By David Fikes, Executive Director, FMI FoundationFMI Foundation recently hosted the first in a two-part digital seminar series designed to help FMI members prepare for the market release of gene-edited food products. The discussion featured presentations from three companies involved in various stages of gene-edited food development:
- Dr. Natalie DiNicola of Benson Hill shared a basic overview of the gene editing technology and how it is applied in seed development.
- Megan Thomas, vice president of communications and marketing for Pairwise, provided information about consumer reaction to a new gene-edited leafy green that the company has tested in three consumer markets and will soon release for public purchase.
- Dr. Kevin Diehl of Corteva Agriscience presented an update of his company’s experience of the domestic and international regulatory climate regarding gene-edited food products.
The group fielded questions from the seminar participants, with inquiries ranging from the relationship of gene-edited products to organic standards to concerns about pregnant mothers consuming gene-edited foods. There were also several inquiries about the patent issues surrounding gene-edited seeds.
What’s Up Next For Gene Editing Education?
Our next webinar will feature information about the Responsible Use of Gene Editing, a platform developed by the Center for Food Integrity with input from FMI and other stakeholders including seed companies, consumer groups, and food industry representatives. Companies using the platform as a means of providing information and promoting transparency surrounding their employment of the new food technology will share their experiences.
Time to Start Thinking
In terms of measuring company readiness for the advent of gene edited food products, FMI offers the following questions for internal consideration and discussion:
- Is your company going to make a policy determination about gene editing as a process, or will it make stocking decisions on a product-by-product basis?
- Will your company distinguish between gene-edited plant products and gene-edited animal products in your positioning? (Gene-edited animals – specifically, a more disease-resistant pig – are currently under USDA review and are likely a year or two away from marketplace readiness.)
- Are company associates prepared to answer customer questions about this new food technology? If not, what is being done to prepare them?
- Will your company preemptively publish its policy and gene editing determinations in public venues such as website, app, or circular or will it wait to react to consumer questions?
- What can the company be doing now to prevent gene editing from falling into the potholes experienced with GMO products?
- How important is it that retailers and manufacturers help consumers understand the difference between GMO products and gene-edited products? If too much is made of the distinctiveness of gene editing, is there a risk of disparaging products bearing GMO ingredients?
Additional resources including a white paper, research on consumer attitudes toward gene edited food products, and access to previous digital seminars are available on our biotechnology page. For additional information, please contact me at email@example.com.