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Stevia Update; Meet Tom Vilsack

A day after we published the news about Coca-Cola and Cargill moving forward with its stevia-based sweetener TruVia — ahead of an FDA re-evaluation of the herb’s safety — the agency issued a issued a “no objection letter” with respect to the stevia extract developed by them, as well a similar product created by Whole Earth Sweetener Company and Pepsi, the team behind a competing stevia-based sweetener, called PureVia.

Now, onto the former Iowa governor and an earlier opponent of president-elect Barack Obama. Obama named Tom Vilsack to be his Secretary of Agriculture, and already there are calls for him to re-evaluate the nation’s ethanol policy, which has played havoc on feed and food prices, as well as ongoing controversies surrounding the inactive Farm Bill passed in June, food safety and animal welfare.

“We’re hopeful that Governor Vilsack will take an objective look at the volatility corn ethanol has imposed on the food and fuel system, and its adverse impact on the environment,” Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, the Washington-based advocacy group, told Bloomberg News.

Vilsack comes on board knowing Obama plans to make alternative energy sources a foundation of his domestic policy, and biofuels will likely play a key role. It’s wise to remember Vilsack was an avid supporter of ethanol programs when he was governor of his corn-rich state.