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North America


Canadian Government Gives Organic Boost


Vermont Defends GMO Labelling Law


Whole Foods to Undertake National Marketing




Canadian Government Gives Organic Boost

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Member of Parliament Scott Armstrong (Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley) have announced an investment of Can $8 million (USD 7.3m) for the Organic Federation of Canada (OFC) to lead an organic science cluster that will help the sector respond to market demand and capture new opportunities.

The cluster brings the best and brightest together, from academia, government and industry, to focus on cutting-edge research and development that will improve the organic sector's competitiveness, market potential, adaptability and sustainability. This will be accomplished through a series of activities focused on expanding organic production in response to market demand for hops, sprouts, ornamental potted plants and poultry.

Two hundred collaborating scientists will work on several priorities, including: crop breeding for improved cultivars; developing new reduced tillage systems for organic crops; enhancing soil to improve plant health; and developing new approaches to manage crop pests, diseases and livestock parasites.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz commented: "The Canadian organic sector continues to grow at an impressive rate. Investments like this in research and development span the entire value chain, from production through to the consumer, and support the competitiveness, growth and prosperity of the organic sector and our overall economy."

Ted Zettel, President of Organic Federation of Canada, states: "The Organic Federation of Canada is privileged to collaborate with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada at Dalhousie University on this national project to advance the understanding and methodology of organic farming. This project involves researchers across the country working together to provide us with the tools needed to expand production to meet the ever-growing consumer demand for organic food."

OM Comment
Many national governments see the advantages of promoting organic food production. Apart from the ecological benefits of organic agriculture, many governments want to encourage extensive farming systems and support rural communities. In Asian countries, some governments also see economic benefits: organic food exports generate hard currency!

An update on the global organic food industry is regularly given in the Sustainable Foods Summit. The North American edition of this international series of summits will be hosted in San Francisco on 21-22 January 2015. More details will be on the website

Source: News Release / OM




Vermont Defends GMO Labelling Law

Vermont has the right to require that genetically modified foods sold within the state be labeled, the state attorney general argued in papers filed Friday in federal court.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell defended Vermont's new labeling law with a 51-page court filing. He asked the court to throw out a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law filed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, International Dairy Foods Association and the Snack Foods Association.

Sorrell also asked that several state officials, including Gov. Peter Shumlin, be removed from the lawsuit and contended that the National Association of Manufacturers should be tossed from the case because it had failed to allege harm.

Legislators passed and Shumlin signed the first-in-the-nation law this year knowing that food manufacturers were likely to sue. Sorrell has estimated it could cost the state up to $8 million to defend the law, with no guarantee the state will prevail. The law establishes a defense fund for the public to help pay legal bills.

Supporters of the labeling law argued that consumers want to know whether the food they buy contains genetically modified organisms. Genetic modification commonly is used for corn and soy to increase resistance to herbicides or enhance other traits in seeds.

The lawsuit, filed in June, argues that the law is misguided, exceeds the state's authority and confuses consumers by suggesting that GMOs are unsafe with no evidence to support that. The lawsuit alleges the law violates food manufacturers' First Amendment rights by forcing them to label a product in a way they find unnecessary and misleading while also prohibiting them from using the word "natural" on genetically modified foods.

Sorrell and a team of lawyers he has appointed to work on the case argued the state may make labeling restrictions to promote "informed decision-making on matters of public health and the environment."

The state also argues that the law steers clear of violating interstate commerce, as the labeling adds no burden that outweighs the benefits.

Pointing to two court cases, Sorrell argues that federal courts have upheld New York City's law requiring the posting of calories on menus and a federal law requiring country-of-origin labels on meat on the premise that the laws allow consumers to make more informed choices. Vermont's labeling law is slated to take effect in July 2016 pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

Related Article: Eco-Labels Benefiting as GM Labelling Fight Set to Continue

Source: Burlington Free Press



Whole Foods to Undertake National Marketing

Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas, has said that it plans to launch its first-ever national marketing and brand campaign in the fall - a program focused on responsible growing standards for the produce and flowers it sells. The standards include sustainable farming practices such as pest management, farm worker welfare and pollinator protection.

Speaking with investors during a conference call to discuss financial results for the third quarter and 40 weeks that ended July 6, co-CEO Walter Robb said, "With fewer than 400 stores and a marketing spend of less than 1% of sales, it is impressive how widely recognized the Whole Foods Market brand is.

"While natural and organic products are increasingly available, no one does what we do, and our brand and marketing campaign will highlight both our value and values, reinforcing our leadership around quality and transparency in the marketplace."

Net income for the 12-week third quarter rose 4.4% to $151 million, while sales rose 10% to a record $3.4 billion and comparable store sales increased 3.9%, including a shift of Easter to this year's third quarter. Average weekly sales per store were $736,000, with sales per gross square foot exceeding $1,000, the company noted.

For the 40-week period, net income rose 4.1% to $451 million, with sales up 10% to a record $10.9 billion and comp sales up 4.6%, with average weekly sales per store of $731,000 and sales per gross square foot of approximately $1,000.

"We are seeing signs of stability in our sales trends and believe our strategic initiatives will help generate further momentum and produce increasing returns on invested capital over the long term," Robb said. He said the company is on schedule to open 38 new stores this year and a similar number next year, with a goal of 500 stores by 2017.

Robb also said Whole Foods plans to increase its digital outreach in the next few months with strategic partnerships for home delivery and customer pickups in between 12 and 15 markets; a test in the next few weeks of a new affinity program in a regional market, with a national rollout by next year's holiday season; and the introduction of a mobile app.

Source: News Bites













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