Biotech acceptance will come in baby steps

05/10/2013 09:53:00 AM
Tom Karst

As we know, the flurry of optimism in the early 1990s was misplaced. What happened to the Flavr Savr tomato anyway?

There are a few biotech fruits and vegetables in the market place today, but certainly not hundreds.

Consumer acceptance of biotech fruits and vegetables continues to be a question mark, with some consumer groups still trumpeting worries about “frankenfoods.” That note is getting tired.

There will be more and more attempts to bring biotech fruits and vegetables to market. The non-browning Arctic apple is waiting U.S. Department of Agriculture approval.

J.R. Simplot has recently petitioned the USDA for approval of a biotech potato that the company says is “genetically engineered for low acrylamide potential (acrylamide is a human neurotoxicant and potential carcinogen that may form in potatoes and other starchy foods under certain cooking conditions) and reduced black spot bruise.”

Del Monte has won USDA approval for a biotech variety of pineapple that the company says is still undergoing tests.

The signal that the market accepts genetically modified fruits and vegetables comes when John and Jane Q. Consumer say “ho-hum” when given news of another unveiling of another biotech fruit or vegetable.

I don’t think there will be any one event that will be the turning point in the market acceptance of biotech fruits and vegetables. But with one new biotech variety finding approval after another, retailers and consumers may not get so excited about the next.

Biotech will neither save nor destroy agriculture as we know it. In the end, it is the “no big deal” response that will finally signal a new norm.

It will be faith in U.S. regulatory bodies, such as it is, that will win the day for biotech crops. The organic community and a slice of consumers may never embrace genetically modified fruits and vegetables.

But with the pace about to pick up in regulatory approvals of biotech varieties, the baby steps toward full biotech acceptance will continue, with inevitable sidesteps around fear, uncertainty and doubt.



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