In discussion groups (and also at the 4th Budapest International Covid Conference), there is a theory that the labels of the Rainforest Alliance and Apeel indicate on foods that they are poisoned, harmful or “contain mRNA”. The biggest argument for this is that both companies were supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it seems that in 2023 this is more than enough to pull the wet sheet over one company. However, the Rainforest Alliance is actually a non-profit organization that labels sustainable products, and Apeel makes a protective layer for fruits and vegetables that prevents water loss and keeps the fruit from interacting with oxygen to keep it fresh longer.
The fake news concerning the two companies really started to spread this year, and in addition to the Hungarian language, they also spread through the Polish, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, German and Greek social media. The claims should be examined on two levels: one concerns the Rainforest Alliance frog, and the other concerns the Apeel logo.
The little frog is not poisoned
The small green frog is the logo of the Rainforest Alliance, it indicates on a product if it meets the environmental, social and economic sustainability conditions of the non-profit organization. It typically appears on fruits, cocoa-containing foods, teas and coffees, and the frog is its symbol because scientists consider the frog to be a kind of bioindicator – if the frog population is healthy somewhere, the environment is likely to be healthy, and vice versa. It is important to note that the frog logo does not mean that the given product fully complies with the Rainforest Alliance conditions, but rather that the origin of one of its ingredients (such as cocoa or coffee) is certified.
The Rainforest Alliance was founded (contrary to some theories, not by Bill Gates, but by) Daniel Katz in 1986, at the age of 24. Bill Gates has no ownership, management position and no influence in the organization. However, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation did support the Rainforest Alliance 16 years ago, in 2007, with $5,343,025 to be exact, with a 53-month implementation period, for agricultural development. It was a one-time sum, and since then there is no sign of Bill Gates being involved in the work of the organization in any way.
The Rainforest Alliance’s revenue comes largely from royalties (over $55.6 million), followed by government grants (over $20 million), followed only by foundations and corporate grants ($7 million), which includes Bill Also supported by the Gates Foundation.
No atrazine, no extraneous mRNA
A significant part of the claims circulating on social media is that Bill Gates himself “puts” atrazine in frog products. Atrazine is a crop protection agent, mainly used in the cultivation of corn, its main purpose is to selectively kill annual grasses and broadleaf weeds before they emerge. In addition to corn, it was also often used on sorghum and sugar cane. In addition, atrazine products are registered for wheat, macadamia nuts, and guava, and for non-agricultural uses such as ornamentals and turf. Thus, the claim circulating in the posts that atrazine is primarily used in the cultivation of cocoa and coffee is also incorrect.
Moreover, on March 10, 2004, the European Commission added it to Annex I of Directive 91/414, i.e. among the plant protection products whose use is prohibited within the European Union. Pursuant to the provision, all pesticides containing atrazine had to be withdrawn from circulation throughout Europe by September 10, 2004. The main concern was groundwater contamination.
In terms of its effects on humans, atrazine can cause weight loss, cardiovascular diseases, retinal and muscle degeneration, and contribute to the development of asthma, eczema, and allergies. It is particularly toxic to algae. It is also included in the Hungarian list of hazardous substances. It is therefore clear that we are talking about a truly harmful compound.
However, there is no evidence whatsoever that products labeled by the Rainforest Alliance contain atrazine, and in fact, the organization strictly prohibits the use of the pesticide in the areas it controls. Likewise, there is no evidence of artificially added mRNA in foods. It is important to know that messenger RNAs can also be found naturally in living beings, they convey the hereditary genetic information from the DNA molecule that stores the information of the cells to the site of protein synthesis, the ribosomes. However, products with a frog logo are likely to be afraid of artificially added mRNA. Earlier, there was also a conspiracy theory that farm animals will be vaccinated with coronavirus vaccines, so we will also consume such mRNA from food, but this is not true for two reasons: on the one hand, there is no approved Covid vaccine for animals, and on the other hand, the mRNA it “survives” in the body for a very short time, so it could not get into the meat intended for consumption even if the animals were vaccinated. Thus, it wouldn’t make sense to “put” mRNA into the products.
This Apeel is not that Apeel
Apeel actually adds a plant-based extra layer to vegetables and fruits to extend their shelf life until they are on the supermarket shelves and waiting for customers to take them home. Apeel’s product is made from mono- and diglycerides, which are found in all fruits and vegetables. The safe consumption of these ingredients has a long history and is regularly monitored by regulatory authorities around the world. Apeel says on its website that they regularly test their products to ensure they are free of pesticides, herbicides, allergens and trans fats.
The social media posts in question typically cite a document related to Apeel in which the company itself allegedly admits that its product causes severe eye damage, allergic reactions, and long-term adverse effects on aquatic life. Apeel is also criticized for not knowing exactly what its coatings are made of – even though a separate chapter on the company’s FAQ page deals with this.
As for the adverse side effects, the social media posts typically point to a product information sheet, which is not an Apeel document, but a British cleaning company called Evans Vanodine Europe, and that company’s Apeel product. Eye damage and an allergic reaction to this are especially realistic, since it is a cleaning agent, and all such products are labeled so that it does not come into contact with the eyes. By the way, this is easy to find out from the product brochure, since the name of the company is visible under “supplier”. By the way, Evans Vanodine also warns on its website that it has no connection with the company Apeel Sciences (the manufacturer of the fruit and vegetable coating), and also warns that no one should use its cleaning products on food.
Apeel Sciences was also supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with $100,000 in 2012 to help reduce post-harvest food waste in developing countries where food is not refrigerated. The company also received money from the foundation in 2015, $985,161 for 30 months. However, there is no evidence that Bill Gates would be involved in the company’s work more deeply than this, and the two grants are dwarfed by the fact that Apeel already collected more than 300 million dollars in funding in 2012, a tiny fraction of which was given by the Gates Foundation .