Speaking with FoodNavigator-USA at the recent IFT Annual Meeting and Expo in Chicago, George Pontiakos said: “I don’t think we’ll see government mandated GMO labeling,” said Pontiakos. “I don’t think the FDA views it as unsafe. I think it will be a marketing issue. I think consumers in many demographics are going to want non-GMO product, and retailers like Whole Foods will service that customer base.
“The mass market guys will wait and see, I think. Are the customers going to pay an upcharge for a non-GMO product or not?”
Concerns about a patchwork effect if different states introduce GMO labeling initiatives are similar to the effects of Prop 65 from California, he said. “Prop 65 is a singular California issue that affects the other 49 states. People cannot afford to have multiple skus for multiple states to make sure that product is not in non-compliance with state law. It’s going to be a logistics challenge internal in operations to support GMO and non-GMO products.”
Pontiakos noted that the challenge for the issue is, in his opinion, about the definition, how do you define a genetically modified product?
“I think it’s a media issue. It makes a good topic. People are interested in it. They want to have healthy food. They don’t want to have a situation where they’re ingesting isn’t safe.
“Is it truly bad for you? I haven’t seen any definite studies – at least in my landscape – that have shown it to be detrimental, and the FDA hasn’t either, obviously, or they would have done something about it.”
“A lot of the industry on the GMO side has not done a very good job in educating the consumer. You need genetically modified foods from a pesticide perspective to reduce that. You need it from a yield perspective because you have a lot of hungry people in this world.”
From a business perspective, Pontiakos said that BI has received “a tremendous amount of interest [from customers]. We’re looking at a number of suppliers that have non-GMO fields. It very much parallels the organic market: You have to find a field that is certifiable non-GMO or organic, and then hope that the field is managed to maintain that integrity.”