If you’ve been paying attention to recent news, you know that agriculture and food production will change radically in the next few years as developments in analytical technology allow food to be scrutinized more easily and closely than it has ever been before.
If you haven’t been paying attention, here’s a snapshot: Within a few months, technology will be readily available that allows anyone to measure parts per billion concentrations of pesticide residues, many untested chemicals, heavy metals, plastics, mycotoxins and infectious organisms such as E. coli. This means that toxins on crops will be immediately detectable by wholesale buyers, consumers and crop scouts. As this technology is used, people will begin writing and publicizing what they are finding about which brands and foods contain toxins. How do you think this will impact food buying behavior?
Many of the toxins that are about to become easily detectable are not being widely tested today. We can hope that when we do begin testing them, levels will be within acceptable ranges. Unfortunately, limited testing done so far indicates that some serious toxicities probably will be revealed. Where this proves to be the case, growers need to be prepared to shift crop production practices to eliminate potential toxins.
These changes will be accelerated by rapidly growing consumer demand for healthier food. Food corporations will need to to protect themselves from any potential liabilities and will begin scrutinizing the fruits, vegetables and grains they buy to make absolutely certain they are free of toxins.
Campbell Soup, General Mills, Mars, Kellogg’s and ConAgra, which together represent a substantial percentage of the food supply chain, have announced they will label products containing genetically modified organisms. It remains to be seen how this will play out, but it’s obvious these large firms are concerned about consumer perception of the integrity of their products.
How badly do consumers want to be able identify healthy food? According to the idea of diffusion of innovations, a theory that seeks to explain how new ideas and technology are adopted, we may have already crossed the threshold where enough people consider it critical that this new technology could trigger a rapid upset of the food supply chain.
Diffusion of innovations theory divides the population into innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. It holds that for any new idea or technology to become mainstream, a “critical mass” of adopters is needed. And the critical mass needed to drive a change is probably much lower than you expect. When innovators and early adopters buy into an idea or technology, others follow. The proportion of early adopters and innovators is often somewhere between only 7 and 13 percent of the whole group. This means that when as little as 7 to 13 percent of the marketplace shifts, everyone else shifts fairly quickly.
When Campbell Soup, General Mills, Mars, Kellogg’s and ConAgra announce their intention to label their GMO-containing products, that signals a substantial shift that is likely much greater than the percentage they represent in the industry. How will this consumer desire for GMO labeling transfer to their desire to know the level of toxins in their food? We expect that many people will want to know, and will quickly learn which brands have the cleanest food. This will drive food processors and manufacturers to respond, and the demands of their customers will become what processors demand of their suppliers. If farms produce foods that contain toxins beyond allowable levels, those excesses will be identified quickly and may carry substantial liabilities for farmers and food processors who don’t identify and manage this risk.
Are you ready for this level of scrutiny and analysis of your crops? If the answer is no, or that you don't know, you need to begin thinking about how to make certain you are in a strong position to meet the market’s demands. Advancing Eco Agriculture can help. Our program helps growers substantially reduce the need for pesticide applications by increasing plant immunity. We can help you reduce toxins in your operation in a very straightforward fashion.
The future is now. The time to prepare is now. We look forward to helping you increase profitability and reduce risks on your farm.