Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Arran Stephens, CEO of Nature’s Path. For those who don’t know, Nature’s Path is the largest organic breakfast foods company in North America, and one of the biggest supporters of the initiative to have genetically modified foods labeled. (Nature’s Path donated $660,000 to Prop. 37.) Nature’s Path is an independent business, owned by Stephens and his family.
Stephens believes strongly that GMOs are harmful to the land and its people. He has witnessed, as the rest of us have, that some organic companies have sided with the opposition of the labeling initiative. He views that this was done because these companies were sold to junk food companies who made the decision to donate to the other side. Stephens vows not to follow in their footsteps. That’s why he’s keeping Nature’s Path in the family. “We’re not for sale,” he says.
Stephens shared with me his views on the future of the GMO labeling initiative, why he believed it did not pass in the 2012 election, and what we can do to avoid eating foods containing GMOs until labeling becomes mandatory. He also imparted some wisdom regarding business and (organic) farming.
Even though Prop. 37 (measure to label GMOs) didn’t win in the 2012 California election, Stephens has a positive view on the future of the initiative to label genetically modified foods. It has brought GMO awareness to 5 million Californians in such a short amount of time. Before Prop. 37, many people had little clue to the existence of GMOs, and now people are wondering what they are, and are starting to learn about the dangers of a GMO diet. Such awareness will bring more momentum to the initiative as it makes its way to Washington in 2013, then Oregon, and eventually nationwide. Stephens is quite positive that in the future, it will be mandatory in the U.S. for all genetically modified food to be labeled. A new generation is coming into power, and this generation is more geared toward healthy living and organic farming.
When Prop. 37 was first brought into the public eye, the majority of Californians were on board with it. Afterall, why shouldn’t GMOs be labeled? And if GMOs are so great, why hide them? Then the big pesticide and junk food companies outspent the grassroots labeling initiative. They spent millions of dollars advertising fraudulent information. Before election day, they were showing these false advertisements 4 times an hour on tv, and 16 times an hour on the radio.
“Their incessant and deceitful propaganda eroded away our huge lead, as we were unable to answer with our ad campaign in the last ten days before the election. It just shows how big money, fear, and deceit bought the vote. Even then, we only lost by a couple of percentage points. Next time, we’ll win. We’ll keep on fighting until we attain victory over the forces of deception,” says Stephens.
Until then, Stephens advises that people stick to eating organic foods since GMOs are not allowed in organic production. Another option is to eat non-GMO verified foods, but these foods are not a substitute for organic products. “Non-GMO Verified is a step in the right direction, but these products, unless certified organic, are usually still grown and processed with a plethora of toxic pesticides, herbicides, and soil-burning and water polluting chemical fertilizers,” says Stephens. “None of these toxins are allowed in organic.”
Arran Stephens is a man with a progressive business style, one that hopefully many more will adopt. He believes that the main reason behind business is to serve. And that one’s business practices should also be concerned with taking care of Mother Earth. “We need to leave this world better than we found it, without the interference of large companies and large government,” he advises. When he was a young boy farming the land with his father, his father used to say to tell him “Always leave the soil better than you found it.”