ago after genetically altered canola escaped from trial crops at secret sites around the state.
  • In 2006, a large part of the U.S. long-grain rice crop was contaminated by an experimental strain from Bayer CropScience , prompting import bans in Europe and Japan and sharply lowering market prices. The company agreed in court in 2011 to pay $750 million to growers as compensation.
  •  Preventing contamination by GMO crops motivated New Zealand to reject GMO’s. A government public statement regarding the premise for banning GMO’s is recorded as, “The  New Zealand economy relies on its agricultural purity…”
  • In 2008, in Germany, a “Council of Environmental Scholars weighed in on this debate, holding that a total avoidance of pollution from GM planting is technically not feasible. The Council sees the risks of GMOs as a threat not so much to human health as to the environment, citing the risks of contaminating natural areas and non-GM crops, dissemination through vertical and horizontal gene transfers, toxic effects on non-targeted organisms, and effects possibly resulting from changes in agricultural practices.” This quote is available in the United States Library of Congress. Germany does not want crop contamination and also does not want GMOs spreading like invasive weeds and taking over natural green areas, therefore, no GMO’s. This was the result of reports from their respected scientific community, not small interest group influence.

The gringa would never insult the scientific communities of these nations and diminish the contribution of their hard work by attributing to any environmental group as being the influential factor that motivated the decisions of their respective governments. These governments were responding to the will of the people, whose desire was to protect their own agricultural industry from GMO contamination. Their decisions were based on many hours of pain-staking research and were made in the best interest of their populations.

GMO companies, investors and scientists seem to be banging their fists on boardroom conference tables demanding a return on their investment. Now they are mad because their market is no longer global and the only market left to them, the American consumer, is rejecting their product. They are mad because rather than make the bank, they may only be left with dusty, unwanted products in dusty warehouses. If GMO supporters ever want to make the bank, they really need to rethink their marketing strategy because, so far, they have only pissed off their potential consumer market with bully tactics and arrogant, patronizing attitudes.

 

Sources:

http://naturalrevolution.org/list-countries-banned-genetically-modified-food/

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-01-09/tasmania27s-gmo-ban-extended-indefinitely/5192112

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/30/japan-gmo-wheat-food-concerns_n_3357240.html

http://www.loc.gov/law/help/restrictions-on-gmos/germany.php

http://www.gefree.org.nz/

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/grocery-trip-change-congress-bans-gmo-labels/story?id=32665438

Photo credit: http://www.thinklean.net