Just one year ago I posted a blog called “What is our narrative?” In my ruminations I suggested that we must create a new food narrative. A vision that includes fertile living soil and streams free of chemicals, where family farmers can make a sound living, plant a diversity of crops and create habitats for our pollinators. This chronicle embraces researchers working on real solutions for organic techniques and new plant breeds owned by everyone. This vision allows animals to live their lives with enough space and fresh air to live as they were intended. Sadly that story isn’t being told much.
A new report, published by, Friends of the Earth, the Real Food Media Project, and U.S. Right to Know exposes that big food and chemical corporations spend millions to attack that narrative and that vision.
The new report, Spinning Food: How Food Industry Front Groups and Covert Communications are Shaping the Story of Food, is a must read and a must share. It exposes that in response to the skyrocketing growth in organic and non-GMO food sales, food and agrochemical companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past several years on stealth communications campaigns designed to defend industrial agriculture, sway opinion leaders, and win over skeptical consumers.
It documents unprecedented levels of spending from front groups, trade associations, anti-GMO labeling campaigns, federal check-off programs, and vast corporate marketing budgets aimed at defusing public concern about the risks of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and undermining the reputation of organic food.
Key findings include:
- Big food and chemical companies spent hundreds of millions of dollars from 2009 to 2011 to manipulate the public conversation about our food.
- 14 front groups – often appearing in the media as independent sources – spent $125 million during that time frame to push coordinated messages that serve industrial agriculture interests. These include groups like the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, whose partners include Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, and Syngenta.
- Covert PR tactics these groups are using include efforts to disparage “organic moms,” the growth of “native advertising” disguised to look like real news, stealth engagement on social media and the use of third-party allies to foster an echo chamber for industry talking points.
- Coordinated messages pushed by a range of seemingly independent spokespeople are making their way from PR firms to the pages of leading media outlets. The report details and debunks five of these key messages, including “organic food isn’t worth the money” and “GMOs are needed to feed the world.”
The industrial food and agrochemical companies are growing and manufacturing food that is literally making us sick. Cancer is at epidemic levels and is expected to rise over 50% by 2020. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese. The number of children diagnosed with autism or related disorders have also grown at an alarming rate. In the 1970s and 1980s, about one out of every 2,000 children had autism. Today, the CDC estimates that one in 150 eight-year-olds in the U.S. has an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.
In order to reverse these morbid trends we need to begin growing and producing food that is healthy, safe, nutritious, and just.
It is time we all stop listening to the narrative of big corporate agriculture. Let’s develop a new story on how to change the food system they have erroneously built. It is destroying our health, our rivers and soils, our biodiversity, and our human integrity.
Please read this report, Spinning Food: How Food Industry Front Groups and Covert Communications are Shaping the Story of Food. Then share it with your friends and loved ones.
Let’s expose the myths being spun and create a new food narrative. Pass it on!