Home » Robyn O’Brien at TEDxAustin 2011 (Full Transcript)

Robyn O’Brien at TEDxAustin 2011 (Full Transcript)

So as I began to really dig into this, and look at the fact that we were using all of these new ingredients in the US food supply that we weren’t using in other countries, I’ve got to admit, it drove me absolutely nuts now expensive organic food was. And so I looked into the business model.

And what I learned is that as a national family, sitting down to our national dinner table with our national budget, our tax payer resources are being used to subsidize the growth of these crops with all these chemicals. And then over here, the crops that are grown through the organic process, which means without the use of synthetic chemicals, those guys are charged fees to prove that their stuff is grown without it, and then they’re charged fees to then label those things as grown without it, and 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 over here, but then on top of that, what I learned is that it wasn’t just those farmers that it was impacting. The farmers who are fourth and fifth generation farmers, who have been feeding our country for generations, because those seeds are patented, they now have a cost structure that’s new too, because they have to pay royalty fees, licensing fees, and trait fees to even begin to plant those seeds on their farm.

And 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? And that’s when I realized, and found research, that Kraft, and Coca-Cola and Walmart, they are doing a remarkable job of responding to consumer demand in other countries. And they have formulated their products differently. So Kraft and Coca-Cola and Walmart, they don’t use these ingredients in the products they distribute in other countries.

Now when I first learned that, at first, it was kind of depressing. But then I thought, we just need to teach each other here. And as I reflected on the fact that we’d introduced these proteins, there had all of this toxicity concern, I wanted to know, what are we spending on healthcare versus the rest of the world? The US spends more on healthcare than any country on the planet. 16% of our GDP goes towards managing disease. What that means is that a company like Starbucks spends more on healthcare costs than they do on coffee.

And as an American, I realized, this very easily could be affecting our global competitiveness. Because rather than driving profitability towards our core competencies in the global marketplace, we’re managing disease. And I thought, we don’t need to wait for regulation, we don’t need to wait for legislation, we can begin to exercise precaution in our own families, in our own communities, and in our own corporations, so that we can protect the health and well-being of our families, and ultimately, of our economy.

And as I was coming through all of this knowledge, and having dismissed all of it, it was pretty paralyzing. But then I realized, you can’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. And it’s really all about progress, not perfection. And while none of us can do everything, all of us can do one thing. And just as you don’t potty train a kid overnight, and you don’t wean them from a sippy cup overnight, this is a process that it doesn’t happen overnight.

But that as each and every single one of us does one thing, we have the ability to affect remarkable change. Because each and every single one of you has talents and attributes that you are uniquely good at. And when you leverage that with something that you are passionate about, you can effect remarkable change, in the health of your family, in the health of your company, and in the health of our country.

And the bottom line is there is nothing more patriotic that we could be doing. Thank you.

Announcer: You might get a standing ovation every time you give this talk, but we don’t get to give them all the time, so thank you for taking that in.



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