Judge Rules General Mills Can Label Nature Valley Granola Bars “Natural”

A California federal judge has ruled that General Mills may continue to label its Nature Valley granola bars as “natural,” despite tests which showed they contained traces of the chemical glyphosate, the main ingredient in the herbicide RoundUp and a multitude of other weedkillers. [1]

Judge Michael Davis dismissed a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit consumer groups Organic Consumers Association, Moms Across America, and Beyond Pesticides, which alleged General Mills was misleading buyers by claiming the granola bars were “Made with 100% natural whole grain oats.”

The groups said third-party laboratory testing detected 0.45 parts per million (ppm) of glyphosate in the granola bars, and believed oats were the culprit.

The case was thrown out by Davis last week, who noted in the dismissal order that the amount of glyphosate was permissible under law, even for certified organic foods.

The EPA’s tolerance level for cereal grains is 30 ppm, and food labeled “organic” can contain chemical pesticide residue of less than 5% of that amount.

Davis also said that even if the oats contain trace amounts of glyphosate, the groups had not alleged that the oats, themselves, were not natural.

He wrote:

“The packaging does not state that the product. as a whole, is ‘100% natural’.”

He added:

“It is implausible that a reasonable consumer would believe that a product labeled as having one ingredient — oats — that is ‘100% Natural’ could not contain a trace amount of glyphosate that is far below the amount permitted for organic products.

There is no dispute that the products were made with whole grain oats that, themselves, are ‘100% Natural’. Even if the glyphosate traces are present on the oats, there is no allegation that the oats, themselves, are not natural. The packaging does not state that the product, as a whole, is ‘100% Natural.’

It is not plausible that a representation that one ingredient in a product — in this case, oats — is ‘100% Natural’ means that the product as a whole does not contain traces of synthetic ingredients. Plaintiffs cannot claim a breach or misrepresentation based on a warranty that defendant never gave.” [2]

What is “Natural” Anyway?

In the fall of 2015, the FDA opened a public comment period for people to share their thoughts on what the word “natural” means, as it pertains to food products, because there is no set definition. Food companies commonly toss terms around like “natural,” “all-natural,” and “made with natural ingredients” but make no effort to specify what they mean.

General Mills has had legal problems pertaining to its Nature Valley bars in the past, including in 2014, when, as part of a settlement, it was required to remove the label “100% Natural” from more than 20 of its products because the bars contained high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and other synthetically-produced ingredients.

Other companies have faced similar legal action over claims that their products are natural, including Kellogg’s Kashi brand, and PepsiCo’s Naked Juices.


[1] BakeryAndSnacks

[2] Food Business News

Storable Food

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Found to Contain Traces of Glyphosate

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) announced July 25, 2017 that it had discovered traces of the RoundUp chemical glyphosate in 10 of 11 samples of Ben & Jerry’s ice creams. The levels were reportedly far below the limit set by the EPA. [1]

The discovery is a bit of an embarrassment to the ice-cream maker because it has billed itself as a non-GMO company since 2014. Thankfully, the levels found were quite low. [2]

In reality, that’s only sort of true. On its website, Ben & Jerry’s says it based its non-GMO standard on the “mandatory declaration requirements of European regulations and the GMO labeling law passed in [their] home state of Vermont.” Based on this standard, the company’s milk and egg suppliers may still use conventional (GMO) animal feeds. [1]

Rob Michalak, global director of social mission at Ben & Jerry’s says the environmentally-conscience company is working to ensure that all the ingredients in its supply chain come from non-GMO sources. None of its plant-based ingredients come from corn, soy, or other known genetically-modified crops. The company is also reportedly teasing out a cost-effective way for the dairy farms that supply its milk to use non-GMO feed.

Michalak said:

“We’re working to transition away from GMO, as far away as we can get. But then these tests come along, and we need to better understand where the glyphosate they’re finding is coming from. Maybe it’s from something that’s not even in our supply chain, and so we’re missing it.”

It’s possible that add-ins to the ice cream, such as peanut butter or cookie dough, are sprayed with glyphosate and may be the culprits. [3]

Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie showed the highest levels of glyphosate, with 1.74 parts per billion, and glyphosate’s byproduct aminomethylphosphonic acid registering 0.91 parts per billion.

To put things into perspective, a 75-pound child would need to eat 145,000 8-ounce servings each day of the ice cream to hit the limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency. An adult would have to eat 290,000 servings, said John Fagan, the chief executive of the Health Research Institute Laboratories, which did the testing for the Organic Consumers Association.

But despite the extremely low levels of glyphosate, the OCA thinks that any presence of glyphosate is misleading to buyers. [2]

The group said in a post on its website:

“It’s time for Ben & Jerry’s to announce it will immediately begin transitioning to 100 percent organic. Otherwise conscious consumers have no choice but to launch a national and, if necessary, international protest campaign and boycott.”

Furthermore, according to OCA, reports published by Regeneration Vermont reveal that Ben & Jerry’s suppliers—and Vermont and U.S. (non-organic) dairy farmers in general – “have gone backwards, rather than forward over the past 15 years in terms of environment sustainability, food safety, and nutrition and greenhouse gas pollution.”

OCA also says Ben & Jerry’s needs to stop labeling its ice cream as “natural.”

Promising years ago to go GMO-free by 2014, Ben & Jerry’s has made strides over the years to make its ice cream more natural, including dropping milk made with Monsanto’s RBST growth hormones. Perhaps the company doesn’t deserve this much heat at this point in time.


[1] The New York Times

[2] Fox Business

[3] Business Insider

Storable Food

Complaints About Crop Damage Spur Temporary Ban on Dicamba in 2 States

On July 7, 2017, officials in Arkansas and Missouri enacted a temporary ban on dicamba, the herbicide blamed for vaporizing and damaging crops which have not been genetically engineered to withstand the weedkiller. The Arkansas Plant Board had voted June 23, 2017 to temporarily ban the spraying of dicamba on any crops except pasture land for 120 days. [1]

The newest ban, set to start July 11, 2017, extends the 120-day moratorium.

The bans come as complaints about suspected dicamba drift continue to snowball. More than 130 cases of dicamba drift have already been reported in Missouri this year, eclipsing last year’s totals, which resulted in heavy crop losses for farmers in the Bootheel region of the southeastern part of the state.

Source: Ohio State University

Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn announced in a July 7 news release that, effective immediately, sales and on-farm use of dicamba products would be suspended. The Missouri Department of Agriculture said the move is being made “with an abundance of caution and is temporary until a more permanent solution is reached.”

Chinn said in the release:

“We want to protect farmers and their livelihoods. At the same time, my commitment to technology and innovation in agriculture is unwavering. That’s why I am asking the makers of these approved post-emergent products, researchers and farmers to work with us to determine how we can allow applications to resume this growing season, under certain agreed upon conditions.”

Read: Monsanto’s Creation of Herbicide-Resistant Superweeds Grows in Several States

In Missouri, dicamba drift damaged nearly 45,000 acres of crops, including soybeans, commercial tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, grapes, pumpkins, and residential trees and gardens. According to the Missouri Soybean Association, that’s too conservative, by far. The group estimates that 200,000 acres of soybean crops have been damaged by dicamba. [1] [2]

In 2016, Missouri’s largest peach grower, Bader Farms, sued Monsanto, one of the manufacturers of dicamba, alleging the herbicide caused extensive damage to the farm’s peach trees over the previous 2 years.

Monsanto released a statement saying the biochemical company is complying with the Missouri order, and encourage “all growers, retailers, and distributors to do the same.” [2]

It goes on to say:

“We spent years developing the XtendMax with VaporGrip Technology to minimize the potential for off-site movement. We want to stress how important it is that growers and applicators who use our product follow the label requirements and any local requirements. Monsanto is committed to remaining actively engaged in this conversation and doing our part to help farmers use the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System successfully.”

No dicamba products have been approved for use in Arkansas, but some farmers applied the herbicide illegally.

About the Arkansas ban, Monsanto said:

“We sympathize with any farmers experiencing crop injury, but the decision to ban dicamba in Arkansas was premature since the causes of any crop injury have not been fully investigated. While we do not sell dicamba products in Arkansas, we are concerned this abrupt decision in the middle of a growing season will negatively impact many farmers in Arkansas.”


[1] St. Louis Post-Dispatch

[2] GMWatch

Ohio State University

Storable Food

Arkansas Temporarily Bans the Sale and Use of Dicamba Herbicide

After hundreds of Arkansas farmers claimed their crops had been harmed by the weed-killer dicamba, which was sprayed on neighboring fields, the Arkansas Plant Board voted June 23, 2017, to impose an unprecedented ban on the herbicide.

David Hundley, who manages grain production for Ozark Mountain Poultry in the town of Bay, said:

“It’s fracturing the agricultural community. You either have to choose to be on the side of using the product, or on the side of being damaged by the product.”

Monsanto created dicamba-resistant soy beans and cotton plants several years ago, but the chemical itself wasn’t a practical option for farmers prior to that.

Dicamba killed the weeds threatening the crops, all while leaving the soybeans unharmed, and farmers thought they’d finally found the answer to a devastating weed called pigweed (Palmer amaranth). Out of desperation to beat back the weeds, some farmers started spraying dicamba illegally, before it was approved for use.

But dicamba drifts easily in the wind, and it can land on and damage other crops. Non-GMO soybeans are especially susceptible to it. The herbicide can also damage fruit and vegetable farms, and ornamental trees. Dicamba was great news for farmers of GMO crops, but a nightmare for farmers that plant non-GMO seeds. [1] [2]

Read: Study: Dicamba Herbicide Chemicals DO Harm Non-Targeted Plants and Insects

Bob Scott, a specialist on weeds with the University of Arkansas’ agricultural extension service, said:

“Nobody was quite prepared, despite extensive training, for just how sensitive beans were to dicamba.” [1]

Earlier in 2017, a group of farmers filed a class-action lawsuit against the makers of dicamba – Monsanto and German chemical company BASF – over damage to their crops. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for damage to crops, fruits and trees that weren’t dicamba-resistant.

BASF is the only company that makes dicamba approved for use in the United States. [2]

Farmers in Arkansas began registering their displeasure as soon as Spring rolled in. By June 23, some 242 complaints had been sent to state regulators regarding dicamba-damaged crops. [1]

The problem is clearly worsening; in 2016, the state received just over 2 dozen complaints about dicamba-related crop damage. [2]

Plant board member Terry Fuller after the vote:

“We don’t have an emergency. We have a disaster. It’s damage everywhere you look.”

Also in 2016, Missouri’s largest peach grower sued Monsanto alleging that the company was responsible for illegal herbicide use that the group claimed had caused widespread crop damage in the southeast part of Missouri and neighboring states. Other states eventually joined the suit, including Illinois.

Said Scott:

“This has far eclipsed any previous number of complaints that we’ve gotten, and unfortunately, this number seems to just keep growing. Every day we get an update with 8 or 10 more complaints.” [1]

Hundley said that “any soybean that’s not [resistant to dicamba] is exhibiting damage. I can name 15 farmers within 3 or 4 miles who have damage, and I can only name 3-4 farmers who have used the technology.”

So the Arkansas Plant Board gathered on June 20, 2017, to mull over an emergency ban on further spraying of dicamba, and farmers crowded the meeting to make an impassioned plea for their side.

A bit of procedural confusion at the initial meeting prevented the board from holding a vote that day. The meeting reconvened on June 23, however, and voted, 9-5, to ban any spraying of dicamba on any crops except for pasture land for 120 days.


[1] NPR

[2] U.S. News & World Report

Storable Food