In November 2013, the Grocery Manufacturers Association spent $11 million, almost twice as much as agrochemical and GMO giant Monsanto, to fight against the rights of Washington (state) citizens to know whether their food contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Now, the GMA is teaming up with Michigan State University to create a new “Ingredient Safety Center,” according to a report from the website Food Navigator, titled the “Center for Research on Ingredient Safety (CRIS).” The University of Michigan’s Risk Science Center will also partner with the GMA and MSU on the center for communications assistance.
The GMA is a massive trade organization that works on behalf of several large food corporations including Pepsi, Nestle USA and Coca-Cola among many other companies whose products are packed with GMOs, synthetic chemicals, and use synthetic processing techniques. Monsanto also relies on the GMA for support.
During the 2013 vote on I-522 regarding GMO labeling, the organization was sued by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and forced to disclose the source of donations of millions it tried to hide from the public. Ferguson had charged that the GMA violated the state’s disclosure laws by setting up an internal fund that raised money from its members.
He called it “the largest amount of money ever concealed in an election.”
New GMA Center: A Way to “Legitimize” Unhealthy and GMO Ingredients?
More and more consumers are reading labels and shunning Big Food because of their synthetic, genetically modified and other unhealthy ingredients, necessitating new marketing approaches to try to sell them to increasingly selective buyers.
New “natural by association” labels and brands like Kroger’s ‘Simple Truth’ brand, which was recently sued for misleading claims on its organic chickens, have sprung up to try and lull consumers into a false sense of security when making purchases.
A new focus on calories over ingredients on nutrition labels was also recently added to food packages in an attempt to switch up the focus.
But big food manufacturers and GMO producers have a hard time counteracting the many independent studies showing the health risks of their products.
Is the new CRIS an attempt to do just that?
The center will mostly focus on “allergen and microbiological safety” according to the report. But it seems as if a large corporate influence will be present, which could compromise the integrity of such research considering the many millions Big Food has invested in its ingredients.
According to the GMA’s chief science officer, Dr. Leon Bruner, the center “will be an independent resource for a broad range of stakeholders that provides unbiased analysis and information on the safety of ingredients used in foods and consumers’ products.”
That sounds like a wonderful idea at first considering how untested many of Big Food’s ingredients really are, but reads an awful lot like PR-speak when you consider that the stakeholders whose profits are, well, at stake, are chief among those who will be governing the new ingredients research center.
How Big Food Confuses Consumers Through Dietitians
While it’s still early and the CRIS project was just recently announced, the tactic is reminiscent of how Big Food companies have worked to influence nutritional authorities and experts in the past.
Take for instance how the former American Dietetic Association, now called the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, still lists the following companies as its corporate sponsors (see here): the National Dairy Council, something called the “Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness” which was created by Coca Cola, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Soyjoy, and Unilever.
Many of these companies and organizations are purveyors of foods with some of the least “safe” and “healthy” ingredients in the world: The Dairy Council of course is a major supporter of pasteurized, hormone and antibiotic-laden milk from cows that consume an unnatural diet of GMOs; Soyjoy is a seller of what are almost certainly products made with GMO soy; Kellogg’s is a major supporter of GMOs and a company that has been the target of widespread consumer boycotts; Coca Cola’s credentials in the world of nutrition are self-explanatory; Unilever produces tons of chemical and GMO-laced foods; and General Mills, well, their CEO Ken Powell recently lobbied to have GMOs classified as natural by the FDA.
Another sponsor, Abbott Nutrition, also produces GMO-laden “nutritional products” such as Ensure that contain plenty of likely GMOs including soy protein and canola oil.
By exerting their influence over the top nutritional recommendation association in America, these companies have been able to keep the debate on healthy food a shallow one focused on everything but the integrity of food ingredients — until lately, that is.
Will the New “Ingredient Safety Center” Serve as Big Food’s Rubber Stamp?
According to the Food Navigator report, the CRIS will be governed by multiple stakeholders, academic industry NGO and regulatory agency officials.
It may seem like a fairly balanced approach on paper to those who haven’t followed recent developments in the food industry, but considering the amount of money at stake in a consumer climate where synthetic foods are being increasingly rejected, and the GMA’s past history of deception, it’s more than fair to wonder if this new “Ingredient Safety Center” will be just another attempt to rubber stamp heavily modified and processed lab creations as “healthier options.”
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