Friday Roundup

August 20th, 2010 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Friday Roundup

A Setback for Monsanto – Last week a San Francisco judge ordered Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to put Monsanto’s Genuity Roundup Ready sugar beets back under USDA regulation. The judge claimed that the USDA failed to conduct a proper Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before approving the genetically modified (GM) beets. The ruling prohibits farmers from planting the GM beets until the EIS shows that the crops won’t negatively impact the land, water or wildlife. The beets were deregulated by the USDA in 2005 and became quite popular because of their resistance to weed killers. The beets are genetically engineered to resist Roundup, an herbicide that was created by Monsanto. Growers could spray their entire fields with Roundup and not have to worry about killing the plants that would eventually be harvested. Typically spraying must be much more targeted to not affect the actual plant. These GM beets make up 95% of the sugar beets planted in this country, and sugar beets account for about half of the U.S. sugar supply. This ruling is good news on many levels, but particularly in light of the USDA’s recent endorsement of not labeling GM foods.

Sun Chips New Bag – This has been the big buzz this week, not just in food news, but in national news as well. Frito Lay has produced a 100% compostable chip bag for its SunChips packaging. The bag is made from 90% renewable, plant based materials, and as a result, the bag will completely break down into compost in a hot, active compost pile in approximately 14 weeks. Although the bag was launched on Earth Day in the U.S., that actually received very little attention from the press; but this week, the big stir was, get ready, the sound of the bag. Apparently the bag is rather noisy, and this seems to be quite a problem for many shoppers. So, just to be clear, the damage to our environment from all of the other plastic, non compostable bags doesn’t seem to be that much of a bother, but, a 100% compostable bag is bothersome because it makes a little more noise while you eat them. To the credit of Frito Lay, when asked to comment on the “noisy” packaging, their reply was “that is the sound of change.”

What is Denny’s Thinking ? – This week restaurant chain Denny’s updated its value menu (and updated may not actually be the correct word here) with its new sandwich, The Fried Cheese Melt, made with “four fried mozzarella sticks and melted American cheese grilled between two slices of sourdough bread.” It’s also served with french fries and a side of marinara sauce. So, just to re-state, Denny’s new sandwich contains deep-fried cheese sticks inside a pan-fried grilled cheese sandwich. All of this magnificent ingenuity and innovation comes on the heels of recent reports detailing the huge (pardon the pun) obesity problem in our country. This is a little like if suddenly an auto maker today decided that the perfect car for these times would be to create something that’s just a tad more roomier than a Hummer. For those who count calories, the sandwich clocks in at 900 calories (actually 895, but at this point can 5 calories matter). If you clean your plate and eat all of your fries and sauce as well, then you just put down 1,500 calories. Be afraid.

Whole-Wheat takes the lead – According to the Nielsen Company, in July, 52-week dollar sales of packaged wheat bread topped those of white bread for the first time in U.S. supermarkets. Wheat bread sales increased 0.6 percent to $2.6 billion, while white bread sales declined 7 percent to $2.5 billion. White bread is still ahead in volume, but the margin is shrinking. Americans bought 1.5 billion packages of white bread in the last year, a 3 percent decrease, and 1.3 billion packages of wheat bread, a 5 percent increase. Although all wheat bread is not equal, and some just barely qualify as whole-wheat, it’s still an encouraging trend. Just imagine how much more whole-wheat bread could be sold if the new Fried Cheese Melt replaced its sourdough offering with wheat.

Have a great weekend . . . and stay informed.