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5 of this year's must-watch TED talks for the natural products industry

5 of this year's must-watch TED talks for the natural products industry
From Big Food to farm-to-school to gut bacteria, these five TED clips fascinated us—and taught us something—this year.

Twelve to 15 minutes isn't much time—but in this case, it's just enough time to inspire us, make us laugh and get us fired up to tackle some of the biggest challenges and opportunities in the health, wellness and natural industries.

There wasn't one particularly iconic TED talk that rallied the natural industry and the public this year (like Jamie Oliver's or Mark Bittman's from years past), but these five are certainly worthy of a watch. (Note: They're all from TEDx events organized independently of the TED conference.)

1. Fight the food occupation

The “fibberati”—a term Alan Lewis has given to well-trained marketing experts in Big Food—has really gotten to us. “I do not think we are combatants in a food war; I believe we are the resistance in a food occupation,” he says in this riveting talk at TEDx Boulder. The director of special projects for Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage explains how food conglomerates are slowly and quietly chipping away at the American consumers’ ability to choose healthy, local, sustainable food.

2. Start 'em young

Andrew Nowak, project director at Slow Food Denver, and a team at Denver Public Schools have built an amazing farm-to-school program that empowers children to grow their own food, which they later sell to kitchen managers at the district’s schools. They also set up youth farmers markets and sell their produce to the community. “All these experiences are contributing to the knowledge and skills that kids need to be comfortable with food, so we’re seeing an increase in food literacy,” he explains in this talk from TEDx Colorado Springs.

3. Food policy -- fails & the future

Congress didn’t get everything right with its most recent Farm Bill, but it’s already moving forward and looking ahead to the next one, says Chellie Pingree, a democratic representative from Maine with a good sense of humor. Watch around the 8:15 mark to see her compelling visualization of the administration’s “My Plate” graphic compared to the drastically different visualization of how agriculture subsidies are divvied up.

4. What's that in my kid's food?

Is this a food system or a chemical system? That’s the question posed by former food industry analyst Robyn O’Brien, who tells the story of her own child’s food allergy that led her to rethink everything she knew about the food system.

5. A glimpse into the gut

Microbial genomics scientist Claire Fraser makes the case that the most important ecosystem that humans need to think about is the vast community of microbes that live in and on us. And, she says, growing consumption of processed foods, reduced contact with natural environments and overuse of antibacterial products and antibiotics has made our microbiota less diverse and, as a result, less stable. Here she gives a glimpse into some of the fascinating research being done on bacteria and how it affects our health.

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