Opinion

Don't Modify My Milk

Podcast: 'Deconstructing Dinner' on how ice cream giant Unilever is keeping Canadians off dairy.

By Jon Steinman, 20 Jul 2008, TheTyee.ca

Deconstructing Dinner

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[Editor's note: This is a summary of a podcast you can download or listen to from this page.]

The Packaged Foods Exposed series takes a look at some of the largest food manufacturers in the world. What products fall under their banners; how has their influence shaped economic policy, society and culture; and how have they affected the environments in which they operate?

This series places these corporations in a critical light, and aims to provide a more balanced image than that of the advertising and public relations campaigns launched by some of the most influential food corporations on the planet.

In this fourth installment, a two-part episode, we take a look at how packaged food giant Unilever influences agriculture, food and health here in Canada.

Part II

Are Unilever's ice creams really ice cream? A controversial genetically modified ingredient is entering the company's ice cream products around the world - an ingredient that replicates fish DNA. We expose the company's misleading website, and look into confusing labeling tactics it has used in the world of margarine.

We'll also explore the historical and current health impacts of margarine and how Unilever has responded to such concerns.

Unilever, which controls roughly 25 per cent of the Canadian ice cream market, has its hooks in frozen fish products as well. Recently, the company been accused of contributing significantly to the depletion of cod stocks in the Baltic Sea that are on the brink of collapse.

Guests

Oliver Knowles, oceans campaigner, Greenpeace (London, U.K.) -- The exploitation and mismanagement of fisheries has already led to some spectacular fisheries collapses. When Newfoundland's cod fishery collapsed in 1992, some 40,000 people in the industry lost their jobs. Now, the cod stocks in the North Sea and Baltic Sea are close to complete collapse. Greenpeace has been at the forefront of addressing this crisis.

Geoff Ross-Smith, owner, Kootenay Kreamery (Nelson, B.C.) -- Geoff used to sell Breyers ice cream at a stand in Ainsworth, B.C. until the quality of the product declined rapidly. Geoff decided to make his own ice cream instead and now stocks his products at 10 stores in the area.

Therese Beaulieu, assistant director of communication and policy, Dairy Farmers of Canada (Ottawa, Ont.) -- A national policy, lobbying and promotional organization representing Canada's 16,000 dairy farms, DFC strives to create favourable conditions for the Canadian dairy industry, today and in the future. It works to maintain policies that foster the viability of Canadian dairy producers and promote dairy products and their health benefits.

Joe Cummins, professor emeritus of genetics, University of Western Ontario (London, Ont.) -- Joe is one of the earliest critics of genetic engineering. He obtained B.Sc. in horticulture from Washington State University in 1955 and a PhD in cellular biology from the University of Wisconsin in 1962. He taught genetics at Rutgers and the University of Washington before joining the University of Western Ontario in 1972. Joe sits on the board of the U.K.-based Independent Science Panel and is involved with The Institute of Science in Society.

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