Vermont State Legislature
In May of 2014, Vermont's state legislature passed a bill requiring the labeling of foods that contain GMOs. When the law goes into effect in mid-2016, the Green Mountain State will become the first with an active labeling law. The only obstacle? While Vermont has the potential to be a leader in the future of GMO labeling throughout the nation, the law will have to first survive a challenge in federal court by the Grocery Manufacturer's Association. Both sides expect the case to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Vertical Harvest of Jackson Hole
Breaking ground in 2014, this Wyoming-based agri-business will enhance the local economy by operating year round to sell fresh, locally grown produce to a community with harsh winters. With a conveyor belt designed to rotate plants using both natural and artificial light, Vertical Harvest expects to harvest 4,400 pounds of herbs, 44,000 tomatoes, and about 37,000 pounds of greens per year by the time they're in full operation in spring 2016. An added bonus? The three-story greenhouse will use less energy than transporting produce from other destinations.
Reisa Sperling, MD
As the leader of the A4 (Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer's) trial, one of largest, most promising Alzheimer's studies to date, Dr. Reisa Sperling is on a mission to defeat the degenerative disease. A neurologist specializing in dementia and imagine research, Sperling also serves as the Director of the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Director of the Neuroimaging Core and the Outreach Core of the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. She's currently in the midst of clinical trials of promising therapies aimed at preventing memory loss due to Alzheimer's and is the co-recipient of the $100,000 2015 Potamkin Prize for her research in Alzheimer's and related diseases.
Stephen Schoenberger, PhD
Recently awarded a two-year $200,000 Clinic and Laboratory Integration Program Grant by the nonprofit Cancer Research Institute, Dr. Stephen Schoenberger is working with Dr. Ezra Cohen to study whether the immune systems of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma contain immune cells capable of attacking tumor cells. Their approach, immunotherapy, is one that involves using the immune system to control or defeat cancer. Schoenberger, who's currently working on clinical trials with patients who are receiving vaccines against their own tumors, says that he's at the "threshold of a more logical way of treating cancer."
Ian Somerhalder may be one handsome actor (he's the star of CW's The Vampire Diaries), but he's also an animal rights activist with his own nonprofit foundation (the Ian Somerhalder Foundation), which supports no-kill shelters and animal adoption. Last year, the 37-year-old was awarded the "Dog's Best Friend" title in the first-ever World Dog Awards. Since then, he's been designated as a United Nations Environment Programme Goodwill Ambassador, and asked fans to "go greener" by making choices that are both good for people and the planet. His next goal? ISF's Animal Sanctuary, a safe-haven for animals that have been mistreated, neglected, or seen as misfits. Somerhalder's foundation sees this sanctuary different than those that already exist, in that it will allow the animals to coexist with others that have dealt with a similar emotional journey.
Ben & Jerry's
Perhaps most famous today for its Free Cone Days and its interesting ingredient combinations, the truth is the brand has been up to a lot more than plain vanilla over the last four decades. In 2015, Ben & Jerry's made a complete transition to non-GMO ingredients and began using Fair Trade Certified ingredients whenever possible, sourcing dairy ingredients free of recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH. In 2016, the ice cream giant is looking to continue to lead by example, developing vegan ice cream alternatives that fans have been demanding for quite some time. The first mainstream company to do so, Ben & Jerry's upcoming non-dairy flavors will set a precedent for other big food companies, showcasing the consumer's desire for alternatives. The company also backs clean energy and has a plan in place to create 100 percent of its energy at U.S. sites from clean energy by 2020.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Known as a trendsetter in the food industry for sourcing high-quality ingredients as part of their "Food with Integrity" commitment, Chipotle upped the ante in 2015 by making a switch to serve food made only with non-GMO ingredients. This move built on work to partner with farmers and suppliers, who operate responsibly and with a commitment to the health of the environment, efforts that the company has been proactive in marketing to the public. Following a series of foodborne illness outbreaks last year, we’re hopeful that the fast casual restaurant giant will recover its reputation through renewed dedication to food safety.