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When it comes to discussing GMOs, it’s impossible to ignore the long and growing shadow cast by organic food. If there is anything that signifies wholesomeness, a return to the earth, and nostalgia for an idealized past that never actually existed, it’s that. No pesticides. No herbicides. No antibiotics. No modern genetic tinkering. In other words, they are safe. Walk through a Whole Foods and escape into a healthy utopia. (At least, that’s what they’re peddling.
A recent YouGov poll indicates that millennials (you know, the super-consumer group companies are bending over backwards to accommodate) prefer quality over quantity or price when it comes to purchasing food.
At the same time, a 2018 YouGov poll indicates that most Californians believe they eat healthier than the rest of the country. Most of those also eat organic, suggesting that they believe organic and healthy are synonymous or at least believe there is a degree of correlation between the two.
Californians aren’t the outliers when it comes to eating organic food. They’re becoming the norm, making organic products a high growth industry. The numbers bear this out. According to Statistica, the organic market has grown steadily each year since 2000. In 2017 sales of organic food amounted to $97 billion. In 2000, that number was a more modest $18 billion. North America accounts for half of all organic sales. Farmers see what’s going on and are acting on it. In 2017, 70 million hectares of organic farms worldwide. North America accounts of half of all organic food sales.
This 2015 chart shows the almost exponential increase in U.S. sales.
In the US, organic price points tend to be higher. Any visit to Whole Foods, derisively referred to as Whole Paycheck, will tell you that. According to the United States Department of Agriculture:
At the retail level, the two top organic food sales categories, receive significant price premiums over conventionally grown products. ERS also analyzed organic prices for 18 fruits and 19 vegetables… and found that the organic premium was less than 30 percent for over two thirds of the items. The premium for only one item — blueberries — exceeded 100 percent.
Obviously, this has done nothing to deter consumers, especially millennials. As a result, organic food has become increasingly mainstream and demand just continues to rise. The notion of paying more for quality is by now cliche.
So where does this leave GM products? With something to prove. They’re quite obviously the anti-organic product par excellence, dismissed out of hand without investigation or insight. The first step in its acceptance — if that day ever arrives — is proving that it is safe for consumption, by no means a given, something we’ll be addressing next week.
IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons