All the Drama on the Internets #5: NPR GMO bias?

Every so often I like to give you a bulleted list of some recent “green” stories in the news and why half of the people are excited to hear about the news or study and the other half are super offended by it for some reason. DRAMA ENSUES. Almost 100% of the time, I am somewhere in the middle. I just figured that some of you might want to know what’s out there and read for yourselves. Just in case you aren’t already immersed in social media 24/7 like I am…

Food Babe speaking at ShiftCon | Living Consciously Blog

On Thursday I ignored the article NPR published calling Food Babe an alarmist because I didn’t want to draw attention to it (still refusing to link to it). Yesterday I spent most of the day watching my private Facebook groups of green/holistic/real food bloggers argue over whether the attack on the food movement by NPR was warranted, if it damaged us all in our efforts to raise awareness of the issues with our food system, and whether Vani should really be allowed free speech like the rest of us. OK, so I made that last part up, but kind of not really. Because whether we like her message or not, whether we agree with the way she says it or not, I don’t think we can argue that she has a place at the table (so to speak), just like any of us with a blog.

If you aren’t familiar with Food Babe, go ahead and look her up. She’s so huge I don’t even have to link to her. Do I read her blog? No, not regularly. Mostly because I am orthorexic, and if I read too much about the tiny details of chemicals in everything I start starving myself. But here’s the thing: most people are not like me. In fact, most people are the opposite. The majority of Americans eat the food they find in the middle of the supermarket, the Standard American Diet, which (aside from being woefully nutritionally deficient) is full of so many chemicals, additives, preservatives, and overall fake-ness that our bodies don’t even know how to function properly. What’s worse is that most people actually feel like they are eating healthfully because our government requires pretty much no labeling or explanation of what is really inside our food when it comes to GMOs, synthetic chemicals, and ingredients that are banned in the UK and other industrialized countries.

Food Babe’s value is that she uses the sensational-type headlines that Americans consuming mass media find intriguing. “You Won’t Believe What’s In Your Yogurt – And It’s Not On The Label!” , “If You’ve Ever Eaten Pizza Before, This Will Blow Your Mind (Maybe Literally)“. Are they the kind of blog post titles you’d find on my blog? No. But they work for her and they draw attention to her message. She also has the guts to go after the big corporations and she’s had some very impressive wins – getting Kraft to remove the artificial orange from their macaroni & cheese, alerting us to the yoga mat ingredient in Subway buns, telling us all that the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is deadly.

OK, so it’s actually things like that last one that get us into trouble.

Does the Pumpkin Spice Latte have bad ingredients in it? Yes. Should we be putting that crap in our stomaches? Not really. But will one latte really kill us? No. No, it won’t. But…

Here’s the thing: those nasty chemicals like the ones in the Starbucks latte might be small in the latte, but they are in EVERYTHING we consume. Those little tiny bits of chemicals in your coffee creamer, in your sandwich bun, added to your lunch meat, in your salad dressing, in that artificially-colored yogurt with aspartame that you had for a snack, the eggs McDonald’s sells that have 17 ingredients (look it up) — it’s the accumulation of those chemicals that is the issue. And that is what Vani has spent the past several years exposing, one at a time. She is there to teach those who aren’t aware to start thinking about what they are eating, to ask “why?”. I think she has a place. She is good at what she does, and she is drawing our attention to very important issues.

Obviously, my technique in encouraging consciously living and eating is different than hers, but I also don’t grab the kind of attention she does from the mainstream public. I think that a lot of you were probably already on your way to making better choices when you found this blog. She writes the kind of headlines that reach people who aren’t seeking ways to change, and causes them to consider something for the first time.

I am a little disappointed in NPR. We’ve been members of our local NPR station the entire time we’ve been married, and my husband was a member for years before we were married. We will continue to support our local NPR station. It was unsettling to see that there was only one side represented in this article, with heavy quoting from a pro-GMO group but not representation from anti-GMO groups at all.

Just this morning, NPR released another article putting GMO ingredients in a negative light. Because so many vitamins added to processed foods are manufactured using GMO ingredients, the cereal makers who have agreed to remove the GMOs from their cereal are left with cereal lower in added vitamins. I say good! We should not be relying on sugar- and grain-filled cereal each morning to meet our nutritional needs with manufactured vitamins. We should be getting these vitamins from whole foods — fruits and vegetables and superfoods throughout the day. If moving toward fewer GMOs also moves us toward more whole foods, GREAT!

But, NPR…not so great, guys. Not so partial. I would definitely not go so far as to say that there is a NPR GMO bias, but I would like to ask: Where is representation from our side in these stories?

10 thoughts on “All the Drama on the Internets #5: NPR GMO bias?

  1. Cassidy says:

    Thanks for writing this, Jenny, and bringing up some very good points. I like the way that Vani approaches this, because she’s going up against the corporate giants and using the tactics that they use to win consumer loyalty. It might be sensationalist, but since that’s what we’re up against, I respect that she fights fire with fire!

    1. Jenny says:

      That is a really good point, Cassidy! When I think about all the sensational headlines seen on the cable news channels, hers can look downright benign 🙂

  2. Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green says:

    Vani can say whatever she wants and doesn’t deserve the death threats and the hateful comments. However, I do believe she is hurting the movement. She posts half-truths, over simplifies things, and sometimes flat out misunderstands the science.

    And some of her advice is downright harmful. Like telling people to fake food allergies so they can avoid ingredients they don’t like. I have life threatening food allergies and people doing this is why a lot of the restaurant industry ignores people like me when I say I have a food allergy.

    And I get her reason, I get cluster headaches from many hidden ingredients. Cluster headaches are called suicide headaches for those that don’t know and are extremely painful (migraines are a walk in the park compared to cluster headaches). However, I’d NEVER say I was allergic to these ingredients.

    1. Jenny says:

      I was very against her food allergy advice and I still hope that she removes that. But after hearing her story at ShiftCon, I understand where she is coming from in her intentions. All the opposition needs is for us to splinter and shatter, and we are no longer an obstacle. We have to stay as united as possible in our consistent message! She reaches a facet of the public that you and I do not – those who need sensationalism to draw their attention, as Cassidy mentioned in her comment. Their attention must be drawn somehow! So I respect that she gains the attention of people I would not.

      1. Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green says:

        It’s not really how she gets the message out there, it’s the inaccurate information. I don’t think that helps the cause. Once people figure out that is wrong, they will be no better off than they were. I think there are plenty of truthful scary things out there, we don’t need fake ones.

        People write all of us off when they see lots of un-scientific info posted. We just all get made out to be conspiracy theorists.

  3. Micaela @MindfulMomma says:

    I’m like you Jenny – I like to stay informed but I don’t always take sides on controversial issues. I appreciate the thoughtful discourse that you’ve put out here. Lots to think about and many reasons to keep fighting the good fight in our own ways!

  4. sommer @greenmom says:

    Very good article Jenny. I am still reading and trying to digest everything. There is so much to learn and so much to read. I bring light to the articles because I like to hear the opinions of those I trust or that are in my circle. I like to hear the different opinions.

  5. Betsy (Eco-novice) says:

    I agree with much of what you said. I don’t have any problem with Food Babe’s style. No different than Huff Po and others really. Everyone wants to get your attention with their title. I do hope as she gets bigger and bigger she is more careful and nuanced about the science. It is interesting to see how NPR covers things. Often ripped on for being too liberal, not liberal enough for some, and then sometimes not as “fair” as we would hope on an issue that’s near and dear to our hearts. There’s always the opportunity to write/ phone/ tweet in your comments at least!

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