Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Organic Yogurt Mogul Has a Warning for Washington

EXETER — Stonyfield Farm co-founder Gary Hirshberg said the Londonderry-based yogurt company proves organic makes economic sense and he plans to take that message to Washington in a fight for the nation's health.

Hirshberg, who recently announced he is stepping down as president/chief executive of Stonyfield to bring his messages about health and the environment to a wider audience, was the featured speaker at the inaugural Food and Health Forum Food For Thought dinner and seminar Monday night at Blue Moon Evolution.

As roughly 100 guests dined on a three-course, locally sourced dinner of spinach and kale salad, chicken cacciatore and maple mousse, Hirshberg gave a sobering lecture on the damages done by the last 70 years of experimentation with genetically modified food.

"The data is in, and it's not working," Hirshberg said.

Hirshberg said it was a series of small, well-intentioned steps that led food production in America down an unsustainable path. He said a number of myths, including that of the Earth's "infinite resilience" and that waste and byproducts can be transported somewhere "away," have enabled a system that promotes obesity and other health risks, as well as production methods that harm the environment.

Because of the use of pesticides and the proliferation of genetically modified foods, Hirshberg said, one in three Americans born after the year 2000 will develop Type 2 diabetes and 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes.

Those figures are a "devastating indictment of the system of modern living," and the No. 1 cause, he said, is exposure to chemicals. Studies show the average human is exposed to 80,000 to 100,000 chemicals, not all from food, in everyday living, he said.

As insects evolve to resist insecticides and weeds begin to tolerate herbicides, the stakes continue to rise, Hirshberg said. He said 13 million acres of fields in 26 states are no longer controllable by herbicides, and companies have engaged "in a form of insanity" by relying on defoliants.

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