Confession: I sometimes drink Naked because those labels make inspiring claims about the number of berries or papayas or leaves of spinach that were crushed to make the liquid in each bottle. And because the liquid tastes pretty good and it fills empty stomach space more effectively than orange juice. And because the price makes the liquid seem valuable. (I know the link between price and value isn’t solid, but I admit to accepting it when the stuff I’m pouring into my gullet needs to make me feel better about myself.)
And because I like the wordplay. “Live Naked!” the company’s website urges. (Sure!)
“Mother Nature gave us some pretty great stuff to play with —” (And how!)
“and the best part is, it’s all good.” (I’m suspicious of that last phrase; it’s the kind of language that erases realities by denying them: not all is good.)
“And given our name is Naked, it’d be pretty lame to cover up the wonderful taste of Earth’s delicious bounty with artificial flavors or added sugars. So every time your body is craving refreshing, delicious fruits and veggies, you can be 100 percent sure that every Naked product is providing you with just that. And that’s our Naked Truth!”
I’ll buy that. I often do.
So imagine my surprise when I learned that Naked’s owner spent $2,485,400 on lobbying efforts to defeat Proposition 37, a ballot proposition which would have required that all genetically engineered food sold in California be labelled as such — and would have forbidden attaching the word “natural” to any of that great stuff nature gave us if “playing with it” meant altering its genome.
I got that naked truth from The Cornucopia Institute, a nonprofit public interest group devoted to “promoting economic justice for family-scale farming” and “supporting the ecological principles and economic wisdom underlying sustainable and organic agriculture.”
Cornucopia’s coverage of the GMO labelling struggle shows that Pepsico, the company that owns Naked, was second only to Monsanto in its effort to keep food labels in the nebulous realm of don’t-ask/don’t-tell.
Not exactly the naked truth.
Cornucopia’s research does not suggest that Naked extracts juice from genetically engineered plants, but it does reveal that the company’s public face is selectively crafted to please its 973,000 Facebook friends — as well as people like me, who liken Facebook to the emperor’s new clothes.
It also shows that most items for sale in grocery stores, thousands and thousands of products which look like the fruits of a far-reaching diversified food system, are traceable to a handful of giant corporations, some of which would rather we not know they own the brands we’re buying. Other food-makers with potentially embarrassing parents include: Odwalla (Coca Cola), Kashi and Bear Naked (Kellog), Annie’s Homegrown and Cascadian Farm Organics (General Mills), Horizon Organic and Earthbound Farm Organic (White Wave Foods), and Burt’s Bees, which is owned by Clorox.
All of which adds another dimension to the question ‘Who’s your farmer?’
Great Country Farms supports The Cornucopia Institute in part because that question matters to them, and their work makes it easier to answer.