The Non-GMO Erin Brokovich of Food: part mom, part financial analyst, part food crusader


My head is spinning and my curiosity is piqued after an enlightening dialogue about America’s food supply. Robyn O’Brien is taking on the food industry and attempting to transform the country’s food supply, for the sake of Americans’ health, our health care industry, and our economy. To her, where our food comes from and what it’s made of is the key to changing everything.

At first I didn’t see the connections. She opened my eyes. And I commend her for tackling such a colossal task. It’s not going to be easy.

The trail-blazing restaurant, Town Hall, was behind her speaking engagement. The restaurant is the only one in the city to be able to call itself a non-GMO establishment. “What’s that?” I said when I first read about it. I had no idea, and I’m not alone. GMO stands for genetically modified organisms. It’s food engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. It also refers to animals who eat this stuff, and who have been pumped full of hormones. Not too appetizing, right?? Turns out most of us are consuming them on a daily basis, whether we know it or not. And Robyn O’Brien believes they are making us sick, causing the exploding epidemic of childhood allergies, contributing to the rise in asthma, and controlling the country’s food supply.

When I started reading her book, The Unhealthy Truth, I was both scared and intrigued. The journalist in me was hungry for more information to make up my own mind and start making better informed decisions for my family. O’Brien became a “food detective” and activist after her 1-year-old daughter had a severe allergic reaction to an egg. Since then, she has dedicated her life to uncovering the root causes behind the exploding childhood allergy epidemic, long-term and wide spread health issues linked to GMOs, and the incestuous relationship between the food industry, chemical corporations, political leaders and even non-profits when it comes to food safety. As a former financial analyst, she did it in a way she knows how, through financial records. She connected the dots between major corporations like Kraft, and Monsanto as well as ties to non-profits and studies on the subject. Disappointing and scary stuff.

Admittedly, she used to dismiss this movement as a hobby. Gotta say, I used to as well. “I didn’t want anybody telling me to feed my kids organic avocados,” she said. But once she started to dig, she could no longer ignore what she was discovering. According to her research, from 1997-2002 the number of peanut allergies doubled. There had to be something to it, she decided. To undo the damage, she wants to make it cheaper and easier for farmers to grow organic food. She’s encouraging the country to start by having a conversation, writing to your congressman, and making different choices at the grocery store. “We have financed a chemically-intensive system,” she said.

O’Brien also recognizes the fix won’t be quick, or remotely easy. And she figures she’ll still be fighting this fight when she’s got a silver ponytail. I have to agree with her. Changing people’s minds is tough enough. Changing the economics behind it all… that seems near impossible to me. Not to her. She writes about her experience in Cleveland here, and lists nine ideas for what we can do as individuals and families.

I can’t wait to see, and eat, the progress.

(Originally posted on Jen Picciano’s personal blog, Cheftovers, and has been updated for use here. Photo courtesy of Town Hall Ohio City’s twitter account: @TownHallOH)

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Jen Picciano

I’m a television news reporter, wife, mom, cook book junkie and wanna-be chef. I hate wasting food and love getting creative in the kitchen. Bringing you access to premiere chefs and news in the food world. Reviewing new cooking-related products and services. Living life with a mic in my hand and a pencil behind my ear…or with an apron on, cooking for those I love.

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