OMG, GMOs - Good? Or Just Pure Evil
Among the trendy words in food manufacturing and foodservice is the enigmatic GMO—or Genetically Modified Organisms. In this case, the organisms are food products, such as produce.
So, what is the verdict on GMOs? Well, there isn’t one. Okay, article over.
The truth is: There is not enough information available. There are, at most, speculative pros or cons, but that’s guesswork at this point. There’s just uncertainty. And there’s nothing wrong with uncertainty because it is important to analyze the GMO practice and trend instead of place a positive or negative stigma.
“I honestly believe that consumers just don’t know enough about [GMOs],” says Marie Molde, a registered dietician and client solutions at research firm Datassential. “They use cloudy terms. It’s almost like there’s not enough context or understanding.”
In some cases, consumers turn a blind eye to GMO on the menu. Have you tried that super-delicious-I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-beef and famous “Impossible Burger?” Modified soy. MODIFIED. “Impossible” to eat it now?
According to Datassential, the metrics show that, as a term, “GMO” appears on only one percent of menus. But, look historically and it shows a trend. That menu prevalence is up 193 percent since 2015. More data is needed in the next three years to five years to understand its potential to the marketplace.
Molde notes that because it’s a science-based innovation related to food yield, people are in a wait-and-see mode. And, thanks to technology and science surrounding our lives, these innovations intrigue people at the very least. They are more open to it versus more traditional healthy trend terms like “farm fresh,” “superfood” or “no saturated fat.”
What do we know?
Operators should know which products are the most common under the GMO umbrella. To prepare for incoming customer “fire” in the form of sourcing questions, talking about GMO as it is now and as it will be, only helps inform the public the right way.
Some things we know:
- Beets, cotton, corn and soy are among the most prevalent GMO products used.
- GMO products appear most on menus with American and Mexican cuisines.
- Most prevalent in the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) and Fast Casual segments.
- GMO innovation produces more yield. This is attractive to consumers due to climate change concerns and food production. GMO products are a solution to curb that concern.
- Non-GMO lags as a food descriptor for which people will pay extra. On the other end of the spectrum: free-range, organic, gluten-free.
On the G(MO)round
Dave Harris, co-founder of Original Bagel Company, says as a food manufacturer, “It’s an interesting conversation. … You can say GMOs are good. Because in a way a company could produce more yield and food. Or say it’s bad because you shouldn’t be messing with nature.”
For operators such as Mat Lucas, partner and executive chef at Bold American Fare in Algonquin, Ill., the concern about GMO or non-GMO is availability and price. If it makes sense for his business, he’ll engage. The “tag” isn’t a lead decider.
When asked if there’s a difference in the quality or process of a product, Dave Harris at Original Bagel says, “There is no difference at all.”