Beyond the Park Slope Hummus Debate
Junk food advertising & Monsanto disputed as well
Nowhere was food more hotly debated this week than in Park Slope, Brooklyn. But the campaign to ban Israeli foods from the co-op's shelves wasn’t the only war waged in the past seven days. Contention over advertising junk food to kids flared up this week and the farmers who unsuccessfully tried to sue Monsanto are appealing the judge’s decision.
Park Slope Coop v. Israeli-Made Food Products
Tensions were high at the Park Slope Food Co-op on Tuesday when members gathered to vote on a referendum to ban Israeli-made food products from the store. The issue divided the membership and garnered national attention (including a spoof on The Daily Show). Members for the ban were acting as part of the international movement B.D.S (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) that is pressuring the Israeli government to withdraw from Palestine. Other members felt that the co-op was not the appropriate venue to address political tensions despite its history of doing so. Most notably, the co-op banned products from South Africa during apartheid. After 40 members spoke at the meeting on Tuesday (which had to be moved to a larger venue to accommodate the crowd) a vote was passed with 1,005 votes against the referendum and 653 in favor. So for now the Israeli couscous, hummus and paprika will stay on the shelves.
Health Advocates vs. Kids’ Junk Food Advertising
Advertising to children is a highly debated topic that reaches a crescendo when the product being promoted is junk food — especially McDonald’s junk food. McDonald’s newest ad campaign, aimed at children ages — 8 to 11 — features a goat named Leo who is furiously eating everything in sight (food and otherwise) until his owners teach him about the importance of eating dairy and fruit and take him to McDonald’s to get some. The campaign is part of McDonald’s adherence to the industry’s self-regulation to market only nutritious food to children. AdWeek quoted chief marketing officer of McDonald’s USA, Neil Golden, saying, “For the first time, 100 percent of our national marketing efforts to kids [under 12] will include nutrition or active lifestyle messages.”
But health advocates are not sold and are calling for McDonald’s to stop targeting kids altogether. In his most recent column on advertising and the First Amendment, Mark Bittman wrote, “It’s easy to get lost in the Constitution and forget that we’re talking about children being bombarded by propaganda so clever and sophisticated that it amounts to brainwashing, for products that can and do make them sick.” And the debate goes on.
*Watch the McDonald's goat ad below (unless you're susceptible to brainwashing)
OSGATA vs. Monsanto
In January, the Organic Seed Growers Trade Association brought a case against biochemical giant Monsanto to protect farmers from crop contamination and lawsuits for patent infringement. The case was brought before Judge Naomi Buchwald in Federal District Court in Manhattan and it gave hope to small farmers nationwide. But in February, Judge Buchwald announced that she was dismissing the case, accusing OSGATA of stirring up a “controversy where none exists.” The case may have been dismissed, but OSGATA is not done fighting. The group announced on Tuesday that it was filing an appeal to reinstate the case. President of OSGATA’s board, Jim Gerritsen, writes in the organization’s press release, “We are honor-bound to challenge an erroneous ruling which denies family farmers the protection the law says we deserve. We're not asking for one penny from Monsanto. Ultimately, our fight is for justice and is waged to defend the right of the people to have access to good and safe food."