A Deeper Focus


Carbon farming and the real food movement

Nutiva founder John Roulac entertained the crowd for over two hours at the second Central Coast Bioneers Critical Conversation July 2nd at Steynburg Gallery with his vast food and ag industry knowledge, his fight against GMOs and his new interest in carbon sequestration in soil.

After the loss on Proposition 37 in California to require GMO labeling on food, Roulac decided there had to be a better way to effect change on the issue. He began GMO Inside, a consumer activist effort to campaign against offending food companies.  Their first target was General Mills, who after 14 months of enduring thousands of Facebook comments, took GMO products out of Cheerios. “Large corporations don’t care what Americans want or how they vote,” John said, “but they still have to sell their products, and we don’t have to buy them. The power to change the food industry is not at the ballot box, it is with us.”

Besides Cheerios, other recent victories include getting Chobani yogurt to start using milk from cows not given GMO feed, and Hershey’s to stop using artificial ingredients. Current campaigns are ongoing against Starbucks, Land O’Lakes and Sabra.   John was happy to report that the acreage devoted to growing non-GMO corn is on the increase, especially due to the demand for GMO-free feed for the dairy industry. He was also happy to report that Monsanto spent over $100 million last year in trying to stop GMO Inside’s attacks.

One of the biggest concerns now is ocean acidification. The air and water are saturated with carbon, so the only place left to put it is back into the soil.  John is working hard to get information out to farmers to compost, plant cover crops and minimize soil disturbance so that less carbon is released into the air. Livestock populations are being touted as a problem, but John believes that big ag is more of the culprit than eating meat.  John talked about the Carbon Cycle Institute created by John Wick in Marin County. The Institute determined that adding only half an inch of compost to rangeland sequesters one ton of carbon per hectare annually.  Wick is finding ways to monetize carbon sequestration for farmers to encourage them to get on board.  For example, the Institute encourages farmers to plant fields of radishes for the cows to eat the crop rather than import corn feed.

While there is plenty of bad news, there is also good, with families getting interested in organic food and healthier ways of living to protect their children. For his part, John, through Nutiva, has given over $3 million through 1% for the Planet to support environmental NGOs and has a goal of donating $20 million.  He encourages everyone to get involved in GMO Inside’s campaigns.

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