Monday, November 4, 2013

How Dr. Bronner's Got All Lathered Up About GMOs | Mother Jones

How Dr. Bronner's Got All Lathered Up About GMOs | Mother Jones:

Embracing lefty lifestyle politics might not seem like the best way to grow a business—until you sit on the orange velour couch in Bronner's Tibetan-flag-draped office in Escondido and watch the phone light up with calls from buyout firms. In the 15 years since Bronner took over, annual sales have grown 1,300 percent, from $5 million to $64 million. Along the way, the company's Castile soaps have gone from hippie niche products to staples on the aisles at Target. And yet Bronner has twice refused offers from Walmart to carry his soaps, even at full price, because he can't stomach the chain's politics and crummy worker pay and benefits. The best way to go mainstream, he has found, is to be as unapologetically countercultural as possible.

Bronner falls on the more measured side of the anti-GMO camp. "I have no in-principle objection to genetic engineering or synthetic biology," he explains, pointing out his background in biology and his dad's work for Monsanto. His beef with GMOs has less to do with ambiguous fears about "frankenfoods" than with the well-documented effects of the widespread deployment of herbicide- and pest-resistant genetically modified crops. While those breakthroughs were meant to cut down on the need for chemical inputs, studies have found that they've instead bred new superbugs and superweeds that, in turn, must be suppressed with ever more and stronger pesticides and herbicides. "Far from freeing us from the chemical treadmill," Bronner says, "GMOs are doubling down on it."

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