Posted by Chuck Benbrook | February 25, 2015
If you ask any brand manager, company executive, or corporate board member what a company’s most valuable asset is, the answer is always the same – consumer trust, and the marketplace loyalty grounded in that trust.
Whether selling cars, computers, or potato chips, both trust and market share are difficult to earn and easily lost.
Maintaining consumer trust does not occur in a vacuum. Aggressive, young sharks (i.e., competitors) are always eager to move up the food chain, and the unexpected must be expected – and dealt with adroitly, to prevent a slip from starting a long, slow slide.
Think of all the sweat equity, and public and private investment capital that has flowed into U.S. Ag Inc. over the last half-century, making our food and fiber system the envy of the world, or so the story goes.
Posted by Chuck Benbrook | December 9, 2014
Nearly everyone agrees that producing ample, nutritious and safe food to feed 9 billion people, with minimal harm to the environment, is one of mankind’s grand challenges. In the May 14, 2014 issue of National Geographic, Jonathan Foley sets out a thoughtful, five-step plan that highlighted these imperatives:
- “Freeze agriculture’s footprint” (e.g., stop clearing tropical rainforests),
- “Grow more on the farms we’ve got” (close the yield gap, more multi-cropping),
- “Use resources more efficiently” (help farmers “get smarter”),
- “Shift diets” (more fresh fruits and veggies, less grain-fed meat), and
- “Reduce waste” (25% food calories wasted; 50% of food by weight). Read more »
Posted by Chuck Benbrook | October 23, 2014
In early September I visited a remarkable organic farm on the coast of California. This farm has been in organic production for about 30 years, and its harvests of mostly organic tomatoes have been marketed through a variety of outlets in Northern California.
I arrived on the day picking had just begun on a sloping tomato field about 6 acres in size. The crop was exceptionally clean, with virtually no insect damage and few weeds. Minimal, organically approved control measures had been used, including applications of sulfur and releases of trichogramma (beneficial wasps), along with many hours of hand weeding.
New Meta-Analysis Identifies Three Significant Benefits Associated With Organically Grown Plant-Based Foods
Posted by Chuck Benbrook | July 11, 2014
There have been four progressively rigorous meta-analyses published since 2009 focusing on differences in the nutritional quality and safety of organic versus conventional food. The latest comes out July 15, 2014 in the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN). I was the sole American scientist on the mostly European research team that produced the BJN paper:
Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. Baranski, M., D. Srednicka-Tober, N. Volakakis, C. Seal, R. Sanderson, G. B. Stewart, C. Benbrook, B. Biavati, E. Markellou, C. Giotis, J. Gromadzka-Ostrowska, E. Rembiałkowska, K. Skwarło-Son, R. Tahvonen, D. Janovska, U. Niggli, P. Nicot and C. Leifert.
Posted by Chuck Benbrook | June 30, 2014
Problems triggered by the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in corn, soybean, and cotton country continue to worsen. An industry source recently projected that 70 million acres are now infested with one or more glyphosate-resistant weed. The presence of glyphosate-resistant weeds forces farmers to add additional herbicides to their control programs, and apply herbicides more often and/or at higher rates. Costs have risen $25 to over $75 per acre. Read more »
Posted by Chuck Benbrook | June 3, 2014
Avoiding pesticide exposure and risks remains the #1 reason most people choose organic food. This is not likely to change until there is convincing data that show only modest differences between the pesticide dietary risks associated with residues in and on organic food, compared to conventionally grown food. Read more »
Posted by Chuck Benbrook | April 24, 2014
An April 19, 2014 blog post by NPR correspondent Dan Charles discusses Wal-Mart’s plans to develop a substantial new line of organic food products that will be sold at a 25% lower price than other organic brands. The story quotes individuals who question whether Wal-Mart will be able to deliver on the idea without hurting farmers or cutting corners and sacrificing organic integrity, but they may be underestimating the benefits of Wal-Mart’s economy of scale. Read more »
Posted by Chuck Benbrook | February 27, 2014
In its December 20, 2013 issue, the journal Science identified cancer immunotherapy as the science breakthrough of the year. An editorial by the journal’s Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt explains the basis for the selection.
She notes that the war on cancer started 40 years ago and has had great success in treating some cancers, while others remain difficult to effectively combat. She also explains that as the baby boomer generation ages, cancer incidence, morbidity, and mortality will almost assuredly increase – hence the need for new tools. Read more »
Posted by Chuck Benbrook | February 5, 2014
Farm bills over the last forty years have shaped today’s agriculture systems and technology. They have done so by setting the “rules of the road” and defining or shaping research and investment priorities.
The new farm bill provides farmers, agribusiness, rural communities, and the food industry a more stable policy framework in which to make investment and planting decisions. But my sense is this farm bill could mark a historically significant inflection point. Farm bills since the 1970s have tried to become more market-driven, by lessening the impact of USDA farm programs on the choices made by farmers. Read more »
Posted by Chuck Benbrook | December 9, 2013
Dozens of studies, most of them conducted in Europe, have shown higher levels of health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk compared to conventional milk, as well as lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids. The National Institutes of Health, in a factsheet on omega-3 fatty acids, reports that:
“Most American diets provide more than 10 times as much omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids. There is general agreement that individuals should consume more omega-3 and less omega-6 fatty acids to promote good health.”
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