I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret: I’m pretty ambivalent on GMOs. There are days I think they ought to be banned, and then there are days when I think they may be the solution to world hunger. I bring up GMOs for a couple of reasons. One, October is non-GMO month and you’ve probably seen indications of this in your local supermarket (or online store, more likely).
Two, just a few days ago, Argentina became the first country in the world to green-light the growth and consumption of drought-resistant genetically modified wheat. This is a pretty bold move by a country that is a major exporter of wheat but does not yet have buyers for the GM version of the crop.
It’s also pretty gutsy at a time when consumer sentiment is against GMOs for a whole host of reasons, ranging from they’re bad for health to they’re bad for farmers. Interest in non-GMO foods or GMO-free foods has been a fairly steady mainstream trend over the last few years. It registered a pretty significant dip in 2020, most likely a result of COVID-19, which seems to have thrown a number of trends off-kilter.
Data from our platform shows that non-GMO is the sixth most popular claim amongst product launches, with around 4% of products highlighting this claim.
If you’d like to explore the product categories with the highest number of GMO-free products or see what the more popular food claims are, be sure to check out complete insights by logging into your account here.
Another reason I’m bringing up GMOs now is because of the Nobel Prize announcements coming in. The Nobel Prize for chemistry this year went jointly to Jennifer A Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, the two ladies who developed CRISPR-Cas9, the gene-editing technology that allows DNA in any organism to be rewritten.
CRISPR has a number of benefits in medicine, but in the context of food, it could lead to a less controversial and less harmful alternative to GM crops. Gene-editing using CRISPR involves making minor tweaks to DNA to get specific results, while genetic modification involves removing a gene from one organism and introducing it into another. Gene editing can be achieved through conventional breeding – only it would have taken decades or even centuries to get the desired results. The new CRISPR technology can give us much faster results.
Start-ups like Pairwise Plants are using gene-editing tech to develop more nutritious and hardy fruits and vegetables that may not be harmful to the agri ecosystem in the ways that GMOs might be. Perhaps in the coming years, as gene-editing becomes more prevalent, we can expect to see GMO-related claims go gently into the good night.
Until next time…
Stay safe. Wear a mask.
Ranjana works as the Lead Research Analyst for Spoonshot. Her past experience includes working with a major global market research company, specializing in food and drink trends. She has also worked with major publications as a writer and editor.