Film Inc.’s chapter entitled Hidden Costs interviews Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm. The topic is the future of organic farming. Hirshberg points out numerous organic companies, still using their old names, but in fact are now owned by much larger companies. He mentions Tom’s of Maine’who is now owned by Colgate. (Colgate!) Bert’s Bees is now owned by Clorox. Kashi is now owned by Kelloggs (the world leading producer of cereal and a leading producer of convenience foods). He comments on several other organic companies—one owned by Pepsi and the other by Kraft. Big corporate conglomerates buying their way into our industry. Does that concern you? It does me.
Hirshberg started his enterprise with a seven cow farm and by 2008, 25 years later, Stonyfield had become the third largest yogurt brand in America, and the most profitable. That same year Stonyfield was acquired by Groupe Danone, a $23 billion food conglomerate. Hirshberg continues to run Stonyfield as its CEO. He speaks of the reasons for selling 85% of the Stonyfield shares to Danone, and why selling to a large corporation can be a good thing for the global environment and humanity.
We learn from Hirshberg that organics have been growing 20% annually. And that it is one of the fastest growing elements of the food industry! Gary reflects that early on, as a biologist, it was obvious to him that business was the source of what was destroying this world. But he has had a major change of heart since those early years and now feels that business can be our savior against global warming. But is it possible that the people who are destroying the world can also be the saviors? They have the power, but do they have the heart? What would it take? Listen to what Hirshberg says and think this through:
Hirshberg doesn’t have enough film time to fully clarify his points, but what he seems to be saying is that we are not going to reverse the wrongs that have been perpetrated by the transnational corporations by making them the ultimate evil, and by only supporting the small local companies— but that we need both. We need all people whether they are working for the large conglomerates or not, to become environmentalists at heart. Can an individual keep such ideals as environmental quality, sustainability, and social equity alive while entrenched in the corporate machine? An important question that was put before Hirshberg is whether the organic companies that have been acquired by larger companies keep their soul—the M.O. that made them succesful? His answer is that “The jury is out. Let’s put it that way.” Not too reassuring.
But, Hirshberg continues with his apologetics on behalf of the useful power of the big corporations. In the clip below we meet Tony Airoso, Wal-Mart’s Chief Dairy Purchaser,who is coming to the Stonyfield Farm for the first time.
Airoso explains: “Actually it is a pretty easy decision to try to support things like organic based on what the customer wants. We see that and we react to it. If it is clear the customer wants it, it is easy to get behind it.”
Hirshberg concludes his remarks by saying that when he runs into his old environmental friends many of them are horrified by the kind of company that he is keeping these days. But when I explain what the power of one [organic] purchase order from Wal-Mart is in terms of not pounds but tons of pesticides, tons of herbicides, and tons of fertilizers not used on our environment—they have second thoughts.
I have second thoughts, and am still suspicious. I am not convinced that Gary had made the right decision. I needed more information about him. This is where the book, Food Inc. comes in—it provides a compilation of essays written by various luminaries in the organic food industry with Gary Hirshberger’s being one of them. I read his article entitled, Organics—Healthy Food, And So Much More. It was well written. I’ll share with you a couple of paragraphs.
I would say Gary establishes his credentials quite well in these four elegant paragraphs as a right thinking crusader for saving our biosphere. This is the kind of person we want infiltrating the corporate power establishment. Gary’s bottom line thesis is that we vote with our dollars, and therefore don’t vote for big corporations when they produce non-organic. But it is enough??
I am reminded of another powerhouse activist whom I wrote about in our August 28th, 2009 newsletter (found in our Publishing Blog Archives on the Bioimmersion Home Page)—Howard-Yana Shapiro PhD. He is a master gardener and the co-author of a phenomenal book titled Gardening For The Future Of The Earth. He not only created a master piece, showing us how to create a bounty in our own backyards, but he also created the largest organic seed company in the world—Seeds Of Change. However, after a little over a decade, he sold his seed company to the Mars Company. You know, the one that produces M&Ms and Snickers, etc. He is now their global director of plant science and external research.
My conclusion: For business people, money speaks in the loudest of voices. But I think that behind money we need the correct values and attitudes. Can we truly affect big corporation? Not if the only thing that will change them is consumer demand. They need to understand what they are doing to our world—the pain and destruction they are inflicting for gaining more money. Although I would like not to demonize those who have the power—the reality is that power has not been used to affect real change by too many of the large corporations. But to infiltrate all sectors of human life with the message of organic, sustainability and equity for all is smart! Gary Hirshberg and Howard Shapiro are two of our best embedded agents for change and working for the organic cause.
As Gary Hirshberg points out: every time we purchase something—we are voting with our dollars. Wal-Mart didn’t decide to go organic because they had a sudden transformation of corporate culture, at least not yet, but realized that this was what an increasing number of their customers wanted. It was a good business decision. But again, it is about making money, not doing the right thing. Yet a move like that by the world’s largest retailer can make major changes in our farming system. It comes back to the fact that the most important leverage point that we have to achieve our organic goals is to educate the masses. If everyone stops buying industrial pork or chicken, and insists on using purchasing power to buy organic—the changes we desire can become a reality. Let’s educate!
The Therapeutic Foods Platform
For the past four years, since we developed the Therapeutic Foods Line, I have been consistent with my consumption of our different products. One thing that I have noticed is that I have been free of the yearly colds and flues that hit most people once or twice a year.
Here is my typical routine: Upon getting up each morning before my run I take.
I don’t just take one of the Therapeutic Foods daily, just as one wouldn’t eat just one food every day. In fact I move around amongst our synbiotic formulas—taking the Beta Glucan for a week or two, then switching to the Original Synbiotic or the No. 7. The more you consume the greater will be your body’s response and benefits derived.
The Last Quiz Answer: This gorgeous creature is an impala. This particular impala is in a bit of an urgent situation, as it is part of a herd of impalas that are surrounded by a pack of Wild Hunting Dogs—Africa’s most efficient hunters. Their favorite food, the hunting dogs that is, is impala. At this moment she is surveying her escape route, which direction to run. Impala can reach speeds of approximately 50 to 56 mph to escape their predators. She got away!