Fruit Logistica program looks to the future - The Packer

Fruit Logistica program looks to the future

01/24/2014 09:49:00 AM
Tom Karst

Tom Karst, National EditorTom Karst, National EditorIf today is tomorrow’s yesterday, what is tomorrow?

Word games aside, the riddle of what is coming around the bend is always before us.

Is the stock market due for a big correction or simply a maturing bull market?

Is online retailing really going to steamroll brick and mortar retailers?

Will spring ever come in 2014?

Trends and forward-focused programming is the first order of business for trade shows, and a prime example is the imminent Fruit Logistica show in Berlin.

A schedule of the Feb. 5-7 event’s Future Lab was recently released and the agenda promises to present “products, projects and solutions aimed at enhancing the fruit and vegetable sector with innovations in the coming years.”

Whether these workshops are truly windows into the world as it will exist in 10 years or so much hot air won’t be known for some time.

Predictions can’t be laughed at when they are made because the veracity of the speculation won’t be known for years and perhaps decades.

Often the most woefully wrong predictions are the ones that aren’t made.

Looking back at The Packer’s coverage of prediction-oriented trade show workshops from the 1990s, I saw no mention of organic and local food as trends worth watching.

That was a major miss by the industry’s fearless forecasters.

But lest we sleep on the next practically perfect prediction, here is a quick look at a couple of workshops from the Fruit Logistica Future Lab.

One presentation is titled “Fighting Black Sigatoka — the end for Cavendish?” The speaker will be Gianluca Gondolini, executive secretary of the World Banana Forum.

The description of the Feb. 5 workshop builds a note of drama and a cliffhanger question to resolve:

“The problem is that cavendish bananas are threatened by diseases such as black sigatoka and TR4. Can these diseases be controlled? If so, how? And what alternative solutions are there?”

Are we going to wake up one day and look at the fruit bowl and see no bananas?

I doubt it, but let’s wait to see what the Future Lab workshop says about the “end of the cavendish.”

Another Future Lab workshop, set for Feb. 6, is titled “Customized fruit — to your health!”

A news release from Fruit Logistica said the speaker, Andrew MacKenzie, business development manager for Plant & Food Research, New Zealand, will look at the intriguing question of marketing specific health benefits to consumers through plant breeding.

The workshop summary said the presentation focuses on discoveries in the area of health benefits from fruit and looks at how these may be brought to consumers.

I have recently been exploring the topic of specific health benefits and health claims for fruit and vegetable commodities, so this workshop caught my eye.

For this prediction, the future is almost now. Just this week, I read the headline “Monsanto is going organic in search for the perfect veggie.” Published online Jan. 21 by Wired, the feature looks at the agri-business giant’s vegetable-breeding efforts.

After documenting Monsanto’s modern-day lightning rod status as the biotech bogeyman, this paragraph by Ben Paynter nicely captures the whole gist of the story:

“But here’s the twist: The lettuce, peppers and broccoli — plus a melon and an onion, with a watermelon soon to follow — aren’t genetically modified at all. Monsanto created all these veggies using good old-fashioned cross-breeding, the same tech­nology that farmers have been using to optimize crops for millennia. That doesn’t mean they are low tech, exactly. Stark’s division is drawing on Monsanto’s accumulated scientific know-how to create vegetables that have all the advantages of genetically modified organisms without any of the Frankenfoods ick factor.”

The story focuses on executive David Stark and Monsanto’s vegetable business, notably after its acquisition of Seminis in 2005.

Since then, Monsanto has introduced several non-GMO new produce varieties, including:

 

  •  Beneforte broccoli (high levels of glucoraphanin, good for antioxidants);

  •  EverMild onions (reduced levels of the tear-inducing lachrymatory factor);

  •  Melorange melon (a melon that won’t spoil when ripe);

  •  Frescada lettuce (146% more folate, 74% more vitamin C); and

  •  BellaFina peppers (smaller size for greater utility).

 

The takeaway from the Wired piece isn’t that Monsanto hasn’t conquered all its critics — the 89 comments (and rising) as of Jan. 22 show Monsanto still has an image problem — but that the “new Monsanto way” of breeding using genetic markers and traditional cross-breeding may just give the agri-business giant a softer and more appealing image.

And who could have predicted that 10 years ago?

tkarst@thepacker.com

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