Knowing Where It's Going: Bringing Food to Market in the Age of Genetically Modified Crops

Source Organization: Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology

01/21/2002 - While one way to segregate genetically modified (GM) crops from non-GM crops in the nation’s food delivery system may be the use of identity preservation (IP)--a method of tracking bulk commodities as they move from farm to dinner plate--such an approach may raise as many questions as it provides answers, found many of the nation’s top agricultural experts at a conference sponsored by The Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

The proceedings of the conference, "Knowing Where It’s Going: Bringing Food To Market in The Age of Genetically Modified Crops," where agricultural leaders gathered last fall to ask crucial questions such as whether or not to segregate GM crops on a massive scale, if the market is signaling that segregation is the wave of the future and, if so, what kinds of costs and liabilities would be involved, were released today by the two organizations.

Since the StarLink incident last year--when a type of genetically modified corn approved only for use in animal feed inadvertently made its way into the human food supply--the issue of how and whether to keep genetically modified crops separate from their conventionally-bred counterparts has come to the forefront.

"Genetically modified crops present marketing challenges--as well as opportunities--for every part of the chain of the food production and delivery system," said Michael Rodemeyer, executive director of the Initiative. "Seed producers, grain handlers and food manufacturers alike are all struggling to determine how they can best capture value from these new products. The marketplace is also growing ever more complex, with consumers demanding a wide variety of product choices--from organic, to conventional foods, to genetically modified food that could deliver enhanced nutritional benefits. For these reasons, we thought it was important to bring leaders from every perspective together and to create an environment where they could compare notes, explore differences and identify common needs."

The proceedings from "Knowing Where It’s Going" captures the many ideas put forth during the meeting in Minneapolis when more than 100 representative of the food delivery system (including leading agricultural economists, technology providers, grain handlers and food manufacturers) assembled to discuss the issues surrounding GM crops. In addition to the costs and benefits of IP systems, conference attendees also identified areas where further research is needed--an area of specific interest to the USDA. Research questions identified included:

  • What are the structural implications of increasing market differentiation through genetic engineering?  
  • What are the specific direct and indirect costs of switching from bulk commodity handling to IP systems?
  • How will these costs vary according to regulatory mandates and market conditions? 
  • What are the economics of sampling for the absence or presence of GM material?
Read the complete proceedings Knowing Where It's Going: Bringing Food to Market in the Age of Genetically Modified Crops.

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