Check out the second part of this exclusive interview with lecturer, best-selling author of, ‘The Unhealthy Truth’ and featured speaker at the upcoming Women’s Wellness Conference™, Robyn O’Brien and discover:
- How the FDA relies on the food industry to approve and monitor the safety of their own food products!
- Why these companies remove dyes, colorings, and other dangerous food additives overseas but not here in the U.S.
- Where all the pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides that are sprayed on our food eventually go, (you are going to want to find out!)
Transcript of Generation RX: Ensuring the Health of Our Children: Part 2
Rebecca Gauthier (RG): So, how have you educated your own family?
Robyn O’Brien (RO): You know, when we first found out our littlest had food allergies, the older three couldn’t read, so I thought, “This is going to be really tough.”
I designed a little symbol at the time, it was sort of like a little warning. We had the Mr. Yuk stickers when we were little that told us what we could or couldn’t eat, and so we just designed this bright green little sticker.
I launched this website, allergykids.com, to really educate and really pull in the community because that felt really fractured too. To realize that there were so many people that were dealing with this and yet they were being dismissed, or their voices weren’t being heard. I wanted to pull people in together.
So, we started teaching the kids, and I’m not kidding, we were horrible. The food was horrible that I had at my house. It was Tubes Yogurt and L’Eggo my Eggo® waffles and Dino Buddies® nuggets, and vats and vats of Mac N’ Cheese, and I just trusted that if was on the grocery market shelves it had been deemed safe.
What I hadn’t realized was the FDAs budget is so small that they don’t have the budget to conduct independent safety studies, so they simply ask these companies to basically approve their own products. So that’s a bit of a conflict of interest right there.
Then you realize that other countries are doing it totally differently, and that our own American food companies are formulating totally differently from those standards overseas without artificial dyes, without artificial growth hormones, without GMOs.
Our own companies like Kraft® and Coke® and Walmart® were doing this overseas, and I thought, “Why aren’t they doing it here?”
With that, it was finding the courage and the strength to begin to advocate on this ten years ago when I can promise you people looked at you like you had three heads. Nobody was talking about it yet.
I kept coming back to the business model because I thought, “You know, that’s a language that doesn’t have any emotion in it. It’s just the numbers and people can understand profit motive.”
That’s 100% what happened here. We just swapped out all these real ingredients, swapped in all these fake things because it helped drive margins, and that makes a ton of sense. But those costs have been externalized onto the health of our families, on to the health of our communities, like you guys are seeing with the spraying of that park, onto the health of our schools.
Corporations have just whopper health care costs that they are having to pay and I look at all of this now and I think, we talk about military, we talk about health care, we talk about these kind of key systems, it is absolutely time that we talk about our food system.
RO: Yeah, you bring up such a good point, and again it’s where I think, “If this comes from a place of love, it’s like a gift you get to give and who doesn’t want to get a gift?”
But if it’s pushed and it feels preachy, you just are going to get a totally different response.
RG: You’re not going to get anywhere.
RG: People are going to think you are extreme or militant.
RO: This word “organic” is just loaded. It can conjure up guilt or shame or, “I haven’t chosen this” or “I can’t afford to,” and somebody’s mind just runs in a million different directions. So, to sit back and understand, and I had to do this, because it drove me crazy to think, “Why do I have to pay so much more for this organic food?” It totally drove me nuts as a mom of four, and my husband is in finance too.
So I stepped back from that and I realized that here in the U.S. with our big national food budge that we all pay into as a big national family with our taxpayer dollars, those financial resources that we pay in are being used to support this chemically intensive operating system, these genetically engineered crops, and all this RoundUp®, and all this stuff that is sprayed on these fields.
The farmers basically have a choice. You can get all this financial support over here or none of it over here on organic. So it’s so lopsided, even has a farmer, and they’ve got to support their families, so they lean towards this chemically-intensive way because they get all this financial support in the term of subsidies, they get marketing support, and they get crop insurance program supports.
Meanwhile, the guys that choose to grow things organically, which means by law without artificial growth hormones or these genetically engineered ingredients and these synthetic weedkillers like RoundUp®, they are then charged fees to label it, and then they don’t get the same marketing and insurance support that the other guys get.
So the whole cost of production is higher and I look at that and I’m like, “That’s crazy. It’s like fining them because they are wearing their seatbelt.”
If we had a choice as taxpayers, when we sent that money in, which one would we choose?
At the very least, at this point now, with demand for organics skyrocketing, where you see it in Safeway® and Costco® and Walmart® and Kroger®, 12% increase every year right now, why aren’t we at least leveling that playing field economically for the farmers so that it’s at least neutral there? Because if it’s neutral there, then guess what? It becomes neutral as it flows through into the grocery store. But we haven’t structured it that way.
There was this fascinating video that came out of Sweden and I can’t remember who shared it. It had maybe 2,000 views, and somebody sent it over to me and I was like, “This is massively powerful”.
They took a family that was on a budget that said, “We can’t afford organic,” and they put them on an organic diet. They literally cleaned out everything in their kitchen and put all organic into their kitchen. It was a family of 5 with 3 kids and they put them on an organic diet, and then monitored them.
Because of budget constraints they could only monitor a certain number of these pesticides. They monitored the levels of these pesticides in the family by measuring the content in their urine over this two week period, and it dropped.
As powerful as that is it’s like, okay, it dropped. So you’re going to assume hopefully that’s a good thing. But then it’s like, what is all of this doing to us? What’s it doing in combination? What’s it doing in accumulation? What’s it doing to a developing child or a little boy with autism or a mother that’s 7-months pregnant or a grandmother who has Alzheimer’s or a grandfather who has pancreatic cancer? What is this doing?
I think we’re at this place in time now where, thank goodness, with social media and the internet and our accessibility and our connectivity, we’re at this place where we can start to ask these really important questions.
So it turned out that was a co-op at a grocery store in Sweden that was really trying to look at it, and I actually ended up hearing from the producers because when we shared it, it went totally viral.
They said, “We took a total risk. We had no idea what was going to happen with that family when we decided to do it. We had such a low budget that we could only measure a handful of these things.”
For them to have seen the response to that video around the world, it spoke to so many things in my opinion. It spoke to this universal desire we have to protect the health of our families, this universal desire that we do have to try to feed our families organic, and the struggle. It spoke to the economic and financial struggle that is there for so many of us with, “How can we do this? How can we afford to do this?” I think that’s the heartache in it right now. There are so many families who wish that it was more affordable, and it’s not yet.
As I really looked at that, I realized it was policy; it was things like the farm bill, the subsidy program. That is major, major stuff and that was really when I locked in and realized this is the work of a generation and the work of a lifetime.
I know personally, I’m going to be doing it until I have a silver ponytail and thankfully there are so many others who are committed at that level.
I think what’s fascinating right now is there are people inside organic food companies, inside big food companies, inside big retailers who feel this way, because what I’ve seen in the first ten years of the work is that cancer and autism and food allergies do not care where we live or where we work or what side of the aisle we’re on. To me that’s one of the greatest most important human rights issues of our time.
RG: Absolutely. What are you working on right now that you’re really excited and passionate about?
RO: You know, it’s interesting because I’m contacted all the time by food companies, by members of Congress, and I think it’s because thankfully I was schooled in the finance place. I can speak the language of the mother, speak the financial language; I can speak to a board or speak to an executive; and then I’m really, really solutions oriented.
The thing that I’m really focused on right now is the fact that people are waking up and they are realizing that they want organic because it means that it’s free from artificial dyes, artificial growth hormones, genetically engineered ingredients, synthetic weed killers, things like sewage sludge. By law, organic is free from those ingredients.
People are waking up and saying, “I want more organic”.
The problem that we have in the United States is less than 1% of U.S. farmland is organic agriculture so there is a huge bottleneck.
So, let’s say I was a CEO of one of these mega companies. I’d say, “If we want to switch, we can’t because the supply chain isn’t there.”
So that’s a huge focus of mine. Opening up that bottleneck; getting these companies to commit to converting to organic agriculture. It’s in their best interest. If their consumer is moving this way, it’s absolutely in their best financial interest, and the best interest of their shareholders, as well as their stakeholders, to really try to open up that supply.
I think that a company that was just massive when they shared this with me was Chipotle.
I asked them, “What are you feeding your animals?” because a lot of animals right now are living on this genetically modified corn or soy, and there are concerns around that in other companies.
Chipotle said, “We’re committed to it but we have to source non-GMO livestock seed from China and Romania because we can’t get enough of it here in the United States.”
I just thought, “That is crazy!”.
That is a huge, huge economic opportunity for our farmers, for our economy, for the United States, and we are outsourcing that whole thing to China and Romania.
So, again, it’s like, how do we really open this conversation and have people understand that it’s not a fad? It’s not a trend. Unfortunately, the health of our families is being hammered and this is a fundamental shift in the way we are approaching food, and so we need a fundamental shift in the way that it’s grown in our country.
RG: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. We really appreciate it and we’re thrilled to have you at The Women’s Wellness Conference™, which is right around the corner, October 9th – 11th at the Hilton Costa Mesa in California.
Robyn O’Brien will be joined by other bestselling authors and speakers including Caroline Myss, Marianne Williamson, Dr. Alan Christianson. We have such a great lineup this year, packed with powerhouse speakers, and everyone is invited.
You can still get a ticket, but they are selling out fast. Register at the link listed below.
Thank you again, Robyn, for your time.
RO: Thanks so much!