News Article | April 25, 2017
The urge to consolidate may be tempting for major food and beverage manufacturers struggling with slowing growth and competition from nimble upstarts, but being bigger is not be the only answer. The food and beverage industry has been hit by a few mega-mergers in recent years, including the deals that brought together Kraft and Heinz and Anheuser Busch and InBev. Other proposed deals have failed to close, led by Mondelez’s pursuit of Hershey and Kraft Heinz’s $143 billion takeover bid this February for Unilever. Analysts have speculated more deals could be in the works involving Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, General Mills, Campbell Soup and Kellogg — all of whom could be acquisition targets or on the lookout to buy a company themselves. While mergers are likely to continue, long-term growth must also include internal innovation and a willingness to work with other companies in ways that may have been unheard of in the past, Randolph Burt, a partner at A.T. Kearney, told the audience at the Grocery Manufacturers Association's Science Forum last week. “Consolidation will probably continue to occur but consolidation by itself is not going to allow large manufacturers to get on-trend from a consumer standpoint,” Burt said. “There may be another 3G acquisition. There may be consolidation for others, but it’s not going to solve the growth problem fundamentally, these kind of scale purchases. So we think that manufacturers and brands are going to have to look for other avenues.” Brazilian private-equity firm 3G Capital Partners, a big player in the U.S. food industry, and Warren Buffett-owned Heinz helped orchestrate the condiment maker's 2015 merger with Kraft. It is widely believed on Wall Street that 3G is itching to make another deal. In an interview on the sidelines of the conference, Burt acknowledged while some companies may put too much faith in a merger to promote growth, "the idea that consolidation is going to create a healthier business is flawed.” Most firms are aware of the risk of depending too much on large deals, he said, leaving them on the lookout for smaller transactions, intrinsic growth and other unique partnerships. He pointed to the agreement between AB InBev and Keurig to develop a beer K-cup as one notable example. Kraft Heinz and AB InBev have turned to mergers, followed by significant cost-cutting, in an attempt to become more profitable. For some, the concern is once all the costs have been rung out of the new company, there is no choice but to turn to another transaction for growth — just as Kraft Heinz tried to do with the Unilever proposal. Nestle CEO Ulf Mark Schneider warned earlier this month that food and beverage companies too focused on cutting costs will undermine their growth prospects. “Many companies are focusing on radical cost-cutting to deliver higher profits in the short-term,” Schneider said in his first appearance at Nestle’s annual shareholder meeting. “This approach is not sustainable.” The food and beverage industry is not only facing slowing growth, but intense competition from upstarts who are able to tailor their products to the latest food trends such as free-from, fresh and local and high in proteins or other ingredients. “It’s not just ticking one of those boxes," Sara Mortimore, vice president of product safety, quality and regulatory affairs with Land O'Lakes, told the GMA audience. "You have to be thinking about all of them and the relevancy of your product for the future and how you shift and become and stay relevant. Some of us as manufacturers struggle with that big asset base.” Large food manufacturers have turned to incubators to buy stakes in startups — most notably, General Mills, which through its 301 INC venture capital unit, has invested in probiotic-startup Farmhouse Culture, Rhythm Superfoods, known for its kale, beet and broccoli chips, and D’s Naturals, the maker of low-sugar, plant-based No Cow protein bars and low-sugar, protein-infused nut butters. Chicken, beef and pork producer Tyson Foods even owns a 5% stake in plant-based protein company Beyond Meat. During a discussion at the GMA Science Forum, officials from Cargill, Mondelez and Land O’Lakes acknowledged they haven’t done enough to tell their stories and communicate with consumers. For decades, companies have promoted their products predominately through the usual media formats. The rapid growth of personal computers and mobile devices connected to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has forced food and beverage giants to become more active online and engaged with the public through channels like social media, but the industry said more needs to be done. "We need to think more about how do we tell the story to drive value and connect with our audience," said Mike Robach, vice president of corporate food safety, quality and regulatory affairs with Cargill. The food industry would benefit from standard definitions of terms like natural or local — all of which are open to different interpretations across the industry — that can be used by companies to promote their products to shoppers. Food manufacturers also must be willing to be more transparent and open their doors to verification from their critics. "It's really more about the message right now," Robach added. "If it comes from [the industry], it's automatically distrusted." With all the information being shared — much of it online — consumers are struggling to figure out what's right or good for them, Land O'Lakes' Mortimore said. Corporate America as a whole, including food, has struggled to break through the noise. “They really want to know — is this real, am I being fleeced or is this hogwash about what this company’s talking about?" she said. "Is it really authentic?"
News Article | April 25, 2017
Back in 2011, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute unveiled the “Facts Up Front” nutrition labeling program, which moved key information such as calories and sodium levels to the front of packages.This allowed consumers to access nutrition information more easily, a move the two organizations promoted as something that could lead to healthier lifestyles. Many industry observers, however, saw the initiative as way of heading off the Food and Drug Administration, which had been developing its own more stringent front-of-pack labeling system. Several years later, manufacturers are still focused on health initiatives and nutrition labeling — but mainly because consumers are demanding it. Companies like Nestle, Mars and Hershey are phasing out artificial and genetically modified ingredients. They’re also looking for ways to cut calories and reduce sugar in their products. Several years ago, Mars reduced the size of its candy bars, lopping off more than a trillion calories in the process. In 2016, Nestle announced its scientists had restructured sugar in a way that delivered 40% fewer calories without impacting taste. That Facts Up Front program, meanwhile, has been adopted by numerous candy manufacturers without impacting sales. Some groups argue that the program is more about marketing than about public health, but the FDA seems satisfied with the effort. Considering all of this, it makes sense for Hershey to expand its labeling and calorie-reduction initiatives. Consumers aren’t looking for a “healthy” candy bar, per se. They still want to indulge. But they are looking for transparency, cleaner ingredients and a few more sensible options to choose from.
News Article | April 28, 2017
SALT LAKE CITY, April 28, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Park City Group’s ReposiTrak, Inc., the leading provider of Compliance Management and Track & Trace solutions for food, pharma and dietary supplement safety, announces Robert Maldonado, Director of Quality Assurance & Food Safety at Northgate Gonzalez Markets, will join Shawn Stevens, food industry consultant, lawyer and co-founder of Food Industry Counsel, LLC, to speak at this year’s Trading Partner Alliance (TPA) Conference on May 1st in San Diego. Their breakout session, titled “Contracting with a New Trading Partner? Learn Nine Ways to Reduce Your Risk BEFORE the First Shipment While Expediting the Sourcing Process,” will share best practices and first-hand experiences. Stevens will review a recommended checklist of documents to require, actions to take and things to consider when contracting with new vendors. Maldonado will then walk through the new vendor sourcing process at Northgate Gonzalez Markets and share how they use ReposiTrak to increase speed in vetting new vendors while expanding their requirements to reduce risk. The TPA Supply Chain Conference brings together all sides of the value chain to foster stronger relationships, streamline logistics, effectively manage activities, explore new process options and increase efficiency – all leading to innovation and reduction in costs. The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) joined together as the Trading Partner Alliance (TPA), are pleased to host the annual Supply Chain Conference. Now in its eighth year, over 500 retailers, manufacturers, and technology solution providers will convene for a joint conference filled with idea-stimulating educational sessions, interactive exhibits with the latest technology and relationship-building networking opportunities. “We are delighted that Robert is able to join Shawn at the podium to discuss how Northgate Gonzalez Markets has put their learnings in contracting with new vendors into practice with ReposiTrak,” said Randy Fields, Chairman and CEO of Park City Group. “From our experience, it’s vitally important that new vendors be fully vetted at the contract stage of a new relationship and before a new purchase order is ever cut.” ReposiTrak, a wholly owned subsidiary of Park City Group (NASDAQ:PCYG), helps manage regulatory, financial and brand risk associated with issues of safety in the global food, pharma and dietary supply chains. Powered by Park City Group’s technology, the platform consists of two systems: Compliance Management, which not only receives, stores and shares documentation, but also manages compliance through dashboards and alerts for missing or expired documents; and Track & Trace, which quickly identifies product ingredients and their supply chain path in the unfortunate event of a product recall. It can reduce the risk in the supply chain by identifying backward chaining sources and forward chaining recipients of products in near real time. About ReposiTrak ReposiTrak, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Park City Group (NASDAQ:PCYG) and was co-founded with Leavitt Partners. ReposiTrak® provides food retailers and suppliers with a robust solution to help them protect their brands and remain in compliance with the rapidly evolving regulations in the Food Safety Modernization Act. Additionally, ReposiTrak enables traceability as products and their ingredients move between trading partners and now helps customers source new compliant suppliers and drive sales through MarketPlace. More information is available at www.repositrak.com. About Park City Group Park City Group (PCYG) is a Software-as-a-Service (“SaaS”) provider that brings unique visibility to the consumer goods supply chain, delivering actionable information to ensure products are available when and where consumers demand them, helping retailers and suppliers to ‘Sell More, Stock Less, and See Everything’. Park City Group’s technology also assists all participants in the food and drug supply chains to comply with food and drug safety regulations through the Company’s ReposiTrak subsidiary. More information is available at www.parkcitygroup.com.
News Article | January 8, 2016
Cans of Campbell's brand soups are seen at the Safeway store in Wheaton, Maryland February 13, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron More (Reuters) - Campbell Soup Co said it will label all its U.S. products for the presence of ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms, becoming the first major food company to respond to growing calls for more transparency about contents in food. The world's largest soup maker broke ranks with peers and said it supported the enactment of federal legislation for a single mandatory labeling standard for GMO-derived foods and a national standard for non-GMO claims made on food packaging. The company, which also makes Pepperidge Farm cookies and Prego pasta sauces, said it would withdraw from all efforts by groups opposing such measures. (bit.ly/1OeE1Md) Several activist groups have been pressuring food companies to be more transparent about the use of ingredients, especially GMO-derived ones, amid rising concerns about their effects on health and the environment. Several big companies such as PepsiCo Inc, Kellogg Co and Monsanto Co have resisted such calls and have spent millions of dollars to defeat GMO-labeling ballot measures in states such as Oregon, Colorado, Washington and California, saying it would add unnecessary costs. Monsanto Co said in a statement Friday that it sells seeds to farmers, and does not manufacture or sell food products from crops grown from those seeds. The six biggest agrochemical and biotech seed companies — Monsanto, Dupont, Dow AgroSciences, Bayer CropScience, BASF Plant Science and Syngenta AG — spent more than $21.5 million to help defeat a 2012 California proposition labeling proposition, according to state election data. However, in 2014, Vermont became the first U.S. state to pass a law requiring food companies to label GMOs on their products, which will come into effect in July. Pro-labeling groups such as Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Just Label It cheered Campbell's move. "We applaud Campbell's for supporting national, mandatory GMO labeling," Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs at EWG said. Advocacy group Just Label It said Campbell's move was a step closer to reaching the goal of a federally crafted national GMO labeling solution. Campbell said late on Thursday that if a federal solution is not achieved in some time, it was prepared to label all its U.S. products for the presence of ingredients that were derived from GMOs and would seek guidance from the FDA and approval by the USDA. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which represents more than 300 food companies opposed to mandatory GMO labeling, said it respected the rights of individual members to communicate with their customers in whatever manner they deem appropriate. However, the GMA said it was "imperative" that Congress acted immediately to prevent the expansion of a costly patchwork of state labeling laws that would ultimately hurt consumers who can least afford higher food prices. Kellogg and Pepsi were not immediately available to comment on Campbell's move. Campbell said in July that it would stop adding monosodium glutamate (MSG) to its condensed soups for children and use non-genetically modified ingredients sourced from American organic farms in its Campbell's organic soup line for kids. The company also said it would remove artificial colors and flavors from nearly all of its North American products by July 2018.
News Article | November 8, 2016
Transparency Market Research estimates that the global retort packaging market, which was valued at US$13,026.9 mn in 2015, will register a CAGR of 7.5% over the period between 2016 and 2024. If the prediction holds true, the market will surpass US$24,706 mn by 2024. In terms of product varieties, the segment of retort pouches accounted for a dominant share of over 45% in the global market and is expected to retain dominance over the forecast period as well. Geographically, Asia Pacific, expected to account for a share of over 34% of the global market in terms of revenue, is expected to retain dominance as well. Need for Feasible Alternatives to Conventional Packaging to Increase Focus on Retort Packaging With the vast rise in the global consumption of processed and packaged food products, there has been a vast surge in demand for versatile and good quality packaging materials and technologies. Retort packaging, owing to its capability of meeting the necessary standards of food packaging such as low weight and convenience of use, aesthetic appeal, shelf life extension, and maintaining food safety and hygiene, has emerged as a convenient option to a number of conventional packaging technologies. Moreover, owing to the fact that retort pouches use only about 5% of the packaging material as compared to conventional cans, the shift from conventional packaging to retort packaging is a highly beneficial and profitable move for packaging manufacturers. As a result, retort packaging is witnessing vast surge in demand from consumers as well as packaging manufacturers. Other than these factors, the environment-friendly nature of retort packaging, on account of its low packaging weight, which translates into real transportation cost savings and reduced waste for both end-consumers and the environment, is also working in favor of the market. The global retort packaging market is also driven by the rising demand for convenient and hygienic packaging options for the lucrative baby food industry. Rapid product development and innovations in retort packaging market in recent years have helped manufacturers of retort packaging materials and products to efficiently cater to this application segment, fueling market's growth opportunities. Owing to rising concerns regarding the harmful effects of the non-biodegradable waste generated by packaging products, eco-friendly materials are expected to gain increased adoption in the packaging industry in the next few years. Eco-friendly packaging is expected to be offer new opportunities for packaging manufacturers and film converters. According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), approximately 70% of pet food, baby food, sea food as well as meals ready to eat food products are anticipated to feature an eco-friendly packaging materials. This trend is expected to be highly conducive for market growth in the next few years, having a significant impact on the development of the market. In the highly fragmented global retort packaging market, wherein the top ten companies held a nearly 30% of the market's overall revenue in 2015, product differentiation achieved through innovation in product features and design is the key to success, observes a recent report by Transparency Market Research. For instance, Mondi group, one of the market's leading players, introduced retort stand-up pouches for pet care products, with a high-definition rotogravure printing feature. The enhanced graphics and texture of the print on the package has since helped the company gain a sizeable rise in its share in the overall market. This review of the market is based on a recent report published by Transparency Market Research, titled "Retort Packaging Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2016 - 2024." For the study, the global retort packaging market has been segmented as follows: Transparency Market Research (TMR) is a market intelligence company, providing global business information reports and services. Our exclusive blend of quantitative forecasting and trends analysis provides forward-looking insight for thousands of decision makers. TMR's experienced team of analysts, researchers, and consultants, use proprietary data sources and various tools and techniques to gather, and analyze information. Our business offerings represent the latest and the most reliable information indispensable for businesses to sustain a competitive edge. Each TMR syndicated research report covers a different sector - such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals, energy, food & beverages, semiconductors, med-devices, consumer goods and technology. These reports provide in-depth analysis and deep segmentation to possible micro levels. With wider scope and stratified research methodology, TMR's syndicated reports strive to provide clients to serve their overall research requirement.
News Article | January 29, 2016
Arriving home after work a few summers ago, agricultural economist Matin Qaim found several disturbing messages on his home phone. A study by Qaim had shown that small-scale farmers in India who grew genetically modified cotton had larger harvests compared with conventional cotton growers. Those better yields resulted in greater profits for the mostly poor farmers and more disposable income to spend on basics like food and education. Several media outlets had covered the results, which had been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But journalists weren’t the only people contacting Qaim about the research. “Don’t support this irresponsible destruction to the environment,” implored one caller on Qaim’s answering machine. “Think of your children, think of the world’s children,” a woman pleaded. Qaim, of the University of Göttingen in Germany, has been studying the social and financial impacts of genetically modified organisms for years. Yet he is not blindly pro-GMO and his interpretation of his own study’s results was nuanced. The GM cotton planted by the farmers was Bt cotton, which contains genes from Bacillus thuringiensis, a soil bacterium often used by organic farmers. Adding the Bt genes gives the cotton a built-in pesticide against the cotton bollworm, a scourge that can decimate crops. Among the farmers Qaim studied, those who switched to the Bt cotton lost fewer plants and saw their profits increase by 50 percent. But the adoption of Bt cotton in that part of India was relatively recent and the positive impacts wouldn’t necessarily last. Area bollworms might become resistant to Bt toxins, Qaim noted both in his paper and in interviews. Such caveats didn’t matter to the hostile callers, Qaim says. He has learned to keep quiet about his work in his casual conversations with parents at his daughters’ school. In the heated debate over genetically modified organisms, there’s little room for nuance. “We are in a world that’s painted black and white,” Qaim says. “In Europe in particular, people are deeply convinced that GM crops are bad for the world. If you say anything in favor of GM crops, you are talking in favor of evil.” That designation of evil is one of the two prevailing narratives concerning genetically engineered foods. GMO opponents tell the story that “Franken” organisms are a new technology that poses known and unknowable dangers to human health, the environment and society at large. On the other side, proponents argue that GMOs are a harmless and necessary tool for saving a world threatened by over-population and a changing climate. The loudest voices on the proponent side are typically cast as shills for Big Agriculture (some of them are), while the loudest on the anti-GMO side are typically cast as fear-mongering luddites (some of them are). This broad brush is problematic for several reasons, Qaim and others argue. The term GMO itself is a catchall that encompasses a wide range of products developed through a variety of means, each with its own risks and benefits. There are GMOs that have led to large reductions in the use of pesticides, for example, and there are GMOs that have made herbicide use skyrocket. The broad brush also fails when labeling the developers of GM technology: Commercial giants of the agrochemical pesticide industry have developed GMOs, but so have academic scientists funded by nonprofits or the public sector. “A technology like GM crops is neither good nor bad,” Qaim says. “Talking about the impact of GMOs is way too broad.” The diversity of engineering processes and the products that result will probably continue to grow. For example, the relatively new CRISPR technology, which allows for superprecise gene editing (SN: 12/26/15, p. 18), may soon become a GMO tool of choice. But generally speaking, the technologies behind GMOs are decades old. And despite fears of unknown risks, GMOs have been studied extensively. The picture drawn from decades of research is out of sync with many common public perceptions. While unforeseeable health issues are often at the forefront of public concern, foods containing GMOs have been on grocery shelves for more than 20 years. Piles of evidence suggest that eating GMOs is no riskier than eating conventional foods. Effects on the environment are more mixed. Some of the problems that have arisen, such as the uptick in the use of certain herbicides, are more about farming practices than about dangers inherent to GM technology; the same problems arise with conventional, non-GM crops. The environmental consequences of engineered genes escaping into the wild are less clear. But while the fallout can be hard to predict, the odds of such escapes actually happening can often be evaluated. With the Food and Drug Administration’s recent approval of GM salmon (SN Online: 11/19/15), for example, scientists agree that there is a slim possibility that escapees could harm native fish populations; that risk could be curtailed, however, with strict oversight about where and how such fish are farmed. There’s also a lot of unrealized promise. GMOs are often touted as a way to boost the nutrient content of foods to fight malnutrition. Yet GMOs that are on the market have largely benefited those producing them — companies and farmers — rather than consumers. There are many health-boosting GMOs in development, including bananas with increased iron; plants that make omega-3 fish oils and rice, sorghum and cassava enriched with vitamin A. New crops, such as those engineered to tolerate drought or excess salt in the soil, could play a crucial role as shifts in climate threaten the farming status quo and in turn, food supplies. Over time, plant breeding has gained speed and precision. Traditional crossbreeding mixes entire plant genomes and can take decades to yield a new variety. Transgenics and RNA interference breeding influence a handful of genes and can bring new products within a few years. Expose seeds or young plants to radiation or chemicals and select desirable mutants Transfer specific genes by nonsexual means from one organism into another Herbicide- and pest-resistant crops. In development: drought-tolerant peanut, wilt-resistant banana, bacteria-resistant orange, fungus-resistant chestnut, biofortified rice (includes Golden Rice), barley, corn and potato Using RNA to turn off specific genes Nonbrowning potato and apple. In development: decaffeinated coffee, tearless onion, higher-nutrition tomato, peanut and corn Foods containing GMOs have been on the market since the 1990s. Some are eaten as a whole organism — such as papaya engineered to resist the ringspot virus. Others end up as ingredients in processed foods, such as corn syrup. Genetic engineering is involved in more than two-thirds of foods sold in the United States, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association. The processes that yield foods considered GM vary. Some contain genes from other organisms that impart a particular trait. Bt corn, for example, contains bacterial genes that make the crop toxic to soft-bodied caterpillars and some other insects. With other GMOs, the modifying entails dialing down the activity of genes that already exist in the plant, as with the just-approved Arctic apples and Innate potatoes that don’t brown when cut. The genes responsible for the enzymes that brown the flesh are silenced. Common GM ingredients, such as canola and soy oils, cornstarch and corn syrup, and sugar from beets, come from crops that have been modified to make farming them easier. Genetic engineering is also used to make minor ingredients that might be too complicated or expensive to produce via standard chemistry or too difficult or inefficient to harvest from their habitats in nature. Many microbes have been engineered to pump out vitamins, enzymes and other food additives, for example, a process that’s typically much easier and more environmentally friendly than acquiring such ingredients from natural sources. The first genetically engineered food product approved by the FDA, in 1990, was a version of the bacterium E. coli engineered to make the enzyme chymosin, which prompts the ripening of cheese. Before the E. coli effort, chymosin was harvested from the stomachs of nursing calves as a by-product of the veal industry. Today, roughly 80 percent of hard cheeses sold in the United States are made with chymosin from engineered microbes. Crops engineered to be herbicide tolerant (HT) or toxic to specific insects (Bt), or both, have taken over U.S. farming acreage since their introduction in the 1990s. These modifications can reduce pesticide use and carbon emissions, but they can also lead to herbicide resistance if overused. These diverse products are all subject to testing before they can be sold. While there’s always concern that genetic modifications could introduce a new allergen or a toxin into the food chain, that hasn’t happened yet. Testing is typically framed in terms of the notion of “substantial equivalence.” The GMO is compared in substance and nutrition with its nonengineered version. The introduced genetic material, which yields a transgenic protein that causes some change to the organism, is also scrutinized for structural similarities with toxic proteins or other biologically active molecules, such as known allergens. The temperature and acidity level at which the transgenic protein breaks down is also assessed to see how it might fare in the body. Digestibility and potential toxicity are also evaluated. While every new modification presents a new case for scrutiny, so far the GMO health track record is clean. And GMO products have been tested by more than their developers, who have a clear interest in their approval. Independent researchers have looked for red flags in numerous studies. “So far, there is no reason for concern,” says biotechnologist Alessandro Nicolia of the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development in Rome. He was a coauthor of a 2013 paper analyzing 10 years of GMO studies, 770 of which related to human and animal safety. Despite numerous studies finding that eating GMOs is no riskier than eating conventional foods, claims of adverse effects persist. GMOs are sometimes a scapegoat for allergies, including the uptick in gluten intolerance — digestive problems caused by a protein found in wheat and some other grains. But no such link is supported by the research, says Nicolia. He points out that, although GM wheat exists, it is not on the market anywhere in the world. And correlations can be easily conjured: The rise in gluten intolerance also coincides with a rise in the availability of organic foods, for instance. The few cases in which a transgenic protein has acted as an allergen were identified via testing well before the products reached consumers. One, for example, involved transferring Brazil nut proteins, which contain an important dietary amino acid, into soybeans for animal feed. Testing revealed that the transgenic Brazil nut protein provoked an immune response in people; the study reporting the findings made headlines in 1996 when it appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine. Development of those soybeans was abandoned. Minimum fraction of foods sold in the United States that contain GMOs Estimated portion of hard cheeses sold in the U.S. that are made with enzymes created by genetically modified microbes Of course, because evaluations look primarily for molecules that resemble known allergens, there is always a risk that something novel could spur an immune response. Absolute certainty doesn’t exist, for GMOs or conventional foods. In fact, because the testing is fairly extensive and the quantities of transgenic proteins in an engineered organism are typically so low, many scientists argue that it’s easier to detect a potential allergen in a GM crop than in a conventional crop. Not long after the kiwifruit’s arrival in the United Kingdom, several adverse reactions revealed that some people were allergic to the fruit, according to the United Kingdom’s 2003 GM Science Review Panel. Several scientific bodies, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization, have reviewed the existing evidence and concluded that eating GM foods is no riskier than eating conventional foods. Numerous studies, and reviews of those studies, have come to similar conclusions. Plant geneticist Agnès Ricroch coauthored several review papers assessing GMO safety, including a 2012 paper examining the long-term health of animals fed GM corn, potatoes, soybeans, rice and the grain triticale, a cross between wheat and rye. “In all of the studies published, of all GM crops authorized to be marketed, we have seen no adverse effects,” says Ricroch, of France’s Academy of Agriculture and AgroParisTech in Paris. “There is no risk to health for humans or animals.” Still, fears that genetically modified organisms cause health problems — from cancer to autism — linger. Such concerns have been fueled by a now thoroughly debunked but high-profile 2012 study by French researchers purporting to show that GM corn caused cancer in rats. The work was almost immediately discredited on multiple accounts, including faulty statistics and the fact that the researchers used rats from a strain that is naturally prone to tumors. The paper was widely criticized and later retracted. But the initial media campaign by the scientists, which included images of rats with enormous tumors and offers of early access only to journalists who agreed not to talk to other scientists about the results, had lasting effects. The paper, which was recently republished in a different journal, is still cited in some anti-GMO camps as evidence for a lack of consensus concerning health effects. Discourse about the health hazards of eating GMOs is frustrating on multiple levels, says Ricroch. Controversy has slowed GMO progress in the area of enhancing foods’ nutritional value. The poster child for such a crop is Golden Rice, which has been engineered to produce a vitamin A precursor, beta-carotene, in the grain (the plant normally produces the stuff in its green tissues but not in the edible endosperm). Because of vitamin A deficiency, more than 250,000 children become blind every year, and half of them die within a year of losing their sight. By adding a gene from a bacterium and one from corn (swapped for a daffodil gene used in earlier versions), the rice makes beta-carotene that is converted to vitamin A when eaten. The Golden Rice project was never a commercial one. When its creators launched the project more than 20 years ago, the intention was to combat malnutrition in developing countries. Yet the crop has met serious resistance. In August 2013, fields of trial plants in the Philippines were trampled and destroyed by anti-GMO protestors. The destruction prompted thousands to sign a statement condemning the destruction of the rice fields, which was echoed in an editorial in Science. Vitamin A deficiency is a major cause of blindness and death in children. Golden Rice (bottom), engineered to make a vitamin A precursor in the grain, offers an antidote, but has met strong opposition from environmental groups. Science has repeatedly laid to rest claims about GMOs’ adverse effects on human health. But some environmental impacts have surfaced. The primary problem, though — weed resistance to particular herbicides — is not unique to GM crops. Engineered crops typically have traits that help farmers tackle very old foes. Weeds are one such headache, and they were among the earliest targets of genetic engineers. While chemical weed killers were in use before the advent of GM crops, the use of the herbicide glyphosate, marketed as Roundup, has skyrocketed since the introduction in the 1990s of crops engineered to withstand it. Glyphosate meddles with an essential plant enzyme; the engineered crops have a bacterial version of the enzyme, so the plants persist while neighboring weeds perish. “Roundup ready” plants, which now dominate U.S. fields, include soybeans, corn, canola, cotton and sugar beets. Many herbicides interfere with a specific aspect of plant metabolism. Repeated use (across acres and time) leads to weeds resistant to the herbicides’ action. A growing number of weeds are resistant to several herbicide classes (listed below), including glyphosate (black line). GM crops that tolerate herbicides deserve some praise: They help minimize mechanical weed removal, which means less soil erosion, more carbon stored in the soil and fewer carbon emissions from tilling equipment making trips across fields, scientists noted in 2012 in a special issue of Weed Science focused on herbicide-resistance management. And compared with many of the herbicides it replaced, glyphosate is less toxic; it also offered ease and flexibility to farmers who previously had to carefully navigate the timing and selection of applying various herbicides. “Everyone started growing them and then everyone started using glyphosate,” says weed scientist Carol Mallory-Smith of Oregon State University, an expert in herbicide resistance. When the same herbicide is applied to the same area year after year, overuse can lead to evolved resistance, as it does with antibiotics, says William Vencill of the University of Georgia, coauthor with Mallory-Smith of a paper in the Weed Science special issue. There are now major weeds, such as Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri), that have developed resistance to glyphosate, leaving farmers scrambling for new solutions, including use of chemical controls that are more toxic than glyphosate. These weeds are not “superweeds,” Mallory-Smith says. “There’s nothing super about them and they can still be controlled with other herbicides.” She emphasizes that this cycle, known as the herbicide treadmill, isn’t unique to GM crops. “We’ve had resistance problems for more than 50 years,” she says. “It results from overuse and mismanagement.” Herbicide resistance is predictable — that’s Evolution 101. And the chances that genes from GM crops will spread to wild relatives is similarly predictable. It depends on basic biology, says Mallory-Smith. “The bottom line is if you have a species with compatible relatives that occur in the same area, gene flow will occur,” she says. We’ve had [herbicide] resistance problems for more than 50 years. It results from overuse and mismanagement. And it has. While corn and soy don’t have close wild relatives in the United States, canola, another widely planted GM crop, does. Herbicide-resistance genes from GM canola have turned up in wild, weedy mustard plants on roadsides in the United States, Canada and elsewhere. Mallory-Smith and colleagues have documented another escapee: a GM version of creeping bentgrass, a turf species that was being tested in Oregon. The grass has established itself in patches near the test site, and it has hybridized with a local weed called rabbitfootgrass. “It’s always good to ask where will the genes go and what difference will it make,” says ecologist Allison Snow of Ohio State University, also an expert in transgenic gene flow. And while the documented cases of escapees suggest that regulatory agencies need to apply more caution regarding where GM plants can be grown, there haven’t been any catastrophic outcomes, she says. “The things we worried about 10 years ago haven’t yet happened,” she says. “I can’t point to anything dire.” GM escapees present legitimate legal and cultural conundrums, Snow notes. For example, an organic farmer can no longer call crops organic if they get contaminated by nearby GM crops. “But that’s not an ecological problem,” she says. “It has nothing to do with a GM species taking over.” The potential environmental implications of an escaped GM Atlantic salmon, the first GM animal to garner regulatory approval, are a little harder to predict. But there are multiple safeguards in place to prevent the fast-growing fish from escaping and breeding in the wild. There are biological precautionary measures: The fish are engineered to be all female and to have three sets of chromosomes so they can’t breed with wild fish. But error rates in the sterilization process are inevitable and roughly 1 percent will probably be able to breed successfully. There are also physical hurdles: The current approved arrangement for farming the fish entails producing the eggs in an indoor facility in Canada and then shipping them to inland covered tanks in the highlands of Panama. What would happen if GM fish escaped and bred in the wild is a big question. In experiments with GM coho salmon, the transgenic fish grow rapidly in a hatchery tank, but not in a simulated natural stream. It’s unknown if the same would happen for newly approved GM Atlantic salmon. “There are a lot of redundant layers of strict confinement,” says Virginia Tech fisheries expert Eric Hallerman. “That’s why I’m comfortable with it.” The fast-growing fish contains a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon and regulatory DNA from the eel-like ocean pout that keeps the salmon growing all year, enabling the fish to reach full size in a year and a half instead of the standard three years. And while the modified salmon look formidable next to slower-growing relatives, if they did escape and somehow managed to persist, it’s not clear who would outcompete whom in the wild, says fisheries biologist Robert Devlin of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. For several years, Devlin and his colleagues have been growing an equivalent transgenic Pacific salmon in land-bound caged tanks and mock streams. Experiments with these transgenics and wild fish present a mixed picture that plays out differently in different contexts. For example, the engineered salmon outcompete their wild relatives in the cushy tanks where food is plentiful. But they are at a disadvantage in the mock streams where there is less food and there are predators. Evidence from other studies, reviewed in June 2015 by Devlin and coauthors in BioScience, suggests that the GM fish take more risks than wild salmon, which makes them more likely to be eaten. Yet different experiments, breeding GM Atlantic salmon with wild brown trout, suggest that in some contexts hybrid offspring can outcompete both their GM and wild parents, scientists reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B in 2013. Devlin is reserved in his verdict. “I’m not against transgenic technology and I’m not for it,” he says. “I’m neutral. There could be lots of benefits, but my view is we proceed with scientific information rather than speculation.” That view dominates in the scientific community, yet acceptance of GMOs by the public hinges on more than good science. Some critics take issue with GMOs, not out of misplaced fear, but because they see a yawning gap between the promise of GM foods — feeding the world’s poor — and what’s been realized: a handful of corporations making money selling both the GM seeds and the chemicals needed to grow them. That scenario doesn’t inspire trust, Qaim notes. In the United States, a legacy of regulatory debacles, such as the delay in curtailing the use of the pesticide DDT, doesn’t help either. Fraction of biotech crop farmers who are in resource-poor nations Yet while GMOs and profits for agribusiness seem cemented together in the public’s mind, it’s an inaccurate picture, Qaim says. Despite approved crops being created for markets in the developed world, farmers in developing countries have seen higher incomes, greater productivity and significant reductions in pesticide use, according to a 2014 analysis by Qaim and former Göttingen colleague Wilhelm Klümper. And the next generation of GMOs, many of which are stalled in regulatory limbo, increasingly have traits that benefit consumers, not just the producers of the crops. Whether the specter of Big Ag’s role in developing and selling many of the existing GMOs will overshadow future developments remains to be seen. Currently, even when there’s funding and momentum to develop a new GMO in the lab, public sector efforts often wilt in the face of the cost, time and political will needed to gain approval — leaving the successes to the giants, Qaim notes. If the tide turns, promising crops, such as a gluten-free wheat or GM green beans with added iron to fight anemia, might make their mark alongside the yield-improving GM crops. Hallerman says the real significance of the GM-salmon approval is that it could be a step toward opening minds among the public, although that may take generations, he says. (Whole Foods and Costco have announced they will not sell the GM salmon.) “It’s not about salmon for Western consumers,” he says. “It’s about food security in the developing world.” In 1999, a small study published in Nature found that monarch butterfly caterpillars that ate milkweed leaves dusted with Bt corn pollen died after a few days. But research reported in six studies published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2001 found the pollen was toxic to the caterpillars only in the huge doses used in the study, which were much greater than what the insects would encounter in the field. Still, GM crops appear to pose a legitimate threat to the butterflies: Heavy use of the herbicide glyphosate, thanks to the widespread planting of crops engineered to resist it, has wiped out much of the milkweed the butterflies rely on for food. Farmland in the Midwest lost 80 percent of its milkweed from 1999 to 2010; the decline was mirrored in monarch populations, scientists reported in 2013 in Insect Conservation and Diversity. — Rachel Ehrenberg This article appears in the February 6, 2016, issue of Science News with the headline "GMOs under scrutiny."
News Article | February 17, 2017
The label "sell by" on food items has been the cause of major confusion among buyers for a long time, given that no one can tell for certain what the label means. However, the grocery industry has finally taken steps to clear up matter for most American citizens. On Feb. 15, the two largest trade groups of the grocery industry - the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) made an announcement to do away with the "sell by" tag. Per the Standardized Voluntary Regulations, stated by the two trade groups of the grocery industry, every manufacturer will be now be using only two labels- "use by" and "best if used by", instead of the other 10 labels used earlier. The "use by" label acts as the safety indicator, thus hinting to the customer the date by which the food is safe to eat and when it is not. The "best if used by" label acts as description of quality by the manufacturer, which hints when the product should be consumed to get the best taste. These dates, which will come from the manufacturer, actually points to one of the two - either the dates indicated to the store when the product should be stacked on store shelves, or suggest to the consumers when to consume the food item for best taste. Environmental groups and the Department of Agriculture, have been for a long time coaxing the food industry to clear this mess up as soon as possible. "I think it's huge. It's just an enormous step," said Emily Broad-Leib, director of Harvard's Food Law and Policy Clinic. Although some of the states have food labeling regulations, most of the major retailers like Walmart have supported the move and have already started abiding by the new regulation. The FMI and GMA are urging other retailers and manufacturers to adopt the policy as soon as possible. However, they have until July 2018 to incorporate the changes. Moreover, the standards adopted by the FMI and GMA are voluntary and it necessarily doesn't guarantee the fact that all retailers and manufacturers will adopt the change. Despite this fact, both FMI and GMA expect to widespread adoption of the policy change as the standards were jotted down by a working group having representatives from large food companies. According to Walmart, who has already started implementing the change, the new labels will clear up any confusion that the buyer may have in his or her mind and will also reduce food waste. Natural Resources Defense Council states that many Americans are throwing out consumable food thinking that it has gone past its expiry date. "Clarifying and standardizing date label language is one of the most cost effective ways that we can reduce the 40 percent of food that goes to waste each year in the United States," noted Leib. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | February 15, 2017
For Food Manufacturers, 'Sell By' Labels May Have Reached Their Expiration Date Two of the most influential groups in the food industry are asking companies to change those pesky "expiration" or "sell by" labels on packaged food. The labels, you see, don't mean what they appear to mean. Foods don't "expire." Most foods are safe to eat even after that "sell by" date has passed. They just may not taste as good, because they're not as fresh anymore. Companies use the labels to protect the reputation of their products – they want consumers to see and consume their food in as fresh a state as possible. But those dates often have the perverse effect of convincing over-cautious consumers to throw perfectly good food into the trash. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute are hoping to prevent that. They're now advising their members, which include most major food manufacturers and retailers, to abolish many current labels, including "Expires on" and "Sell by." Instead, they're asking companies to use just two labels. One would use the words "Best if used by" a particular date. This label would probably go on most foods. And companies could put a "Use by" date on products that could become less safe as they age. Brian Kennedy, a spokesman for the GMA, said the second label might go on packages of shucked raw oysters, for example. Some environmental advocacy groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, have been pushing for such a reform for a long time. They say the existing labels have been an obstacle to reducing food waste. Last year, the USDA issued a guidance document that asked companies voluntarily to adopt one universal label, using the words "Best if used by." Expiration dates on food are not required by any federal law, although some states require such dates on meat or milk. As a food product passes its "expiration" date, it may get stale, and some products, like milk, may go sour. But according to food safety experts, most spoiled foods, though unpalatable, aren't particularly hazardous.
News Article | February 22, 2017
— Does food go bad after the expiration dates on its packaging have passed, or are food manufacturers merely trying to protect their reputations because their food tastes better prior to those dates? According to an article from National Public Radio, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute are recommending the abolishment of food labels such as “Expires on” and “Sell by.” Officials from those organizations say that food rarely spoils by those dates and that consumers frequently throw out perfectly safe food. 4Patriots LLC officials understand that concern, but are glad their customers don’t have to check expiration dates. Their Food4Patriots survival food has a shelf life of 25 years. They suggest that people purchase good-tasting, nutritious food with a long shelf life in order to prepare for emergencies. “I can understand why food manufacturers want people to consume their products when they are at their peak for taste, but it’s unfortunate that it results in so much perfectly good food being thrown away by concerned consumers,” said Allen Baler, Partner at Nashville, Tenn.-based 4Patriots. “I understand that the average American family throws away $1,500 worth of good food each year, and that’s tragic considering how many hungry people there are in this country. Our goal by offering food with a long shelf life is to make sure people have healthy food when extreme weather or another crisis strikes, causing the food supply chain to be disrupted.” The 72-hour, one-week, four-week, three-month and one-year emergency food kits from Food4Patriots have shelf lives of up to 25 years, so it’s not necessary to periodically rotate stockpiles. The food in these kits can be prepared in less than 20 minutes and requires only boiling water. It’s contained in easy-to-store, space-age Mylar pouches – which keep out air, moisture and light – and tucked inside tough, stackable totes that are discreet and store anywhere – basement, attic, garage, shed, cabin or even an RV. Food4Patriots provides emergency food products that are shelf-stable for 25 years. Food4Patriots survival food kits are made with food grown, harvested and packaged in the United States, and all of the meals are made without any genetically-modified products, preservatives or fillers. The kits are available in 72-hour, one-week, four-week, three-month and one-year supplies. For more information, please visit http://www.4patriots.com
News Article | February 16, 2017
You know sell-by dates. They’re those little tags stuck to your pre-made sandwich at the deli, or printed on the milk carton at the grocery store. Now two of the most influential food-industry players — The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute — want to get rid of them, according to Dan Charles at NPR. Why? Because they cause food waste. They provide information that’s useful to sellers but misleading to buyers. People confuse it for the eat-by date and wind up trashing perfectly good, edible food. Environmental groups have been pushing companies to get rid of sell-by dates for a long time. The USDA has recommended that companies just start using the words “Best if used by.” That would be a big improvement. But it’s not an exact science. You should know that most food is fine past its use-by date, but food can always spoil before that date. So read the label, but also use your nose and brain.