Robyn O’Brien’s Ted Talk “Real Food”

Below is a video (worth 20 minutes to view) and a transcript of it is at the bottom of the page.  Headmistress over at http://thecommonroomblog.com/ kindly volunteered her time to listen and type this up for us. One of my friends recently asked if I would share this post and transcript for her friends who’ve not yet seen this. Do share this with people you know who would be interested. I wish this was captioned, perhaps one day soon it will be.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/rixyrCNVVGA&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rixyrCNVVGA

 This is a loose transcript of Robyn Obrien’s speech 

here: http://www.wimp.com/realfood/ I slip in and out of a precise transcript, where I use the first person wherever Robyn did, and paraphrase, where I use second person. It’s not meant to be professional, just something to help those who need closed captioning get what she was saying.————

I am such an unlikely crusader for cleaning up the food supply, born and raised in Houston, Texas on twinkies and poboys, wasn’t a foodie. Was a first born child, oldest of four, and everything you read about those first borns, Type A, over-achiever, thankfully channeled that to business school, top honors in her class, and when management teams would come in to visit from groups like Whole Foods and organic places, they thought well, you’ve nice marketing niche carved out, lifestyles of rich and famous or some hippy thing, not on board with that.

Traded in briefcase for diaper bag, in typcial overachiever manner, had four kids in five years, and up until that point, had still really not given a lot of thought to what was in the food supply, if it was on grocery store shelves it was safe, don’t tell me what to eat and don’t tell me what to feed my kids, four  picky eaters, limited time, limited budget, I didn’t want to hear it.


 And then one morning over breakfast, life changed. Youngest child had an allergic reaction. Lego waffles, blue yogurt, and scrambled eggs. Child’s face started to swell up- she didn’t even know what it was, took child to pediatrician, who said it’s a food allergy. What did the kids have to eat for breakfast? Legomyeggo waffles, blue yogurt, and scrambled eggs.


The pediatrician said that breakfast included 3 of the top 8 allergens, rattled off stuff about food allergies and Robyn started wondering how a child could be allergic to *food*. She got the baby calmed down, took the kids home put them down for naps, and then every analytical gene in her body went off. She’d never known anybody growing up who was allergic to food. She wanted to dig into the data, understand what was going on.


That morning she learned that: From 1997 to 2002, doubling of peanut allergies.1 out of 17 kids under 3 now has a food allergy. According to CDC, a 265% increase in hospitalizations related to food allergic reactions. Doctors checking kids into ER, not moms. So she wanted to know ‘what is a food allergy?’


A food allergy is when your body sees food proteins as foreign. so it launches this inflammatory responseto drive out that foreign invader. This raised the question, is there something in our food that wasn’t there when we were kids? She turned to the USDA and learned that yes, in the 1990s new proteins were engineered into our food supply (this is the table shown at about 4:31).


And it was done to maximize profit for the food industry. This makes perfect sense to her as an analyst; it drove shareholder value, which is absolutely the fiduciary responsibility of the corporations creating these proteins, but at the same time, no human trials were conducted to see if they were safe. 


So, milk allergy is the most common allergy in the US according to wsj and cnn, so she wondered is there something in the milk supply that wasn’t there when we were kids?[Image] Beginning in 1994 in order to drive profitability for the dairy industry, scientists were able to create this new genetically engineered protein and this synthetic growth hormone and inject it into our cows to help them make more milk. The business model makes perfect sense. It’s a brilliant one. but at the same time what happened is that it was making the animals sick (this is the table at 5:30): causing ovarian cysts,mastitis, lameness, skin disorders, and for that reason it increased antibiotic use in those animals and governments around the world said they would exercise caution and would not introduce it into the milk supply because it hadn’t yet been proven safe. 


We took a different approach. We said it hasn’t yet been proven dangerous so we’ll allow it.as I learned that I thought, how many sippy cups have I filled with this milk and how many bowls of cereal have I poured it on for my husband, not knowing that Canada, the UK, australia, japan, newzealand and all 27 countries in europe did not allow it when it was introduced in the us in 1994? I wanted to know what are the conditions we’re seeing here in the us because one of those concerns about the around this new growth hormone, this synthetic protein is that it eleveated hormone levels linked to breast, prostate and colon cancer.I turned to remarkable organizations like Livestrong and the American cancer society because I wanted to know the US cancer rates compared to the rest of the world (this is the table at about 7:08)


The US has the highest rates of cancer of any country on the planet. According the American Cancer Society, migration studies show if you move here from somewhere like Japan, your liklihood of getting cancer increases four-fold.1 out of 2 American men and one out of 3 american women are expected to get cancer in their lifetime. 1 out of 8 women has breast cancer. but only 1 in 10 of the breast cancers are genetic, which means 9 out of ten are environmentally triggered. (she says it was like looking at a car accident, she wanted to stop looking, but couldn’t)


She wanted to know about the other allergies we’re seeing, have foreign proteins been introduced in other foods, too? shortly after milk was engineered with this new protein, scientists engineered soy, (which is also one of the top 8 allergens), again, to drive profitability for the soy industry because soy is primarily used to fatten livestock. Scientists were able to engineer the soybean so that it could withstand increasing doses of weed killer, the business model made perfect sense, you engineer the seed so you can sell more weedkiller, and at the same time you’ve engineered something new into the seed so you can patent it and you have a patent on the seed and are selling additional weed killer.


Once again governments around the world said no studies have been done to show that this is safe to feedto our lifestock and to feed to our consumers, and so to exercise precaution and prevent the onset of any resulting disease we won’t allow it, but in 1996 here in the US, we took a different approach. As I kept learning more about food allergies I was hearing concern from parents about corn allergies. So I wanted to know, did corn get engineered? In the late 90s when concern grew about spraying insecticide over corn fields, scientists were able to engineer that insecticide into the dna of a corn seed, so that as it grows, it releases its own insecticide, As a result, corn was regulated by the EPA as an insecticide. As you can imagine this was hard information to learn. 


We had introduced a term called substantial equivilance, a conceptual tool used by tobacco industry to facilitate the approval process of something for which no human trials have been conducted, and that was the justification for why we were introducing these things in the US. As I sat down one night with my husband I said I can’t unlearn this and I don’t know what people will see if I try to teach them, but I have to try.


 Next day sat down and said to her four kids,”you know how mom has learned some tough stuff about what’s going on in our food and how it’s not in food in other countries and especially not to food fed to kids? I have to do something about that” and one of the boys looked at her and said, “Mom, how many people are on your team?” She said, you four, and your daddy.” He said, “You need a bigger team.”


He was right. I had people come up and say “You’re foods Erin Brokovich, you should reach out to her!” I did not want to be foods’ Erin Brokovich, how could I reach out to her? then the type A genes started going off and I thought I have to try. If I could get through to somebody like her, maybe we could change things here. 


So she spent two weeks crafting a four sentence email, and fired it off. Erin replied. That really impacted her and she thought maybe one person can make a difference (cheering) so as I began to really dig into this and look into the fact that we were using new ingredients in the US food supply that weren’t being used in other countries. It drove me nuts how expensive organic food was so I looked into the business model, what I learned is that as a national familiy sitting down at the national table with our national budget, our taxpayer resources are being used to subsidize the gorwth of these crops with all these chemicals, but over here the organic crops grown without these chemicals? 


 Those guys are charged fees to prove that their stuff (this is about the 13:26 mark) is grown without it and then charged fees for the lable and then on top of that they don’t get the insurance and marketing program assistance that these guys over here do. so not only is their cost structure higher, but it’s not just those farmers it’s impacting, fourth and fifth generation farmers who have been feeding our country for generations, because those seeds are patented, they now have a new cost structure, too. they have to pay royalty, licensing and trade fees to even begin to plant those seeds on their farm.


 So when I thought about this I thought how are our American corporations exporting their products if these other countries don’t allow these ingredients? I realized and found research that Kraft, Coco Cola, Walmart are doing a remarkable job of responding to consumer demand in other countries and have formulated their products differently. They don’t use those ingredients in prodcuts distributed in other countries. At first that was depressing, then I thought “we just need to teach other here.”


 As I reflected on the thought that as we introduced these proteins with all these toxicity concerns I wanted to know what do we spend on health care compared to the rest of the world. the US spends more on health care than any country, 16 percent of our GNP goes to managing disease. 


Starbucks spends more on healthcare than coffee.


 This could be effecting our global competitiveness, rather than driving profitability toward our core competencies in the global market place. We are managing disease. We don’t need to wait for regulation and legislation we can exercise precautions in our own families, communities and corporations so we can protect the health and well being of our families and ultimately of our economy and was coming through all this knowledge. 


It was paralyzing when I realized you can’t make perfect enemy of the good, and it’s really all about progress. None of us can do everything, all of us can do one thing. Just as you don’t potty train a kid overnight, you don’t wean from sippy cup overnight. this is a process that doesn’t happen overnight but as each and every single oneof us does one thing we have the ability to affect remakrbal change because each of you have talents and attributes you are uniquely good at and when you leverage that with something you are passionate about you can affect remarkable change in the health of your family, companies, and country and the bottom line is that there is nothing more patriotic that we could be doing. 


Thank-you (standing ovation, cheer, cheer)( the moderator? woman in black calls Robyn back on stage to acknowledge the standing ovation and says, “you may get a standing ovation every time you give this talk, but we don’t get to give one every time, so thanks for taking that in.

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