“He’s making a list, checking it twice…”
That’s right: it’s almost time for the jolly old fat man to visit homes around the world to deliver presents and delight! But only for good girls and boys. The others end up with a nice lump of coal. Luckily, Santa has asked me to help him figure out who has been naughty this year (he also did this in 2015, 2016, and 2017).
I’m excited to present this year’s list!
Normally the naughty list only includes 10 entries. This year it was expanded to 12. While more entertaining, I’m not sure its overall something to boast about.
12. Kelly Clarkson
Celebrities often find themselves on the naughty list. And this year is Kelly’s turn. The former American Idol winner lost a bunch of weight. Good for her. But when asked how she did it, she claimed she ate only non-GMO and organic foods. Perhaps she misunderstood the question: they asked how you lost weight, not how you lost a lot of money. I don’t think its a good idea to eat coal, so at least Kelly won’t gain any of the weight back.
11. Friends of the Earth
This activist organization was already trending towards the naughty list, especially after it took aim at yours truly in a “report” a few years ago. But then it went and celebrated the announcement that Tanzania has banned all GMOs. Yes, because prohibiting farmers in an African country from having highly-productive, drought-resistant crops is something to celebrate. How are they that dense?
10. Ketel One vodka
Ketel One was a trendsetter in the vodka world this year when it adopted the non-GMO label. (Smirnoff quickly followed suit.) Of course, there are no GMO crops used to make vodka, but why does that matter? If misleading consumers earns you some more money, then it’s well worth it. Right? Right…?
9. Alterra Pure
Before this year, I had never heard of Alterra Pure. But I learned its a fair-trade and organic sheet company after it tried to “do science” and failed miserably. The company posted an image on its Facebook page claiming GMO cotton existed solely to “enable” pesticides. When online commentors tried to point out the mistake, the company called them all paid shills. While it wasn’t the major fail that Stonyfield experienced (see below), it was still ridiculous. I wonder if coal is considered organic and free trade?
If you’re going to piss off Santa, you might want to make sure you’re going to benefit. Stonyfield learned the hard way. When the organic food company launched an anti-GMO Facebook commercial using children to disparage biotechnology, the internet noticed. The post was flooded with negative comments. Stonyfield dug in and banned commentors and anyone who disagreed, spawning an entire Facebook group dedicated to taking such companies to task. Not only did Stonyfield hurt its brand and lose customers, its now on the naughty list.
7. Dr. Mehmet Oz
Just when you thought this ridiculous man couldn’t possibly get any worse, he does. He recently previewed a new episode for his show and revealed he would teach everyone the link between your health and horoscopes. Seriously?! But Oz lands on Santa’s Naughty list because he started the new season of his show disparaging farmers…again. I guess you don’t need Santa when you have ratings.
6. The Non-GMO Project
NGP spent 2018 growing its influence, spreading lies, and raking in the cash. I feel confident that alone qualifies it for Santa’s Naughty list. And, quite frankly, I don’t think it needs any more explanation.
Some companies aren’t content with just putting a non-GMO label on their products and calling it good. No, some companies think that nasty little label should be the basis for an entire marketing campaign. FAGE decided to take this approach. The yogurt company ran commercials boasting its anti-GMO stance and stating they did it because it just feels right. I’m not sure how rejecting science, hurting farmers, and disparaging envirnonmentally-friendly technology feels right. But it sure felt wrong to Santa.
4. Legal team in the North Carolina v. Smithfield cases
For obvious reasons, I don’t like to put lawyers on the naughty list. But the class-action lawsuits filed against Smithfield were one of the biggest stories in agriculture this year. North Carolina residents filed lawsuits against Smithfield claiming the farms where the company sources its hog…..stink. Um, duh? Juries, who also deserve coal, agreed and awarded the residents millions of dollars in damages. Legally, it was well played by the attorneys. Practically, it was a big gut check for farmers.
3. Dewayne Johnson’s legal team
Lawyers and the naughty list (see entry no. 4). The Monsanto-glyphosate case was probably the scariest thing that happened to modern agriculture this year. And the effects could be far reaching. Johnson sued Monsanto claiming, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that his terminal cancer was caused by exposure to Round-Up. A jury awarded him a multi-million dollar award. Again, the lawyers did a nice job of proving their case, especially because the evidence was dubious. But there are 5,000 other lawsuits still pending on this same issue. And it could spur a new legal trend well beyond glyphosate and Round-Up. Good news for Johnson, bad news for the rest of us.
2. Scott Pruitt
If wasting talent is a sin, then so is wasting an opportunity. Scott Pruitt was a controversial appointment as EPA chief, but he had acted as an ally of agriculture. So, of course, when he got to the EPA he worked tirelessly to build a bridge between the agency and farmers, repeal burdensome regulations, and implement a science-based policy; right? Nope, quite the opposite. Pruitt squandered his appointment by throwing ethics out the window and engaging in questionable behavior. But before he was shown the door, he also managed to hand out ethanol waivers like candy, hurting US corn producers in the process. I’m not sure Santa will even bother giving him coal this year.
1. Environmental Working Group
EWG has found itself on the naughty list before, but never as the headlining act. But this year the organization was especially bad because it found a way to efficiently capitalize on people’s fears. Less than 24 hours after the Monsanto jury verdict, EWG released a perfectly-timed “study” purporting to show that glyphosate could be found in breakfast foods. The study managed to grab the nation’s attention, including no less than Senator Chuck Schumer, which magnified the dubious results. The group later tried to wield the same public-relations sword when it dropped a press release, highlighting the hazards of our food supply, following the romaine-lettuce recall. Of course, all of this was in addition to the annual “Dirty Dozen” list. For taking advantage of bad news, EWG gets a big lump of coal.
Now it’s your turn! Who did I miss? Who would you add?