The times are changing for organic companies that want to use fear to market their products!
Stonyfield learned it the hard way this week. The organic food company posted this video on its Facebook page:
The video asks the questions “What are GMOS?” and then has children providing answers. The kids say things like GMOs “sound monstrous” and that GMOs are when scientists take fish genes and insert them into vegetables. Of course, none of it is true. Well, Stonyfield caught heck for the video, receiving hundreds of comments denouncing the company for spreading misunderstanding, using fear as a marketing tactic, and manipulating children.
Apparently, Stonyfield can throw bombs all day at family farmers, but weren’t ready to actually be called out on it. The company responded with this follow-up post on their Facebook page:
You’ve probably seen that we stirred up quite a bit of conversation in the last few days around the topic of GMOs, with some suggesting that our community’s valid concerns about GMOs are “anti-science” and ill-informed.
Admittedly, it’s hard to “weed” out who is just a troll and who is genuine on social media, but we do acknowledge that some of the comments are from concerned people with reasonable and well-intended questions. We’re glad that these individuals are also vested in our food system and adding to the important conversation about how our foods are processed. If no one cared, that would really be upsetting to us.
And so, to these folks we would like to respond and be very clear about our position on GMOs:1. We do not believe that eating GMOs has been proven harmful to your health.
2. The majority of GMO crops used by farmers today require the use of toxic herbicides. The use of glyphosate, which has been categorized as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization, has increased nearly 15-fold since so-called “Roundup Ready,” genetically engineered glyphosate-tolerant crops were introduced in 1996. (source: https://www.ewg.org/…/study-monsanto-s-glyphosate-most-heav…).
3. We believe consumers have the right to choose whether or not to support the above practices, and that the only way this can happen is if food companies that use GMO ingredients or that feed their cows GMO feed declare this on their packaging.
4. Since USDA Organic regulations forbid the use of GMOs, we will continue to rigorously avoid their use and we are proud to offer consumers this choice in the dairy aisle.
We have arrived at this position through due diligence, and we appreciate the importance of a constructive fact-based scientific debate. For those truly committed to advancing the health of our families and our planet, we welcome the conversation and appreciate your taking the time to reach out.
-The Folks at Stonyfield Farm
It’s a pretty sorry response to the outrage, but does reveal the true intentions of the company. Even though Stonyfield doesn’t believe eating GMOs is harmful, they are more than willing to keep manipulating children to scare people. They are willing to lie to their customers to move their product. They know full well being non-GMO does not make their product better in any way, yet they are more than happy to act like it does if it sells. Does anyone actually feel comfortable buying from a company like that?
The response also includes some pretty substantial and glaring lies. Allow me to clarify those:
Stonyfield Myth: “It’s hard to ‘weed’ out who is just a troll and who is genuine on social media.”
Just because someone supports biotechnology does not mean they are a troll. Nor is it fine for Stonyfield to throw out that accusation, especially at its own customers. I’ve dealt with that accusation ever since I started writing about agriculture. No, we aren’t trolls, we aren’t shills, and we aren’t mouthpieces. What is clear is that Stonyfield is willing to trash anyone that questions its crummy marketing tactics.
Stonyfield Myth: “The majority of GMO crops used by farmers today require the use of toxic herbicides.”
It is hard to quantify how Stonyfield defines “majority” here, but that is irrelevant because it’s just not true. Some genetic modifications give crops the ability to withstand the use of herbicides. But even those crops, namely Round-Up Ready crops, do not “require” farmers to use herbicides. It is simply an option that allows us to control weeds. This statement has no other purpose than to link “GMO” with the scary sounding “toxic herbicide.”
Stonyfield Myth: “The use of glyphosate, which has been categorized as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization, has increased nearly 15-fold since so-called ‘Roundup Ready,’ genetically engineered glyphosate-tolerant crops were introduced in 1996.”
This statement is also just a complete untruth. Glyphosate was categorized as a “probable carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is an agency of the World Health Organization (not WHO itself). However, that classification has been solidly disputed by many government agencies and private organizations, including the World Health Organization, and many have pointed out significant biases in the people who conducted that review. By the way, yes, the use of glyphosate has increased since the introduction of Round-Up Ready crops, but the overall use of herbicides has decreased.
Stonyfield clearly wasn’t really to get schooled on their advertising, but these type of marketing techniques are being called out now. For example, when Hunt’s tried to brag about its non-GMO tomatoes, Facebook users took it to them as well. The message is clear: fear-based marketing it not going to work anymore. For far too long, organic marketing has used conventional farmers as their punching bag. No more. What I found particularly compelling was a comment from one of Stonyfield’s customers that indicated she was no longer purchasing their products, despite the fact that her kids really enjoyed them, because of this tactic. Other companies should take note.
That being said, I want to say a big THANK YOU to all the people that commented on Stonyfield’s original video post (you know, the folks Stonyfield calls “trolls”). Five years ago, something like that never would have happened. As family farmers, it is nice to have so many people on our side that are willing to stand up to this nonsense. Please know that it IS appreciated.
Times are changing and, this time, for the better.