I have asked repeatedly to have my short interview clip removed from this film. The director refuses. He believes his film is fair and balanced. I do not.
I am often interviewed (see Media) and hardly ever quoted incorrectly or out of context. This film is one of those rare exceptions.
In my 10-second clip, I say that I am unaware of convincing evidence that eating GM foods is unsafe—this is what I said, but it is hugely out of context.
Safety is the industry’s talking point. In the view of the GMO industry and this film, if GMOs are safe, they ought to be fully acceptable and nothing else is relevant.
I disagree. I think there are plenty of issues about GMOs in addition to safety that deserve thoughtful consideration: monoculture; the effects of industrial agriculture on the environment and climate change; the possible carcinogenicity of glyphosate (Roundup); this herbicide’s well documented induction of weed resistance; and the how aggressively this industry protects its self-interest and attacks critics, as this film demonstrates.
Food Evolution focuses exclusively on the safety of GMOs; it dismisses environmental issues out of hand. It extols the benefits of the virus-resistant Hawaiian papaya and African banana but says next to nothing about corn and soybean monoculture and the resulting weed resistance, and it denies the increase in use of toxic herbicides now needed to deal with resistant weeds. It says nothing about how this industry spends fortunes on lobbying and in fighting labeling transparency.
Instead, this film hammers hard on three out-of-context points:
GMOs are safe.
Anyone who thinks otherwise is anti-science, ignorant, and stupid.
Organic foods are bad and proponents of organic foods are deceitful.
Its biases are apparent throughout but the bias against organics is particularly striking.
For example, in arguing that proponents of organic agriculture are paid by the organic industry, the film refers to an article on the front page of the New York Times. But most of that article was about how the GMO industry recruits and pays academic researchers to front for it. The film fails to mention that.
IFT is a professional association for food scientists and technologists involved in the processed food industry. I have been a member of it for years; its journal, Food Technology is useful for keeping up with what the food industry is doing.
I had no idea that IFT sponsored films, let alone one that must have been very expensive to produce (on location in Hawaii and Uganda, among other places.)
If you want a thoughtful discussion of the real issues raised by food biotechnology, you will need to look elsewhere.
Full disclosure: half of my book Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safetydeals with GMO issues. These have not changed much since the book appeared in 2003 and in a revised edition in 2010. The GMO industry’s defenses and attacks are much the same, just louder and more expensively produced.
Pet food is big business ($63 billion last year). It brings people into supermarkets and boosts sales. [OK. You already knew this, no?]
Evangers, a pet food maker occasionally in trouble over ingredient and food safety problems has been caught with horse meat in its products. It says it doesn’t use horse meat, even though it has a license to use it. It blames its beef supplier.Private label pet food brands are selling well. They are cheaper. For the record: all complete-and-balanced pet foods are required to meet the same nutritional standards and to support dog and cat reproduction, growth, and development (they are like infant formula in that regard).
Food safety issues for humans also mean food safety issues for pets. The CDC is warning people not to consume certain turkey products because of illnesses caused by Salmonella. “Evidence collected by federal officials investigating the illnesses has revealed the outbreak strain in samples from live turkeys and many kinds of raw turkey products, including pet food.”
Whole Dog Journal asks this burning question: Should you feed ice cream to your dog? (The short answer is no, but this gives me a chance to praise Nancy Kerns’ admirably sensible advice about dog feeding, care, and training).
This is foodpolitics.com’s tenth anniversary week. Welcome to post #3189.
Today, some reflections, in the form of a self-interview:
What do you do on foodpolitics.com?
My current habit is to post just once a day during the week (with occasional lapses). On Fridays I usually post something about a recent book or report under the heading of weekend reading. I also use the site to post information about my books, upcoming presentations, and media interviews.
How did you get started?
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the publisher Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (FSG) established the site to see if it would help publicize What to Eat. I had promised to use the site for a few months before deciding whether to continue. In the beginning, blogging felt awkward and it took a few months for me to find my voice and get comfortable with it.
What does it do for you?
I could see right away that the site would be really useful, in these ways:
An online file cabinet: I could link to sources for whatever I was writing about, a process much easier than downloading things to paper and letting them pile up to file.
Links to original documents and sources: It lets me put my hands on key documents right away. Sometimes it’s the only place to find certain documents online.
Tracing back history: WordPress has an excellent search engine, so it is easy to find posts on specific topics, which it gathers one right after another.
Information for reporters: They can see what I say and don’t have to call me.
Incentive to keep up: If something interesting is happening and I want to blog about it, I am going to have to dig into it right away.
Part of my university’s community service requirement: As faculty, I am supposed to teach, do research, and perform community service. This goes under that heading.
A gift to students: If students are writing papers about food politics topics and need help getting started, I can refer them to the site.
My private rant: It’s a platform to say what I think about current events.
You must have to spend a lot of time on it?
Not nearly as much as I worried it might. I work on it in at odd moments. Just within the last year, I discovered that posts can be scheduled. If I know I have a busy week coming up, I can do them in advance; sometimes I do the whole week over a weekend.
How do you know what to write about?
Food politics is a full-employment act. There is always something. I subscribe to a dozen or so daily newsfeeds. Choice is a bigger problem. Because I only post once a day, I pick the topic I find most interesting, outrageous, or funny.
How do you handle comments?
When I started the blog, I thought I would be engaging in ongoing conversations with readers. I liked that until the “trolling” started. One (or possibly more) anonymous writers, using false email addresses and IP addresses traced to a spam site, posted highly unpleasant personal comments about my age, looks, ethnicity, and opinions—several times a day—and tried to organize a campaign to get NYU to fire me.
Readers complained about the nastiness, and I finally asked my New Zealand web managers for help. Now if you want to post a comment, you have to register with a real email address. That put a stop to the trolling (good) but also to most of the comments (alas). If I say something about GMOs, readers argue endlessly with each other, but that’s about it for comments.
Is the blog useful to anyone else?
I certainly hope so. I tried hard to talk about issues in a way that is clear to readers—especially students—who want short summaries of current topics, an opinion about them, and might want to look at older posts as background.
Who reads it?
I don’t really know. the statistics say it has a small readership of just a couple of thousand a day, but the posts go out over Twitter (@marionnestle) and Facebook too.
I do hear from some of you when I make mistakes or say something you don’t like, and I occasionally meet readers at conferences, which is always a pleasure. People actually read it!
How long will you keep doing this?
I haven’t really thought about it. It’s become a habit, an easy one follow, and one I enjoy. And I’ve been inspired by the appreciative comments I’ve been getting this week.
Thanks to all of you who sent them in, whoever and wherever you are.
Tamar Adler. An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace. Scribner 2011.
The book comes with a foreword by Alice Waters and a blurb from Michael Pollan: “Tamar Adler has written the best book on cooking with economy and grace that I have read since MFK Fisher.” He ought to know (see below).
Ms. Adler cooked at Chez Panisse. She says:
Cooking is best approached from wherever you find yourself when you are hungry, and should extend long past the end of the page. There should be serving, and also eating, and storing away what’s left; there should be looking at meals’ remainders with interest and imagining all the good things they will become.
She begins with “how to boil water” and ends with “how to end.” Very MFK Fisher indeed.
Michael Pollan. Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. Penguin Press, 2013
A review of this book should seem superfluous as a mere look at Pollan’s website makes clear. But I want to go on record as saying how much I enjoyed reading it. He writes about the time he spends in the kitchen learning from experienced cooks how to barbecue (fire), make stews (water), breads (air), and cheese (earth).
The writing is so vivid and engaging that I had the strangest reaction to this book: I could smell what was cooking.
This page is somewhat disorganized in that I now put occasional print, audio, and video interviews, which used to be separated, together by year. The section at the very end is called Controversies; it is where I post letters from critics. Scroll down to find whatever you are looking for. Media interviews and reviews for specific books are on the pages for that book. For old podcasts and videos of presentations, look under Appearances and scroll down for Past Appearances; in recent years, I’ve been putting them in the chronological list here.
Interviews, media appearances, and lectures (the ones for which I have links)
Jan 15 Two short answers to questions at FAO’s Regional Office in Santiago, Chile. Video 1: on what governments can do about childhood obesity. Video 2: on food choices in an unhealthy food environment.
September 16 Speech at Columbia University conference on Global Food Systems: Their Impact on Nutrition and Health for All on panel on Advanced Technologies, Food Safety and the Role of Local and Organic Food Production (video)
September 5, 2007 Scientific American Podcast with Steve Mirsky. Because I am a Paulette Goddard professor at NYU, he sends along an article he wrote about Einstein’s experience with the gorgeous movie star.
Are you responsible for your own weight? Balko R. Pro: Absolutely. Government has no business interfering with what you eat. Brownell K, Nestle M. Con: Not if Blaming the Victim Is Just an Excuse to Let Industry off the Hook. Time June 7, 2004:113.
2022: Nestle M. SLOW COOKED: AN UNEXPECTED LIFE IN FOOD POLITICS. University of California Press. Forcoming October 4.
2020: Nestle M, Trueman K. LET’S ASK MARION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE POLITICS OF FOOD, NUTRITION, AND HEALTH, University of California Press.
2018: Nestle M. UNSAVORY TRUTH: HOW FOOD COMPANIES SKEW THE SCIENCE OF WHAT WE EAT, Basic Books. Portuguese (Brazil) edition, 2019.
2015: Nestle M. SODA POLITICS: TAKING ON BIG SODA (AND WINNING), Oxford University Press. Paperback, 2017.
2013: Nestle M. EAT, DRINK, VOTE: AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO FOOD POLITICS, Rodale Books.
2012: Nestle M, Nesheim M. WHY CALORIES COUNT: FROM SCIENCE TO POLITICS, University of California Press. Paperback, 2013.
2010: Nestle M, Nesheim MC. FEED YOUR PET RIGHT, Free Press/Simon & Schuster.
2008: Nestle M. PET FOOD POLITICS: THE CHIHUAHUA IN THE COAL MINE, University of California Press. Paperback, 2010.
2006: Nestle M. WHAT TO EAT, North Point Press/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Paperback, 2007. Hebrew (Israel) edition, 2007.
2003: Nestle M. SAFE FOOD:BACTERIA, BIOTECHNOLOGY, AND BIOTERRORISM, University of California Press. Paperback 2004; Chinese edition2004, Japanese edition2009. Revised and expanded editionretitled SAFE FOOD:THE POLITICS OF FOOD SAFETY, 2010.
2002: Nestle M.FOOD POLITICS: HOW THE FOOD INDUSTRY INFLUENCES NUTRITION AND HEALTH, University of California Press. Paperback 2003; Revised and expanded edition 2007; Chinese edition, 2004; Japanese edition, 2005; 10th Anniversary Edition with a Foreword by Michael Pollan, 2013.
1985: Nestle M. NUTRITION IN CLINICAL PRACTICE. Greenbrae CA: Jones Medical Publications. Asian edition, 1986. Greek edition, 1987.
2004: Nestle M, Dixon LB, eds. TAKING SIDES: CLASHING VIEWS ON CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES IN NUTRITION AND FOOD, McGraw Hill/Dushkin.
1988: Nestle M, managing ed. THE SURGEON GENERAL’S REPORT ON NUTRITION AND HEALTH. Department of Health and Human Services.
ARTICLES (SELECTED): For the most part, these are columns, professional articles, book chapters, letters, and book reviews for which links or pdf’s are available (or will be when I get time to find or create them). Additional publications are listed in the c.v. link in the About page.
Carlos Augusto Monteiro,Mark Lawrence, Christopher Millett, Marion Nestle, Barry M Popkin, Gyorgy Scrinis, Boyd Swinburn. The need to reshape global food processing: a call to the United Nations Food Systems Summit. BMJ Global Health 2021;6:e006885. doi:10.1136/bmjgh-2021-006885
Woolhandler S, Himmelstein DU, Ahmed S, Bailey Z, Bassett MT, Bird M, Bor J, Bor D, Carrasquillo O, Chowkwanyun M, Dickman SL, Fisher S, Gaffney A, Galea S, Gottfried RN, Grumbach K, Guyatt G, Hansen H, Landrigan PH, Lighty M, McKee M, McCormick D, McGretor A, Mirza R, Morris JE, Mukherjee JS, Nestle M, Prine L, Saadi A, Schiff D, Shapiro M, Tesema L, Venkataramani A. Public policy and health in the Trump era: A Lancet Commission Report. The Lancet, February 10, 2021.
Nestle M. Book review: Jessica Harris, Vintage Postcards from the African World: In the Dignity of Their Work and the Joy of Their Play. Food, Culture, and Society [published online July 23, 2020, Scheduled for print November 2021].
Nestle M. Invited expert comment: Nonnutritive Sweeteners and Cardiometabolic Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials and Prospective Cohort Studies. PracticeUpdate website, Jan 18.
Nestle M. Foreword to Joy Santlofer’s Food City:Four Centuries of Food Making in New York City. WW Norton, 2016:ix-x.
Delisle H, Nestle M, Besançon S. Rethinking nutritional policies in developing countries taking into account the double burden of malnutrition. Ideas for Development, October 18, 2016.
Delisle H, Nestle M, Besançon S. Il faut repenser les politiques de nutrition dans les pays en développement en prenant en compte le double fardeau nutritionnel. Huffington Post (France), October 14, 2016.
Nestle M. Food industry funding of nutrition Research: the relevance of history for current debates. JAMA Internal Medicine 2016;176(11):1685-1686.
Nestle M, Rosenberg T. The whole world is watching. Soda wars. Sugar tax. US, Mexico [Big Food Watch] World Nutrition November-December 2015, 6, 11-12, 811-832.
Barnoya J, Nestle M. The food industry and conflicts of interest in nutrition research: A Latin American perspective. Journal of Public Health Policy advance online publication, 29 October 2015:1-6; doi:10.1057/jphp.2015.37. [Retracted]
Blumenthal SJ, Hoffnagle EE, Leung CW, Lofink H, Jensen HH, Foerster SB, Cheung LWY, Nestle M, Willett WC. Strategies to improve the dietary quality of supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) beneficiaries: An assessment of stakeholder opinions. Public Health Nutrition 2013. doi:10.1017/S1368980013002942.
Nestle M. A push for policies for sustainable foods systems. Perspectives, FAO, October 9, 2010.
Leung C, Blumenthal S, Hoffnagle E, Jensen H, Foerster S, Nestle M, Cheung L, Mozaffarian D, Willett W. Associations of Food Stamp Participation with Obesity and Dietary Quality among Low-income Children. Pediatrics 2013;131:463–472.
Csete J, Nestle M. Global nutrition: complex aetiology demands social as well as nutrient-based solutions. In: Parker R, Sommer M, eds. Routledge Handbook in Global Public Health, Routledge, 2011:303-13.
Nestle M, Wansink B, Heber D, Skelton JA, Sothern MS, Cohen DA, Kibler C. Industry Watch: Will private sector companies “step up to the plate” to protect children’s health? Childhood Obesity 2010;6:247.
Mahabir S, Coit D, Liebes L, Brady MS, Lewis JJ, Roush G, Nestle M, Fay D, Berwick M. Randomized, placebo-controlled trial of dietary supplementation of a-tocopherol on mutagen sensitivity levels in melanoma patients: a pilot trial. Melanoma Research 2002;12:83-90.
Byers T, Nestle M, McTeirnan A, Doyle C, Currie-Williams A, Gansler T, Thun M, and the American Cancer Society 2001 Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee. American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention: Reducing the Risk of Cancer with Healthy Food Choices and Physical Activity. CA Cancer Journal for Clinicians 2002;52:92-119.
Nestle M. Hunger in America: A Matter of Policy. Social Research 1999;66(1): 257-282.
Nestle M. Commentary [dietary guidelines]. Food Policy 1999;24(2-3):307-310.
Nestle M. Meat or wheat for the next millennium? Plenary lecture: animal v. plant foods in human diets and health: is the historical record unequivocal? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 1999;58:211-218 (online here).
Nestle M.Broccoli sprouts as inducers of carcinogen-detoxifying enzyme systems: clinical, dietary, and policy implications [Commentary].Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 1997;94:11149-11151.
Nestle M.The role of chocolate in the American diet: nutritional perspectives.In: Szogyi A, ed.Chocolate, Food of the Gods.Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1997:111-124.
Nestle M.Epidemiologists’ Paradise.Junshi C, Campbell TC, Junyao L, Peto R.Diet, Life-style, and Mortality in China: A Study of the Characteristics of 65 Chinese Counties.NY: Oxford University Press, 1990 [book review].BioScience 1991;41:725-726.