Breathe the Solution – WholeFoods Magazine

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Industry members gathered for the 7th Annual Organic and Natural Health Conference at Ft. Myers Beach, Florida. Courtesy of O&N Health.

“We all need to start breathing in the solution…”

These are the words of Renee Southard, president of SENPA, of the 7and Annual Biological and Natural Health Conference at Ft. Myers Beach, Florida. In a world defined by COVID, the dietary supplement industry faces enormous constraints. The complexity of an international supply chain is challenged by labor shortages, transportation issues and a borderline obsessive demand for the ingredients and products that consumers want. At the same time, we know that environmental stress places the very future of our industry at a critical juncture. The health of people and the planet are deeply intertwined; a fact that our consumers are very clear about. So yes, we all need to start breathing in the solution. And that’s exactly what happened at our January conference.

The most amazing things happen when you put every supply chain partner’s representation in one piece. At O&N Health, everyone from raw ingredient suppliers to distributors, manufacturers and brands, to retailers and consumers is an equal stakeholder. It is a wealth of knowledge and expertise that should not be wasted. So when we traveled to Mackinac Island in August 2021, the intent was set. We asked O&N Health members what we need to do, what we need to have, and what we can take advantage of to support consumers and use available resources effectively.

Mackinac Island’s discoveries were thoughtful and forward-thinking. Supply chain issues aren’t limited to shipping, glue shortages and ingredient tampering. They include a need for investment in partnerships, including the farmers themselves, and a need to create a distribution of wealth that enables fair wages and healthy communities. Solutions can no longer ignore the plunder of natural resources. Corporate America is actively committed to effectively reducing carbon emissions. We must be more than organic in our practices. We must be regenerating. The people we serve, and the black and brown people who need our work and our products, must be able to trust the quality standards we hold. And finally, the “gorilla in the room”, Amazon, is not likely to be tamed. We agreed there was a lot to learn about the implications of such power on our regulatory paradigm and this newly formed competitive landscape.

Our president (and head of Venable’s law firm), Todd Harrison’s phone never stopped ringing during our policy roundtable. Perhaps a sign that the challenges at DSHEA’s doorstep are growing at an exponential rate equivalent to the growth of the industry, as beautifully expressed by Tom Aarts, Founder of NBJ Summit and Managing Director of Nutrition Business Advisors. We have new tools for our toolbox. We will be surveying candidates to gauge support for our issues in the 2022 midterm elections. We learned that nematode research could replace the need for animal testing. We can now test and assess the nutrient density of foods, and finally identify biological fraud. There is a commitment and there are tools to ensure that the standards we believe in can be demonstrated and trusted by our consumers.

We also heard about the most comprehensive conversation about how regenerative practices are changing our industry. The work of MegaFood (Bethany Davis), RFI Ingredients (Paul Altaffer), Mad Agriculture (Elizabeth Candelario) and the Organic Consumers Association (Ronnie Cummins) is testament to the industry’s ability to change the world, for the better. It was an honor to have André Leu from Regeneration International guide our speakers through how they are changing business practices for the good of our collective future.

Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) accepts the O&N Health Visionary Award from Karen Howard. Courtesy of O&N Health.

O&N Health is deeply committed to work that benefits consumers. To this end, the Board has created our Visionary Award, to celebrate the work that ensures a vital and resilient world, while recognizing an individual who has demonstrated leadership and served as a catalyst for change, in an effort to support the health of the population. planet, and subsequently its inhabitants. Our Board of Directors named Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) as the first recipient of this award for his “One Billion Agaves” campaign, an ecosystem regeneration strategy that combines growing agave plants and companion forest species that fix nitrogen (such as mesquite), with rotational grazing of livestock. The OCA under Ronnie’s leadership is transforming arid lands by reducing overgrazing pressure on fragile grasslands to improve soil health and water retention while reducing and storing huge amounts of atmospheric CO2. O&N Health members will get to see this project as we plan our next trip to Mexico. The goal of the “One Billion Agaves” campaign is to plant one billion agaves around the world to reduce and store billions of tons of climate destabilizing CO2. In Ronnie’s words, “We have reached a time when we have to sit down with the rich and regenerate the land…and I think the time is right.”

The world needs all of us to act from a place of intention. The fact that regenerative practices are becoming mainstream is a victory. However, our goal of securing diet and supplementation as the cornerstone of the health care system remains an uphill battle. Dr. Pierre Kory, President of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, opened our conference with the story of his struggle to ensure that all Americans have access to the full health care options available to COVID-19. Doctors across the country are quietly treating patients successfully with simple, inexpensive drugs. They are physicians who fully appreciate the importance of nutritional supplementation, including vitamin D. Their work is labeled as myth and deception. It reminds me of the FDA’s response to our vitamin D petition regarding preterm birth, and their assertion that “there is no room for logic in science.” At O&N Health, we have little patience for treating healthcare as a silo, pretending medicine is always more important than nutrition, and prioritizing disease treatment over wellness initiatives. At O&N Health, we breathe solution every day.


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