How can Genetically Modified Organisms make their way to market?
GMOs will become an integral part of the world food marketplace in years to come, as the world becomes more reliant on GM techniques to feed the growing populus.
We can see the changing perspectives on GMOs happening across the world and this is aided by the work of many groups.
Evidence suggests that changing consumer purchasing behaviour relies on price, more than any other factor.
Fig1. shows a budding plant, a nice metaphor for the current GM food market.
When it comes to the commercialisation of GMOs, our research strongly suggests that question is not ‘if’, but ‘when’. There is increasing financial and political momentum behind the research and development of GMOs. In order to successfully introduce GMOs to market, good timing is crucial. This timing is controlled greatly by consumers’ changing perceptions of GMOs.
At the height of protest against GMOs around the mid-2000s, 45% of Europeans intended not to purchase GMO produce (Europeans countries have topped the most ‘anti-GMO’ lists for some time) (1). Since then, people’s perceptions of GMOs have slowly become more positive. This is aided by more studies and more reputable figures which present GMOs as safe, green and economically necessary (2). Before we know it, this shift in sociopolitical pressure will result in more and more governments loosening their restrictive GMO laws and educating their citizens about the safety and benefits of GMOs (3). This presents an enormous opportunity for companies to invest in GMOs.
Fig2. shows an Arabidopsis plant that has just germinated. This is the way many plants may be grown in the future.
So what does the phrase “GMOs are economically necessary” mean? The UN currently estimates that the global population will grow to nearly 9 billion by 2035 and nearly 10 billion by 2050 (4). To feed this population will require an increase in agricultural productivity by 60%, but current estimates suggest that this increase is unlikely without dramatic changes in food production (5). The most likely solutions will include investing more in GMO development and reducing food waste. This increasing demand for food will drive prices up even more (6). This could be controlled by price ceilings set by governments and/or by increased competition from biotech and agritech investors (e.g. genetic engineering and aeroponics). Therefore, we at SECA NZ have focused on using genetic engineering to increase crop yields because this allows for cheaper prices. Price influences food consumption more than freshness, GMO-labelling, nutrition or any other factor (7).
- Miles, Ueland and Frewer, 2005: http://www.emeraldinsight.com.ezproxy.auckland.ac.nz/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/00070700510589521
- Support Precision Agriculture, 2017: http://supportprecisionagriculture.org/
- Tagliabue, 2017: https://jcom.sissa.it/sites/default/files/documents/JCOM_1504_2016_Y01.pdf
- Defez, 2017: http://www.emeraldinsight.com.ezproxy.auckland.ac.nz/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/NFS-04-2016-0049
- Vlontzos and Duquenne, 2016: http://www.emeraldinsight.com.ezproxy.auckland.ac.nz/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/NFS-12-2015-0153