Non-GMO and Organic Spotlights
We interviewed two powerhouse women who are on the front lines—Sandra Kepler with non-GMO and Maria Rodale with organic.
Meet Sandra Kepler
Chief executive officer, FoodChainID
Sandra Kepler is one of the foremost globally recognized experts in the non-GMO world. Among other notable accomplishments, Sandra began the North American natural and organic foods non-GMO initiative that became the Non-GMO Project. In 2006, she established FoodChain Global Advisors (now FoodChain ID) as a food purity consulting company, and served as its CEO until recently. Sandra now has her own consulting company to work directly with global companies to increase non-GMO production capacity, convert existing products to non-GMO, implement reformulation strategies with non-GMO in mind, and inspire food purity beyond non-GMO.
Meet Maria Rodale
Chairman and chief executive officer, Rodale Inc.
An activist and businesswoman who’s made promoting the benefits of an organic lifestyle her personal mission and business, Maria Rodale is the CEO and Chairman of Rodale Inc., the global voice for health and wellness. Reaching more than 100 million people worldwide, Rodale publishes some of the best-known health and wellness magazines, including Men’s Health, Prevention, Runner’s World, Women’s Health and Organic Gardening (relaunching as Rodale’s Organic Life). Maria is well known for her 2010 title Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe.
Extraordinary Health™ (EH) Magazine: Sandra and Maria, what drove you—and continues to drive you—to pour your lives into non-GMO/organic awareness and ultimate change?
Sandra Kepler: I’m an organic, non-GMO consumer, and I believe pure food is our best medicine and that sustainable, non-GMO, organic food production can help establish peace, prosperity and health for our world. In 1999, I met Dr. John Fagan, the world’s foremost scientific expert in non-GMO, and also met my mission by joining Dr. Fagan’s company, spending the past 15 years facilitating our food industry’s navigation through GMOs. I knew there needed to be a unified definition of best practices through a standard, third-party verification program, which became the Non-GMO Project. However, more needs to be done, so I’ve surrendered my life to this mission and its continuation.
Maria Rodale: Even though I was born into the organic movement, putting my passion and life work into making the world more organic was a choice that I gladly made—and make over and over again every day. I grew up on the first organic farm in America, so I personally know the benefits and joy of living an organic life. But more importantly, I’ve seen the research linking organic living to both human and environmental health (and the power of organic agriculture to halt climate change), so I can’t help but feel that I was born into the first family of organic for a reason.
EH Magazine: What are the biggest successes—and the greatest challenges—for non-GMO/organic?
Sandra Kepler: Internationally, EU GMO labelling regulations fueled similar regulations in other countries, including North American companies working in export markets. Domestically, the Non-GMO Project has substantially raised awareness of GMO contamination and establishing non-GMO choices for consumers through its product verification program. The first tipping point was reaching the 10,000 mark for product enrollment, and the second one occurred when Whole Foods Market® said it will require GMO labelling (by 2018), and that it recognizes only the Non-GMO Project’s seal and the USDA organic seal as valid substantiation of non-GMO claims on products. That announcement tremendously increased non-GMO product enrollment. The most challenging areas involve supplements, animal derivatives, flavors and personal care items. They’re particularly complex because of the long and often multinational supply chains involved in production.
Maria Rodale: The biggest success is that, even during the worst recession of our lifetime, the organic industry has continued to grow at an enormous pace. People everywhere are demanding organic. Whether it’s choosing where to shop or where to eat and what to eat, we have more organic choices than ever before and that is truly amazing and wonderful. The biggest challenge is that there are still not enough farmers farming organically to meet the growing demand in America for organic food. More than anything, we need to focus our efforts on helping farmers transition to organic. That will help the farmers financially, help the soil store more carbon and improve the health of everyone everywhere—even if they themselves don’t eat organic.
EH Magazine: What’s the essence of your message?
Sandra Kepler: Support our non-GMO movement regardless of orientation as a consumer or an industry member. One thing we all have in common is the right to choose, and that choice can also result in the respect for nature’s rights.
Maria Rodale: Stop worrying about all the confusing little details and focus on supporting Certified USDA Organic foods. It’s the only way to ensure you are not eating GMOs, and it lends strength to the whole food system. It’s voting with your dollars for a better world!
EH Magazine: What one action can people take to make the most difference?
Sandra Kepler: Purchase Non-GMO Project Verified products. This creates an increasing demand in the marketplace, which increases supply and creates more non-GMO choices.
Maria Rodale: If there is just one thing to make people healthier, the planet healthier and the economy healthier, it is to buy, eat and grow organic food.
EH Magazine: Where do you point consumers to learn more about— and receive updates on—non-GMO/organic?
Maria Rodale: Rodale News (www.rodalenews.com); Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen (www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com); Rodale Institute (www.rodaleinstitute.org); www.facebook.com/rodalenews; @RodaleNews and @FarmKitchenblog (Twitter)
EH Magazine: Closing comments?
Sandra Kepler: A single thought by a single individual can change the world when that thought is in accordance with the laws of nature. That’s how the Non-GMO Project began. Every non-GMO thought empowers success. Collectively, we can ring in a non-GMO world.
Maria Rodale: We, the people, have accomplished so much. In the 70 years or so since the organic movement began (on the farm where I grew up), organic has gone from a fringe eccentric group, to an alternative hippie movement, to the fastest growing area of the economy. Even Wall Street is starting to notice. If we keep this momentum going, we are bound to succeed. We’ve got this!
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