Is the Ag Industry Taking Notice of the Consumer?

By Maria Onofrio

Tue, 3 Jul 2018

IS THE AGRICULTURAL INDUSTRY TAKING NOTICE OF THE CONSUMER?

Consumer behaviour in the food industry is presenting itself as one of the main controls over the way that the agricultural industry operates. From resistance to ag biotechnology practices that support the creation of Genetically Modified Foods, to increased calls for sustainable farming methods, consumers are nowadays dictating the rules that they expect the industry to follow. But is the latter taking notice of what the former wants?

Although the answer might present itself as a simple one, it is important to note the differences between the U.S. and E.U. approach towards food biotech practices and take into consideration their legal backgrounds to gain a better understanding.

HOW CONSUMERS SHAPE THE FUTURE OF THE FOOD AND AGRICULTURE INDUSTRIES

Both the United States and European Union are effectively committing themselves to listen and put into practice the demands of the consumers in terms of food, with both regions wanting to deliver safe and healthy foods through sustainable practices for the betterment of the environment. Though, to date, the U.S. and the E.U., have taken quite different approaches in relation to GM Foods, modified products are still a main concern for the consumer in today’s market.  

The United States, who used to have a strict regulatory environment posture in the early 1980s, is now becoming more permissive in terms of GMOs, whilst the European Union is following the exact opposite trend, and thus becoming more conservative.

Following its representatives’ ruling, one can argue that the American population has not yet developed the sensitivity Europeans have towards Genetically Modified foods and considers their regulation as secondary. But is this really the case?

Over the past few years, and in accordance with the Nutrition Business Journal, the demand for non-GMO foods have skyrocketed: sales of non-GMO products that were either certified organic or that carried the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal have increased by 80 percent. It has as well prompted a growing number of industries to avoid using GMOs in new products or to voluntarily reformulate existing ones so that they can display reliable non-GMO labels. PepsiCo, for example, sells Stacy’s Simply Naked bagel and pita chips with the Non-GMO Project Verified seal; General Mills, which introduced a non-GMO original Cheerios cereal, also has the non-GMO product lines Cascadian Farm and Food Should Taste Good.

THE RISING CONCERN OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD IN THE MARKET

According to a representative survey from the Consumer Reports National Research Centre, 92% of Americans believe that GM foods should be labelled before they are sold, and while GMO labelling is mandatory in more than 60 countries (mostly European ones), it is not in the U.S.  

Opponents to mandatory labelling frequently say that it unjustly implies that foods with genetically engineered ingredients are not safe. Those in favour of mandatory labels argue that even if researchers are still studying the health impact of GMOs, consumers have a right to know what is in their food. “Producers already must label foods that are frozen, from concentrate, homogenized, or irradiated,” says Jean Halloran, director of food-policy initiatives at Consumers Union. “GMO labelling is one more piece of helpful information.”

THE TRUE IMPACT OF THE CONSUMERS

Although opinions might be divided, it is up to consumers to decide on the final saying and for companies and government representatives to follow them. “I don’t think people realize how much power they really have in the marketplace,” says Megan Westgate, executive director of the Non-GMO Project. The Non-GMO Project Verified seal, launched in 2010, now appears on more than 22,000 products that represent $8.5 billion in annual sales at retailers across the country. “At least 200 companies that have come to us to become non-GMO verified have said they were prompted to make that change because of calls or letters they’d gotten from consumers.”

At AG40, academics and industry leaders will be presenting an exclusive panel on consumer behaviour bringing a unique approach on how industries and agribusinesses are adapting to it. Attendees will also have the chance to explore how innovations within traceability and transparency within the supply-chain are helping to improve tracking-back of products and production processes.

To find out more about the workshop and how you can be involved, following the link here: www.challenge.org/ag40


ABOUT AG40

Challenge Advisory is bringing together AG40, a unique workshop where organisations will have the ability to network amongst each other for precise and profitable resolutions across the entire industry. There will be panel discussions and workshop sessions designed to create partnerships and profitable business development, helping to find cross-specialism solutions to current sectoral challenges.

Join Challenge Advisory and all our stakeholders for education, interoperability and investment relating to the latest technology in digital agriculture – click here to find out more:

www.challenge.org/ag40


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Maria Onofrio

monofrio@challenge.org

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