What Big Food Doesn’t Want You to Know


Your choice to eat healthy food is probably informed by conversations about how we can rely less on industrialized agriculture and create a more sustainable, local and healthy/fresh food system. According to a new Friends of the Earth (FOE) Report authored by sustainable food superstars Kari Hamerschlag, Anna Lappé and Stacy Malkan, opponents out there are actively trying silence your voice.

The report entitled Spinning Food exposes how some of the biggest corporations in the food industry use tricky marketing and lobbying tactics to take control of how we eat ...  and even what we believe about food. Their findings show that the industrial food and agriculture sector has been working diligently over the past several years to curtail the nation’s growing concerns over unsafe and unsustainable food.

We’ve known how food marketers psychologically exploit the public through their advertising, and we certainly know about all of the dangers and health risks posed by eating processed foods that the food industry refuses to address, but this report looks towards a newer set of tactics. The authors have uncovered a new level of sophistication with which the food industry has inserted itself into media, academia and even our government to make sure that they can keep profits high. From the FOE blog post by the authors:

The report shows how these companies are trying to preserve their markets by deploying front groups; targeting moms, attacking journalists and scientists; grooming third party allies that pose as independent sources; producing advertising disguised as editorial content and using other covert tactics to influence public opinion and sway policymakers -- without most people realizing the story is being shaped behind the scenes to promote corporate interests. With the future of our food at stake, it is critical to raise awareness about these coordinated messages and covert communication tactics.”

Some of the most alarming findings include:

  • $126 million is spent by 14 food industry front groups that often appear in the media as independent sources, but are funded by, and serve, the interests of the industrial food sector.

  • More than $600 million is spent by four major trade associations — CropLife America, BIO, Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the American Meat Institute — to promote and defend the agendas of pesticide, biotech and conventional food corporations

As the organic and sustainable food movement continues to grow and flourish, our health has everything to gain, and the industrial food and agribusiness sector has a whole lot to lose. It is not a surprise that they want to distract us from thinking differently, but according to the report, the way that they are going about it is completely dishonest. From the FOE press release:

This onslaught of industry-sponsored spin is aimed at stemming the growing tide of consumers seeking healthier food produced without GMOs, toxic pesticides or routine antibiotics,” said Kari Hamerschlag, senior program manager at Friends of the Earth. “Rather than spending so much money on PR defending unhealthy and unsustainable food production, these companies should invest in meeting the growing demand for food that is good for people and the environment.”

The report recommends that we encourage media outlets to become more savvy when confronted with these tactics, and ensure that proper funding goes toward investigative reporting into conflicts of interest and journalistic integrity. It also suggests that as advocates we can become more aware of when, where, and how the food industry is trying to sway us and actively avoid those pressures. Finally, the report suggests that we can paying attention to food policy issues and vote for those that support a healthy sustainable future while not favoring corporate greed or simply “business as usual.”


Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson

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