Non-GMO

Spotlight on Stonyfield

We’re shining our Co-op Spotlight on Stonyfield this week to highlight their commitment to organic dairy, the family farmers that make it possible, and the Earth that sustains us. Member-owners can enjoy 20% off their full line of organic dairy products this week! Read on to learn more about Stonyfield’s history and a few of their impressive initiatives to help support farmers and the environment.

History

While Stonyfield is best known for making yogurt, yogurt wasn’t the way the founders of Stonyfield thought they’d change the world. In 1983, Stonyfield co-founders Samuel Kaymen and Gary Hirshberg were simply trying to help family farms survive, protect the environment, and keep food and food production healthy through their nonprofit organic farming school.

Just to keep things running, the duo started putting their farm’s seven cows to work making yogurt. They knew they were making healthy food grown with care; what they didn’t expect was how much people would love it.

People went crazy for the yogurt from Samuel and Gary’s little farm school, and the two knew they had found a way to make a real difference. With this yogurt business, the two organic farming teachers could show the whole world that a company could make healthy, delicious food without relying on toxic chemicals that harm the environment and public health.

So, the two went all-in on yogurt and, over 30 years later, they remain steadfast in their mission. They’re still headquartered in New Hampshire, just 30 miles east of the old farm where it all began.

Organic Commitment

Stonyfield’s products are all 100% certified organic – made without the use of toxic persistent pesticides, artificial hormones, antibiotics, and GMOs.  In one year alone, their organic ingredient purchases keep more than 185,000 pounds of toxic persistent pesticides from the air, water, and land! WOW!

 

Supporting Farmers & Caring for the Planet

Stonyfield believes in the importance of supporting family farms and taking care of the world around us. They consider the impact of everything they do–from the plant-based packaging to the quality of the ingredients, to how their products are made, and finally, how it gets to you.

When they learned that the organic farmers cooperative from which they source their bananas was having to endure significant hardships and loss to get the bananas to a processing facility, they knew they needed to step up. Transporting the bananas to the nearest 3rd-party processing plant required farmers to transport their crops on their backs, then by boat, and then by truck to get there. Even under the best conditions, the trip takes many hours and is often fraught with hazard. In the end, up to 40% of the fruit is either lost on the journey or left to rot on the trees. Given the challenges of processing at such a remote facility, there’s little incentive for farmers to fully harvest available fruit or invest in their farms. Upon learning this, Stonyfield invested in a processing plant that is completely owned and operated by the AAPTA growers cooperative, allowing them to cut waste, improve efficiencies and stabilize their income. How cool is that?! Click here to read more about it!

 

Stonyfield is also helping to jumpstart the next generation of organic farmers. They recognized that the population of organic dairy farmers is aging, and very few people are lining up to take their places as they retire. They decided to play a central role in sustaining and rebuilding organic dairy in America through a groundbreaking training program for organic dairy farmers. In the program, aspiring organic dairy farmers spend two years at Wolfe’s Neck Farm on the coast of Maine. Living on site, they receive intensive training in organic farm and pasture management, animal health and comfort, and business planning. At the end, they pitch their farm business plan to potential investors before setting out on their own. The first group of trainees started in June of 2015. Stonyfield will be following this first batch of farmers on their blog as they move through the program, so stay tuned!

 

Click HERE to read more about Stonyfield’s sustainability initiatives.

Click HERE for tasty recipes!

Spotlight on Lotus Foods

We’re casting our Co-op spotlight on Lotus Foods this week to bring awareness to their grassroots rice revolution that is helping to bring sustainably grown, organic, and non-GMO rice to your dinner table! All of their products are 20% off for member-owners this week. Read on to learn more about the groundbreaking agricultural practices that are making this possible, and the impact that it’s having in rice-growing parts of the world:

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Lotus Foods was founded in 1995 with the intent and vision to support sustainable global agriculture by promoting the production of traditional heirloom rice varieties, many of which may otherwise be extinct, while enabling the small family rice farmer to earn an honorable living. They learned that up to one-third of the planet’s annual renewable supply of fresh water is used to irrigate rice and recognized that this practice is not sustainable. These wasteful agricultural methods are depleting our water resources faster than they are being recharged, creating water scarcity. For this reason, in 2008, Lotus Foods committed to partnering with small-scale farmers who radically changed how they grow rice, using less to produce more.

Lotus Foods feels strongly that sustainability is premised on an ethical framework that includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, and a culture of peace. They believe that eradicating poverty and promoting social and economic justice must begin with agriculture and must be accomplished in a way that protects and restores the natural resources on which all life depends. At the crux of this challenge is rice, which provides a source of living to more than two billion people, most earning less than $200 per year.

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A Grassroots Rice Revolution

More Crop Per Drop is how Lotus Foods refers to their rice grown using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). SRI is a not a new seed or input, but rather a different way of cultivating rice that enables small-scale farmers to double and triple their yields while using 80-90% less seed, 50% less water, and less or no chemical inputs. That’s revolutionary!

Why is SRI so Important?

This unique agricultural method addresses some of the most important challenges we face this century – namely to feed several billion more people with dwindling land and water resources and without further degrading the planet’s environment. SRI has been largely grassroots driven, fueled by marginalized male & female farmers and the non-profit organizations (NGOs) who advocate for their welfare, like Oxfam, Africare, WWF and many dedicated local NGOs and individuals. The reason these farmers are so excited about SRI is because it represents an opportunity for more food, more money, better health, and more options – in short, for a way out of poverty.

Lotus Foods sees SRI as a logical extension of their mission. They offer six exceptional SRI-grown rices, and call them More Crop Per Drop to bring to special attention to water as a diminishing resource. Fully one-quarter to one-third of the planet’s annual freshwater supplies are used to irrigate and grow the global rice crop. And in Asia, where most rice is grown and eaten, about 84% of water withdrawal is for agriculture, mostly for irrigating rice. Water scarcity is having an increasingly significant impact on agriculture. According to the WWF, “The SRI method for growing rice could save hundreds of billions of cubic metres of water while increasing food security.”  Check out this cool video from the Better U Foundation to learn more about SRI:

What about Organic Certification, Fair Trade Certification & Non-GMO Verification?

Most of their rices are already certified organic, while others are in the process of becoming certified, and still others are working to help develop a certifying program in their country of origin. These organic and transitional rices are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or ionizing radiation. Their rices are 100% fair-trade certified and non-GMO verified. Lotus Foods has also been B-Corp certified since February of 2012. B corporations are legally obligated to consider the impact of their decisions on their employees, suppliers, community, consumers, and their environment. Lotus Foods shares the conviction that we can change the world for the better with how we choose to do business.

At the Co-op, you’ll find several varieties of Lotus Foods rice in our bulk department, and in the grocery department you’ll find their packaged rice and also their delicious rice ramen noodles. Visit their website for excellent tips and recipes!

 

DARK Days for Consumers’ Right To Know

Vermont’s Groundbreaking GMO Labeling Law

July was a roller coaster for consumers seeking transparency in food labeling, particularly when it comes to labeling foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The month began on a glorious high note with a party on the statehouse lawn to celebrate the implementation of Vermont’s groundbreaking GMO labeling law, known as Act 120. Fundamentally, this law required two things:

  • Mandatory labeling of food for retail sale if produced with GE (genetic engineering)
  • Disallows use of the label “natural” for food made with GE ingredients

Eight categories of foods were exempt from this labeling requirement, notably, products produced entirely from animals (e.g. meat, milk, eggs), products with only trace amounts of GE ingredients, alcoholic beverages and unpackaged food prepared for immediate consumption.

Under this new law, food product manufacturers were responsible for labeling packaged products containing GE ingredients. As a retailer, our Co-op was responsible for labeling any GE products that we package.

The law dictated that there will be three types of labels, which must be easily found on the outside of the package:

  • “Produced with genetic engineering”
  • “Partially produced with genetic engineering” if less than 75% by weight
  • “May be produced with genetic engineering”

The State’s Attorney General was responsible for enforcement of the law. There was a “safe harbor” period until January 1, 2017, where the law would be in effect but no fines would be issued. After that, the fine for a violation was $1000 per product SKU, per day.

A Short-Lived Celebration

We heartily celebrated the implementation of this new law. It represented a significant victory for transparency in food labeling and consumers’ right to know what is in the food they feed themselves and their families. An overwhelming majority of consumers in Vermont and across the US have long been rallying for clear, simple, on-package labeling so that they could know at a glance if a product was produced with genetic engineering. We became the first state to make it happen in May of 2014, then put up an admirable fight to defend our law when a collection of trade associations representing giant food producers, known collectively as the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, filed suit against the state of Vermont. In April of 2015, Judge Christina Reiss rejected a motion from the industrial food companies asking Vermont to stop implementation of our labeling law. Judge Reiss also determined that the labeling law is constitutional under the First Amendment. The court’s findings affirmed the solid legal ground of Act 120.

The July 1st roll-out went smoothly. We prepared for the changes in advance and mailed letters to all of our vendors to share information and offer resources about this transition to prevent any potential snags. Our law was also having positive effects beyond Vermont’s borders, as many large food manufacturers – Campbell’s, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, ConAgra, Mars, & General Mills – began opting to label all of their products, rather than label only those destined for Vermont store shelves. The sky did not fall and consumers were finally being given the information needed to make informed decisions about their food purchases. It all seemed too good to be true…perhaps because it was.

What is the DARK Act?

On June 23rd, Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) proposed a compromise GMO labeling bill (S.764) nicknamed the DARK (Denying Americans the Right to Know) Act. Vermont’s leaders fought hard to defeat the DARK Act as it moved through the House and Senate. The clip below shows Senator Bernie Sanders addressing his peers on the Senate floor and trying to point out everything that is wrong with this bill in the short time allotted. You can also hear the voice of Senator Patrick Leahy asking Bernie questions along the way, allowing for clarification of specific points.

 

Despite their best efforts, the proposal passed both the senate (July 7th) and the house (July 14th). It was delivered to the White House on July 19th and was signed into law shortly thereafter.

In a nutshell, the passing of this law dissolves Vermont’s labeling law and falls well short of consumer expectations.  This law will leave a significant number of GE products unlabeled due to a definition of “bioengineered food” that even the FDA has called into question, which would ultimately exclude some sugars, oils, and corn products . Companies will also be able to opt out of clear accessible on-package labeling by using digital “QR” codes that will be unreadable by approximately half of rural and low-income Americans without access to smartphones or cell service.  There are no penalties for lack of compliance, and no authority to recall products that are not properly labeled. Additionally, this law preempts a 2004 Vermont statute requiring companies to label genetically engineered seeds.

“It’s a shame that Congress chose to replace our standard with a weaker one that provides multiple ways for the food industry to avoid transparent labeling,” Representative Peter Welch said. Reverend Jesse Jackson also denounced the legislation and urged President Obama to veto the GMO labeling bill, pointing out the discriminatory nature of such a labeling system; “100,000,000 Americans, most of them poor, people of color and elderly either do not own a smartphone or an iPhone to scan the QR code or live in an area of poor internet connectivity. The DARK act has also been condemned by many respected environmental and food justice advocacy groups including the Center for Food Safety, Rural Vermont, VT Right To Know GMOs, and the Environmental Working Group.

We’re deeply disappointed to see Vermont’s strong labeling law replaced by the DARK Act, but we also recognize that despite this heartbreaking news, we should all be incredibly proud of what we accomplished over the past few years. Today, if you go into grocery stores in Vermont and across the nation you will find genetically engineered foods labeled for the first time – Vermont was a driving force in making that happen. National food manufacturers like Campbell’s and Mars have announced that they will continue to label their products, and others are expected to follow suit. In the end, a lot more people know what is in their food because of what we managed to accomplish here in Vermont.

We’d like to acknowledge and appreciate the many consumers, farmers, political leaders, and industry groups who are working hard to make transparency in food labeling a reality. The fight for meaningful and clear food labels will continue. In the meantime, if you wish to avoid GMOs while shopping in the Co-op, look for the following:

  • Products bearing a certified organic label (see examples below)
  • Products bearing the third-party certification of the Non-GMO project (see below)
  • Ask questions about where food comes from and how it is made. Perhaps the product has been imported from one of the 60-plus countries around the world that have banned GMOs. Or, perhaps it’s a local product from a very small farmer or producer that may not bear an organic or non-GMO label, but can assure you that their products are grown or produced without the use of GMOs.
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Spotlight on Tierra Farm

We’re casting our Co-op Spotlight on Tierra Farm this week to highlight the socially and environmentally responsible practices of this employee-owned business. They provide an array of healthy products to our bulk department that are certified organic, gluten free, kosher, and gmo-free, all of which are produced in small batches in their solar-powered facility in nearby Valatie, NY. They’re featured in our Member Deals program this week, so member-owners can enjoy 20% off their delicious fair-trade coffee, dried fruits, nuts, nut butters, and other healthy snacks! Read on to learn more about this fantastic small business and their commitment to responsible practices throughout the supply chain:

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Tierra Farm is a Certified Organic manufacturer and distributor of nuts, dried fruits, and coffee located 20 miles south of Albany, New York. Our customers consist mainly of cooperatives and independently owned grocery stores that value working with an employee-owned, environmentally conscious company that manufactures its own products.

Tierra Farm started as a diversified organic vegetable farm in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The organic nuts & dried fruit portion of the business started in 1999, as a way to generate income in the slower winter months. That portion of the business continued to thrive into what it has become today and we still maintain our original farm.

One of our core values has been to cultivate strong relationships with the best organic farmers in the world. Every year we purchase an increasing amount of our nuts, seeds and dried fruit directly from the farms, some of which we have worked with for over a decade. Our level of knowledge and communication with our farmers allows us to preserve our organic integrity and ensure fair business practices throughout the supply chain.

We offer our customers exceptional value through unbeatable quality at prices that are fair both to the consumer and to the farmer. Our products are made without preservatives, added oils or refined sugars, in our peanut-free facility. We manufacture the products we sell: we dry roast and flavor nuts and seeds, blend trail mixes, grind butter, cover nuts and fruits in fair-trade chocolate, and roast fair trade coffee. Everything is made in small, hand-crafted batches for freshness.

Tierra Farm handles only Certified Organic products which are grown without synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms, or chemical fertilizers. This helps sustain biodiversity, conserves fresh water, and enhances the soil. We generate over 70% of our electricity from solar panels and recycle over 60% of our waste. Our boxes are made from recycled cardboard and our deli cup containers are made from over 50% recycled material – both are recyclable after use. We’re continuously looking for better ways to protect the planet.

We also value the importance of investing in our staff. We have an in-house gym, an in-house chef who cooks daily organic, gluten-free meals for our staff – often using fresh produce directly from our farm, a staff masseuse who visits weekly, and we offer many employee health initiatives such as a smoking cessation program that allows our staff to be 100% tobacco-free.

We recently opened a retail store at our headquarters in Valatie, NY, where local customers are able to purchase all of our (almost 200) products. Also, if you’re in the Albany area, please stop into one of our Tierra Coffee Roasters locations for a great cup of coffee and some homemade baked goods.

We also invite you to take a virtual tour of our farm!

 

 

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