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Articles from 2012 In April


Gluten-free Mother's Day brunch recipes

Photos by Jen Olson

A special brunch at home is a warm, intimate way to celebrate Mother’s Day. But if your mom (or family) follows a gluten-free diet, many typical brunch foods may not work. In honor of Celiac Awareness Month, we’ve got delicious savory dishes and whole-grain baked goods that taste just as good as their traditional, wheat-containing versions. They’re even easy enough for kids to help with the measuring and mixing. What could Mom love more than that (besides you, of course)?

Laurie Gauguin is a San Francisco–based personal chef specializing in whole-food, gluten-free diets.

 

Engredea Monograph: China Edition

Engredea Monograph: China Edition

Want to get in on the Chinese phenomenon? Check out the Engredea Monograph: China Edition – an overview of the Chinese nutrition market with segment analyses, trends and regulatory considerations. This comprehensive report can give you the information you need to decide which sales channels best match your products and what sales approaches resonate with Chinese consumers.

Click below to go to our partner Nutrition Business Journal's online store to complete your purchase.

$199.99 

 



 

In this report:

I. Market History
A. Culture rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine
B. Health outbreaks raise awareness for health foods
C. Imports have contributed to market growth

II. Regulations
A. Regulatory climate
B. Understanding the regulatory agencies
C. Regulatory approvals

III. Market Statistics
A. Market poised for continued growth
B. Market value and breakdown
C. Few major players
D. China to become world’s largest nutrition market

IV. Intellectual Property Protection
A. A changing tide
B. Protection through prevention
C. Seeking legal assistance

V. Product/Ingredient Trends
A. Popular health claims in China
B. Best selling health food product categories

VI. Unique Sales Channels
A. Sales channel development
B. Channel opportunities for imported products

VII. Distribution/Supply Chain Challenges and Opportunities
A. Finding a local partner
B. Establishing a local presence
C. Infrastructure still under development

VIII. Consumer Trends
A. Major trends in market
B. Supplement use in China
C. Preference for imports
D. Price sensitivity

IX. Case Studies
A. Amway
B. NBTY
C. GNC

X. Future Opportunities
A. China impossible to ignore
B. Regulatory reform
C. “Win-win” partnerships

XI. Import/Export Pipeline

XII. Cultural Considerations

XIII. Major Events and organizations

 

Click below to go to our partner Nutrition Business Journal's online store to complete your purchase.

$199.99 

Engredea Monograph

 

The Engredea Monograph (EM) is a comprehensive monthly report filled with exclusive content including insightful market data, science, business intelligence and in-depth coverage on a new ingredient (or ingredient category), central to driving R&D and innovation. Whether you're looking to make strategic business decisions or deciding the best form and format for your product launch, the EM provides you with the navigation you need to get there.

 

Delicious Living

How can I ease eczema?

How can I ease eczema?

Maintaining healthy skin is an ongoing struggle for eczema sufferers. Also called dermatitis, the chronic condition ranges from mild skin dryness to large, painful scaly patches that can be maddeningly itchy. Between 10 percent and 20 percent of children have eczema, which can continue into adulthood, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Here’s how to prevent and treat outbreaks.

Naturopathic Doctor Katherine Lik, ND, Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern, Chicago

  • Eliminate dairy.
    Although eczema is not an allergy, it’s closely tied to asthma and upper-respiratory reactions stemming from dairy consumption. Avoid butter, milk, cheese, and yogurt, as well as dairy proteins casein and whey. Replace cow’s milk with almond, rice, or organic soy milk. Swap cheese with hummus or avocado, and use olive oil or coconut oil in place of butter.
     
  • Pump up probiotics.
    Your stomach is coated with immune cells and is one of the first lines of defense against foreign substances. When irritated, these cells release an inflammatory response, which can manifest as eczema. Probiotics in the GI tract calm this response. Take a probiotic supplement containing at least 20 billion colony-forming units (CFU) and various bacteria strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium longum, twice per day. Also eat fermented, probiotic-rich foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and kombucha.
     
  • Take fish oil.
    Anti-inflammatory fish oil supports healthy skin by moisturizing it from the inside out. Take up to 3 grams fish oil containing EPA and DHA essential fatty acids per day. Because fish store pollutants in their fat, choose a high-quality product that tests every batch for mercury and PCB toxins.

Ayurvedic practitioner Kristen Ma, author, Beauty: Pure + Simple (McArthur & Company, 2010)

  • Know your dosha.
    Ayurveda is a holistic approach to health, based on the belief that each person has a specific emotional, physical, and mental energy called a dosha. Because skin is the body’s largest organ, it expresses this energy. Vata (air) doshas experience dry, flaky eczema; pitta (fire) have red, burning eczema; and kapha (earth) often have wet, oozing eczema.
     
  • Treat accordingly.
    For vata eczema, moisturizing is key. Apply lotion with sesame, avocado, and olive oils liberally. Those with pitta eczema should moisturize with anti-inflammatory olive oil and coconut formulations. For kapha eczema, disinfect the area with natural ingredients like witch hazel and peppermint water.
     
  • Prevent outbreaks.
    When there are no eczema symptoms, all dosha types should moisturize daily with calming jojoba or coconut oils. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water—at least eight to ten glasses per day—especially in dry climates.

Dermatologist Jeffrey M. Weinberg, MD, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt and Beth Israel, New York

  • Recognize the causes.
    Eczema is genetic, but the skin losing water also can cause it. Maintain your skin’s natural oils by moisturizing regularly. Allergies to foods like yeast and dairy also can, in rare cases, activate eczema. Note which foods you ate before a flare-up.
     
  • Make lifestyle changes.
    Stress worsens eczema, so decrease tension by exercising, practicing deep breathing, and lightening your workload. Long, hot showers can trigger outbreaks, so keep showers short—around five minutes—and use lukewarm water. Children who are more susceptible to eczema should bathe every other day at most.
     
  • Disinfect and soothe skin.
    Keep the affected area bacteria free. Add a cup each of apple cider vinegar and oatmeal to a lukewarm bath to sanitize and soothe skin. Soak for 15 minutes three times per week. Immediately afterward, cover skin in a thick lotion to lock in moisture; avoid wool and synthetic, chemically derived fragrances.

Delicious Living

6 supplements your child needs now

6 supplements your child needs now

Most 6-year-olds will choose a cookie over cauliflower any day. Thankfully, if you can’t get kids to eat their fruit and veggie quotas, nutrition experts agree that a high-quality children’s multivitamin can provide important missing nutrients for developing brains and bodies. But do children need other supplements? In most cases, the answer is yes. Here are natural experts’ top picks to support healthy, growing kids.

Calcium

Most multis for children provide less than 100 mg calcium, far short of the recommended daily intake (1,000 mg for ages 4 to 8; 1,300 mg for age 9 and older).

If your children eat dairy or fortified foods (soy milk, orange juice, tofu), they may be getting plenty. If not, consider giving them supplements with calcium as well as magnesium and vitamin D, which growing bones need to absorb calcium.

Dose: In addition to a daily multivitamin, take 200 mg calcium and 400–600 IU vitamin D3. (Some multivitamins contain these amounts.)

Try: Now Kid Cal chewables

Magnesium

It’s harder for most kids to get enough magnesium from foods (dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains) than it is to get calcium, so it’s equally if not more important to supplement, says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, medical director of the Nutritional Magnesium Association. Beyond bones, magnesium supports muscle and nerve function. It also can improve kids’ sleep, mood, and regularity, she says. Low magnesium levels have been linked to ADHD and hyperactivity.

Dose: Up to 100 mg magnesium in the morning and evening daily. Powdered or liquid magnesium supplements can be a good way to tailor dose to individual needs.

Try: Natural Vitality Kids Natural Calm Multi

Omega-3s

Unless your child is eating three or more servings a week of fatty fish (salmon, sardines, tuna), he likely needs fish oil. EPA and DHA, the omega-3 essential fatty acids in fish oil, are critical for development and healthy function of the eyes and brain, and they reduce the risk of aggression, depression, and ADHD in kids. Omega-3s also help prevent and treat allergies and asthma, says Dean.

Dose: Children over age 4 need about 250 mg DHA and 180 mg EPA daily; teens need about 500 mg DHA and 365 mg EPA. Choose a high-quality, citrus-flavored fish oil or cod-liver oil, in liquid, softgel, or gummy form. If your child is vegetarian, look for an algae-sourced DHA-EPA product.

Try: Coromega Kids Omega3 Squeeze; Nordic Naturals Algae Omega

Probiotics

These friendly gut bacteria improve digestion, ease constipation, and support the immune system. Children in day-care centers who take probiotics, for instance, get fewer colds and ear infections. Kids can get probiotics from eating yogurt, but the high sugar content in flavored yogurts diminishes the benefits. Use supplements to boost immunity anytime, especially during and after taking antibiotics.

Dose: 10 billion CFU or more daily, as needed.

Try: Culturelle Probiotics for Kids

Vitamin D

Although the body makes this vitamin—actually a hormone—when you’re in the sun, most kids (and adults) aren’t getting enough. Milk is often fortified, but with less effective synthetic vitamin D2, Dean says. Found naturally in fish, eggs, and cod-liver oil, D3 is critical for immunity and bone health.

Dose: 400–2,000 IU daily. The Institute of Medicine recently doubled its recommendation for children to 400 IU daily, but many kids may need more, says Robert Rountree, MD, Delicious Living’s medical editor.

Try: Carlson Super Daily D3 for Baby

Zinc

Another building block for a healthy immune system, this trace mineral also supports the senses of taste and smell. (Parent alert: Picky eaters who crave sugar may be deficient.) It’s essential for sexual development at puberty. If your children don’t eat a lot of zinc-rich red meat, they may need a bit more. (Chicken and beans are also good sources.)

Dose: 2–4 mg of a chelated form, such as zinc gluconate. Or look for a multimineral liquid that includes calcium, magnesium, and zinc.

Try: ChildLife Multi Vitamin & Mineral liquid

It’s a good idea to talk to your health care provider before starting a new supplement.

 

 

Delicious Living

How to select safe, effective sun care for the whole family

How to select safe, effective sun care for the whole family

Despite abundant research highlighting the dangers of UV rays—and ample evidence that applying sunscreen daily is important ammunition against premature aging and skin cancer—many people still don’t take proper precautions. This year alone more than 2 million Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer, reports the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). AAD statistics also show that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during his or her life.

Plus, concerns about sunscreen go beyond when or how to apply sunscreen into what kind of product to choose. Wondering about broad-spectrum coverage, chemical ingredients, nanotechnology, and more? New research, expert advice, and safe product offerings can alleviate some heat.

Choose minerals.

“Physical” sunscreens are the safest choices. They use minerals zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to deflect rays, unlike chemical sunscreens that use ingredients such as oxybenzone to absorb UV radiation and have been linked to allergies and endocrine disruption. Mineral sunscreens also fight both forms of dangerous rays, UVA and UVB, as opposed to some chemical sunscreens that protect only from UVB. “Our general recommendation is that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide particles are two of the most effective sunscreen ingredients and safest options in sunscreens,” says Environmental Working Group (EWG) senior scientist David Andrews, PhD.

Another advantage of minerals: They’re often less irritating to skin, and zinc oxide is the best ingredient for your baby’s sensitive body (choose it even over titanium dioxide). For easily irritated complexions, look for oil-free and face-specific sunscreens to avoid breakouts. And ditch potentially abrasive synthetic ingredients such as “fragrances.”

Look for antioxidant-rich add-ins.

Stellar sun care also incorporates skin-nourishing ingredients such as green tea, vitamin E, resveratrol, and coQ10, which provide free radical protection and help restore cell health after sun exposure. Mounting research also supports taking resveratrol, glucarate, and lycopene supplements to protect against UV-related cell damage.

Not all antioxidants are your allies, however. In sunscreen, avoid retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A that some research has linked to increased skin cancer risk when combined with harmful rays.

Consider the nanotechnology question (but not too much).

Nanoparticles, manipulated to become tens of thousands of times smaller than a strand of hair, are sometimes used to improve the consistency and UV-protective qualities of mineral sunscreens. But are they safe? “There’s uncertainty, which is prompting companies to de-emphasize particle size and use other strategies, whether different coatings or dispersion, to make sunscreen more aesthetic and give more protection,” says Guy Langer, founder of personal care consulting company Qumulus Group.

Research hasn’t confirmed concerns over whether skin absorbs nanoparticles, but it has shed light on risks when nanoparticles are ingested. The EWG’s stance is that nanoparticles are OK in lotion form, but you should avoid nano spray or aerosol products, particularly those that use nano titanium dioxide—linked to immune toxicity when inhaled, according to a study published last year in the Journal of Immunotoxicology.

Although current FDA regulations don’t require labeling of nanoparticles, a company using non-nano ingredients typically indicates that on labels or websites. If that information isn’t accessible, you can assume the minerals are smaller than 100 nanometers: nano territory.

Read labels carefully.

You know those “trusty” SPFs you’ve long relied on? They only indicate UVB protection, ignoring equally dangerous UVAs. However, the FDA’s new sunscreen requirements, enforced next month, will require companies making “broad-spectrum” claims to also test for UVA protection and non-broad-spectrum sunscreens to list a skin-cancer and skin-aging warning. “The FDA was supposedly legislating about UVA three years ago. It’s about time; Europe and Australia have been doing it for years,” says Amy Wechsler, MD, a New York City–based dermatologist.

The new requirements also prohibit companies from making other unsubstantiated claims like “waterproof” or “sunblock.” But the rules aren’t foolproof: Companies may still list SPFs above 50, though research doesn’t indicate that these provide additional protection, and may still use potentially dangerous ingredients like oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.  Translation: Read labels carefully, focusing on ingredients and claims, and check the EWG’s annually updated Sunscreen Guide (ewg.org/sunscreen), which offers detailed safety information and product-safety rankings.

Editor's note: This month, the FDA announced it is postponing its new sunscreen rules until mid December 2012. 

3 DIY veggie burgers

photos by Joe lavine

You won’t miss the meat with these unique, satisfying vegetarian patties.

 

 

Delicious Living

3 easy ways to prepare bell peppers

3 easy ways to prepare bell peppers

These crunchy nightshade vegetables range from green, purple, and black (slightly bitter) to yellow, orange, and red (quite sweet). Mild because they contain little capsaicin, the fiery compound in their hot-pepper cousins, all are loaded with vitamins, including abundant carotenoids and more vitamin C than oranges. Look for heavy, firm, glossy, and vividly colored peppers with no wrinkles. Refrigerate in plastic up to a week. Buy organic when possible; conventional peppers harbor high pesticide residues.

  • Stuffed.
    Cut around stem to create a hole large enough to remove seeds. (The sweet white membranes contain nutritious flavonoids, but remove if you prefer.) Fill with cooked rice or quinoa mixed with finely chopped kale, herbs, and nuts or cheese. Place in a baking dish coated with cooking spray and bake at 425 degrees until tender, 15–20 minutes.
     
  • After-school snack.
    Refrigerate sliced bell pepper rings in clear containers with carrot and cucumber sticks; pull them out for a healthy snack, served with guacamole, hummus, or a yogurt dip.
     
  • Easy add-in.
    Finely dice bell peppers and stir into risotto or any pasta sauce toward the end of cooking. Add fresh or roasted bell pepper slices to burritos and tacos for a pop of color and nutrients.

7 signs your child may have a food intolerance

7 signs your child may have a food intolerance

In recent years, pediatrician William Sears, MD, has seen a lot more cases of asthma and eczema in his San Clemente, Calif., office. Dairy and wheat are still the biggest culprits, but experts believe new factors may be contributing to the rise in food sensitivities, including synthetic additives such as partially hydrogenated oils and artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners, as well as genetically modified ingredients.

Often undiagnosed and untreated, food intolerances can damage tissue over time, warns Sears, author of The N.D.D. Book (Little, Brown, 2009), a book that addresses what he calls nutrient deficit disorder. Increasingly, kids are developing what used to be adult-onset diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, depression, cardiovascular disease, and acid reflux, he says.

If you think your child may be reacting to something in his or her diet, the first step is to look for clues. “A lot of parents already suspect the answer,” says Kelly Dorfman, LND, author of What’s Eating Your Child? (Workman, 2011). Become a “nutrition detective,” she suggests, noting when and how possible symptoms arise. Here’s a guide to assessing the evidence and finding solutions.

1. Spitting up

Possible culprit: Intolerance to casein, a dairy protein. Casein in dairy products—which is different from the casein in human milk—that gets into breast milk or is in formula can irritate an infant’s gut lining, causing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Later, the symptoms may morph into chronic ear infections or constipation, says Dorfman.

Action plan: Remove dairy from the baby’s and nursing mom’s diet for at least a week. (It takes four to five days for dairy to clear from breast milk.) For formula-fed infants, choose a brand made with predigested casein or whey. To heal baby’s damaged intestinal lining, give 10 billion CFU daily of probiotic bacteria mixed in a bottle or sprinkled on solid food.

2. Chronic diarrhea

Possible culprit: Intolerance to gluten (a protein in wheat and other grains) or lactose (dairy sugar). Diarrhea is the gastrointestinal tract’s way of getting rid of problematic substances. Therefore, the most common symptoms of both gluten and lactose intolerance are diarrhea, gas, and bloating.

Lactose intolerance is usually the root cause because the enzyme that digests lactose (lactase) is easily inactivated when the gut is irritated. When you’re gluten sensitive, digesting gluten irritates the gut, so almost everyone with gluten intolerance also cannot tolerate lactose, Dorfman says. Thankfully, fermented dairy products such as cheese and yogurt have low lactose levels, so consuming them is often safe.

Action plan: Get a blood test to rule out celiac disease; then eliminate gluten for at least a month. Although the diarrhea could resolve within a week, it may take a few weeks to get a clear picture with school-aged children. “The birthday parties, the grandma visit—there’s often something that causes accidental cheating,” Dorfman says. “You need a longer period to see a trend.”

3. Chronic ear infections

Possible culprit: Dairy intolerance and, for some, soy sensitivity. Some research has shown that 90 percent of kids with recurring ear infections or ear fluid have food reactions, a statistic Dorfman says her current patients corroborate. The usual suspect: dairy products. However, about half of people who react to dairy also react to soy, according to Dorfman.

Action plan: Quit dairy and soy for several months. Because children don’t suffer ear infections every week, it can take longer to verify a correlation. Dorfman recommends eliminating soy milk, soy yogurt, and tofu, but adds that ultrasensitive individuals may need to avoid processed foods, most of which contain soy byproducts.

4. Eczema or itchy skin rash

Possible culprit: Reaction to a combination of gluten, casein (in dairy products), eggs and what Dorfman calls “extended” citrus (oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons, strawberries and pineapple).

Action plan: Ask an allergist to conduct an IgE radioallergosorbent (RAST) blood test on your child. Because an itchy rash suggests a histamine response, blood tests can be more accurate here than they can be in detecting food sensitivities.

5. Hyperactivity

Possible culprit: Sensitivity to artificial colors, or even sugar. According to Sears, children’s underdeveloped blood-brain barrier makes them more vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of chemical food additives, such as artificial colors and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

A 2007 British study linked six food colors with possible hyperactivity in children. As a result, the European Union now requires most foods containing artificial food dyes to carry a warning label. Thus far, the FDA has not issued a similar ban or required additional product labeling. Also watch sugar intake; some kids are literally hypersensitive to the sweet stuff.

Action plan: Buy organic; by definition, organic products are certified to contain no artificial colors. If organic options aren’t available, scrutinize food labels for the nine petroleum-based synthetic dyes currently approved for food use in the United States: Blue 1 and 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3 and 40, Yellow 5 and 6. To avoid added sugars, look beyond the Nutrition Facts panel, which combines natural and added sugars for a total amount, to the ingredients list. Words like high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, glucose, fructose, cane sugar, and syrup indicate added sugars.

6. Crankiness

Possible culprit: Gluten intolerance. Gluten sensitivity is traditionally associated exclusively with digestive disturbances, but some studies have recently linked it to neurological symptoms, which can range from moodiness and chronic headaches to ADHD and coordination loss.

Action plan: Eliminate gluten for a month to assess a connection between mood and food. Other reasons may account for kids’ agitation; however, if food is the culprit, says Dorfman, children will often want to eat the problem food excessively.

7. Small stature or picky palate

Possible culprit: Gluten sensitivity or zinc deficiency. Because gluten intolerance interferes with nutrient absorption, suffering kids often fail to thrive. “Small size—height or weight—is a classic symptom of celiac disease,” Dorfman says.

Zinc could be another factor: The mineral normalizes appetite and, through its relationship with growth hormones, helps the body develop. If levels are low enough, a child’s growth will be stunted, perhaps in the fifth percentile or lower for weight and height on the standard growth charts. In this case, a child may rarely be hungry, be a picky eater, or complain that food smells or tastes “funny,” Dorfman says.

Action plan: Eliminate gluten from the diet for a month. Ask your pediatrician for a blood test to determine serum zinc levels, or buy a zinc sulfate taste test online. After sipping a bit of zinc sulfate solution, your child will report tasting nothing (which indicates deficiency) or a bad flavor (no deficiency). Zinc-rich foods include beef, chicken, beans, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and chickpeas. If there’s a deficiency, ask your health care provider about an adequate supplement dose based on your child’s age.

After her son got eczema as a 3-month-old, Nederland, Colorado-based writer Pamela Bond used an elimination diet to confirm that dairy was the culprit.

InVite Health rolls out raw food powder

InVite Health rolls out raw food powder

InVite Health, a leading nutraceutical firm headquartered in New York City, today announced the introduction of an Organic Raw Food powder product. Many scientific studies have found that raw organic foods contain high levels of antioxidants and other plant constituents linked to benefits for immunity and heart health. The product has been formulated in response to a high customer demand for organic raw foods that may easily be integrated into one’s daily life; this helps make up for the number of servings of healthy foods a person consumes and the number of servings they should have.

“A key benefit of InVite Health’s Organic Raw Food Powder is its ease of use,” says Steve Kornblatt, president of InVite Health, Inc. “The powder is organic in its truest sense-meaning it is free from sprays such as pesticides and herbicides and it is also free of pollutants. One can increase the number of servings of fruits and vegetables everyone should be consuming daily by adding a scoop or two of this delicious cocoa-chocolate flavored food to a glass of water or even milk. Our customers report that even their vegetable-phobic children like it,” Kornblatt concludes.

The powder contains an abundance of powerful antioxidant foods; blue-green algae, berries, pomegranate, vegetables and grape seed to supply a wholesome protective blend of exotic foods benefiting one’s skin, immunity, cellular health and detoxification. This food powder will additionally increase users’ energy levels.

 

Can genetic modification of food ever be beneficial?

Can genetic modification of food ever be beneficial?

Is GMO always a four-letter word? Can there be benefits to genetic modification that don’t include the downsides with which we are all familiar?

I recently had a conversation with the folks at Monsanto about their Soymega ingredient.  According to the company, it’s a soybean that's genetically modified and further altered through traditional plant breeding to change its fatty acid profile to yield steriodonic acid (SDA) at a 1:4 ratio to the other fats in the bean.

SDA is a fatty acid that falls along the metabolic pathway between ALA (the short-chain omega-3 fatty acid that’s abundant in chia and flax) and EPA and DHA, the long-chain fatty acids found in omega-3s supplements from fish, algae or krill.

It’s EPA and DHA that provide the real health benefits in the body. ALA does covert to EPA in the body, but at a very low rate, maybe 3 percent for most people and somewhat higher for vegetarians and women. SDA, on the other hand, converts at a ratio of 17 percent to 25 percent, potentially making it a viable alternative to taking omega-3s supplements. 

The thinking is that using this SDA-rich soybean oil in foods that already contain vegetable oils could boost the omega-3 index (a measure of EPA and DHA in the blood) for a broad swath of consumers, some of whom might be averse to taking supplements, potentially resulting in a significant uptick in overall public health. And it could lessen the pressure on the supply of marine sources of omega-3s, many of which are nearing their upper limits in terms of sustainability.

Not a Monsanto booster

I’m not necessarily waving a flag for Monsanto here. Nor am I an advocate of GMOs per se, which some people seem to have concluded from an earlier blog I posted. What I am advocating for is a balanced view of the role of technology in the development of new food sources.

Chip Marsland, a food scientist and product developer who is a member of the Functional Ingredients editorial advisory board, expresses it this way: We have come to expect technological improvements in all aspects of life. From a performance standpoint you wouldn’t be satisfied with a 1940s car or a rotary telephone from the early ‘60s, would you? Why should food be different? If there are technologies that can improve taste, quality and nutrition, why not embrace them?

In the realm of ingredients used in supplements and as additives to foods, technology has been steadily applied to improve functional and health properties. Scientists and formulators are constantly seeking ways to boost bioavailability, to enhance stability or to lower cost.

Consultant John Diehl, another member of our advisory board, once worked for the California biotech company Calgene. While he was with Calgene, the company developed GMO varieties of cotton in which the cotton fibers could come out “pre dyed” in a variety of colors, rather than the usual off-white.

He is of the opinion that this approach is where the future of GMO technology lies: getting plants to do some valuable chemical processing right in the growing stage, thus lessening costs and potentially the need for solvents or synthetic dyes in later processing stages. This seems to be the approach Monsanto has taken with the Soymega product, which is in its final field testing.

Flawed application for GMOs?

Granted, Monsanto and other biotech companies have taken other approaches in their GMO efforts, approaches that are antithetical to the values many in the natural products sphere hold dear. And genetic modification and the other technologies applied by the food giants arguably have not up to now made food more nutritious or better tasting. 

Genetic modification seems to have been used primarily to improve yields and to confer disease and herbicide resistance (herbicides that the purveyors of GMO seeds like Monsanto conveniently also sell). It has often been observed that this can put farmers on a chemical treadmill, one that is difficult to get off as weeds become resistant to the common herbicides. And the proliferation of chemicals from agriculture into the environment is viewed with alarm by many scientists.  Could the problems with bee populations be just a symptom of wider ecological damage?

So there are plenty of red flags being raised about GMOs and rightfully so. And consumers should have a right to know if a food contains GM ingredients if they would like to avoid them (the quick answer: buy organic).

But is genetic modification a bad thing in and of itself, or has it been the application of it that has been flawed and attended with unforeseen consequences?