Del Monte Falls For the Food Babe

While I tend to be pretty hard on companies and organizations that use fear-marketing to get a product off the shelf, I probably don’t give enough credit to those that market positively.

McDonalds’ plan to source Verified Sustainable Beef is one I’ve got some hope for. Their Vice-President of Sustainability says in a video “We are going to collaborate. Not mandate”. They say they plan on bringing all kinds of people from across the industry to do what is best for the environment & animal – not necessarily what the perception of the best might be. Two thumbs up if it ends up being that way.

I’m an even bigger fan of a company that admits they’re wrong in marketing and changes a decision. Subway did that late last year when they said animals could be treated with antibiotics when sick, after announcing only a few days earlier that they didn’t want any meat from any animal that was ever treated with an antibiotic. Farmers got a lot of credit for that turnaround — they came out in full force to ask what was humane and what wasn’t.

del monte logoI’m hopeful Del Monte adds their name to the list of companies I can celebrate for turning things around.

This week, they announced they would no longer source any products containing ingredients that were genetically engineered. Of course, their line of produce like peaches and tomatoes (not genetically modified in the first place) make a lot of this a feel good announcement instead of one with any meaning. But, after an innocent enough decision, the company showed its true colours when responding to a tweet by the infamous Food Babe.

The statement has infuriated farmers and scientists alike, as a food brand cozies up to the infamous Vani Hari. (continues below)

Andrew Campbell and RealAg’s Kelvin Heppner discuss Del Monte’s tweets and how people have responded.

Del Monte clearly didn’t do their homework on some of the scathing stories from the New York Times, Gawker or even books like The Fear Babe. It’s either that, or they feared the Food Babe Army — a group that includes some formidable follower counts on social media — and saw a possible market, not realizing there is a growing number of people that are getting so fed up with the anti-science rhetoric, they too are having an impact on brands.

The replies to Del Monte’s tweet thanking the Food Babe heavily favour a boycott. They include:

Those and dozens more drown out the Food Babe’s response that “the shady profiles saying rude things are pro-GMO…”

Personally knowing dozens of the people who responded, “shady” wouldn’t be a descriptor I’d use. They’re real people, using real names and real pictures to talk about their farms, families and way of life. Yes, they are pro-GMO — as I am. I’m also pro-vaccine. That doesn’t seem to put into question my parenting abilities, but somehow it does if I say I’m pro-GMO. The Food Babe and now Del Monte like to sell fear. It’s an emotion that can sell well for the short term.

But I think Del Monte has underestimated the number of people who have separated the confusion, and see that technology in all areas of our life, including agriculture and food production, can lead to a more sustainable industry.

Be the next company on my list that I need to thank, Del Monte.

Claim your one night stand with the Food Babe was a mistake, and that farmers and food companies can work together to feed a hungry public, instead of alienating them from real food progress.