As TEDxManhattan approaches, we’ve asked this year’s speakers to introduce themselves by answering a few questions. Today we feature Gary Hirshberg, Chairman of Stonyfield Farm, the world’s leading organic yogurt producer.
1) What’s the topic you’ll be speaking about?
The case for mandatory federal labelling of genetically engineered foods.
2) Why do you feel this is important?
The U.S. is alone among 61 countries including all of our major trading partners, the entire EU, Japan, Russia and even China in not mandating labelling of these new patented crops and ingredients. And yet in the twenty years since the FDA, under pressure from the chemical companies who own these patents, adopted voluntary guidelines that preclude such mandatory labelling, numerous health, economic and ecologic concerns have arisen from their increased usage. Mandatory labelling is the only means of enabling consumers to know whether they are purchasing and using these ingredients and to choose whether or not they wish to support and consume these products. Polls show that over 91% of consumers, crossing all demographic and partisan lines, want to know.
3) Are there other projects you’re also passionate about right now?
Over the 30 years of growing my business from a humble start-up, I have experienced first-hand the economic and ecologic benefits of organic food production for all stakeholders. Since stepping down as CEO of my company I have been actively involved in educating large numbers of citizens about these benefits and have been deeply engaged in trying to create a level playing field for governmental support of organic production.
4) Which other TEDxManhattan speakers are you excited about hearing?
Ann Cooper, Anna Lappé, Peter Lehner
5) Where can more information about your project be found?
Gary Hirshberg is Chairman of Stonyfield Farm, the world’s leading organic yogurt producer, and Managing Director of Stonyfield Europe, with organic brands in Ireland, and France. Gary serves on several corporate and nonprofit boards including Applegate Farms, Honest Tea, Peak Organic Brewing, Late July, The Full Yield, SweetGreen, RAMp Sports, Glenisk, the Danone Communities Fund and the Danone Livelihoods Fund. He is the Chairman, CEO and Co-founder of Chelsea’s Table Cafés, a natural and organic fast casual restaurant firm. In 2011, President Obama appointed Gary to serve on the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. He is a Co-Chair of AGree, an agricultural policy initiative formed by the Ford, Gates, Kellogg, Rockefeller, Walton and other leading foundations. He is Chairman and a founding Partner of Just Label It, We Have the Right to Know, the national campaign to label genetically engineered foods, and is co-author of Label It Now – What You Need to Know About Genetically Engineered Foods. He is the author of Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World.
Gary has received nine honorary doctorates and numerous awards for corporate and environmental leadership including a 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award by the US EPA.
Previously, he was the Founder of Climate Counts, Director of the Rural Education Center, the small organic farming school from which Stonyfield was spawned and Executive Director of The New Alchemy Institute – a research and education center dedicated to organic farming, aquaculture, and renewable energy. Before that he was a water-pumping windmill specialist and an environmental education director with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. He has also authored books on wind-power and organic gardening.