Transparency is the New Marketing
By Keegan Sheridan, ND
I write this post while anxiously waiting for confirmation on the passage or failure of WA State Initiative 522 that would require labeling of food products using GMO ingredients sold in the state. Numbers are still rolling in from Tuesday’s vote and even though many say it doesn’t look good, it’s still officially too close to call. It’s no surprise the race is close – it was another David and Goliath battle, similar to the version in my own home state of California last year. The No on 522 campaign spent a record-setting $22M to defeat the bill. The fact that the race is close given this statistic alone is in some way a sign of success for advocates of GMO labeling regardless of the ultimate outcome.
As I’ve said in previous posts on the issue of GMO, questions of technology and safety are, in my mind, less significant to the issue of transparency. GMO may be good, it may be bad (if my opinion counts, I think it’s probably a mix of both), but without transparency about where it’s being used we cannot engage in a fair, thoughtful and productive debate.
To me, GMO is just an excellent poster child for the issue we are really talking about here; transparency. Because GMO isn’t the only issue to be concerned about in our food supply today. We could be talking about the additives and chemicals used to grow and process our foods, or the impact of large scale animal farming operations on the health of the planet or the fallacy consumers are led to believe that anything is possible when it comes to nutrition and calories. How we grow, transport, process and market our food is shrouded in a seemingly blissful ignorance fueled almost entirely by a lack of transparency.
Yesterday, Mark Bittman published an article in the New York Times exposing the purchase of the world’s largest pork producer, based in the United States, by the Chinese. This article is a perfect illustration of the highly complex and global food system we now function within, largely under the radar of most Americans. This purchase has many benefits for the Chinese. For the United States, the benefits are singular in focus. There is certainly a short-term economic security to be gained, but at the cost of perpetuating a food system that will most certainly speed the decline of people and planet health.
Earlier this week, I had a chance to speak with the head of communications and marketing of the leading organic produce supplier in the country and she had a great line, “transparency is the new marketing”. Although food brands seem to be moving, both willingly and unwillingly, at varying rates of speed toward this truth, it is happening. And what’s powerful about this shift is that it will force a change in our food supply, because, marketers rarely share bad news. So, if telling the straight story is what’s in vogue, getting the food production “house”, so to speak, in order is going to be required.