Sup­ply and de­mand

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@tc.tc Twit­ter: @Wanger­sky.

It is the pith and sub­stance of cap­i­tal­ism and the free mar­ket: make a bet­ter prod­uct, one that peo­ple want, and you’ll be re­warded. Make a prod­uct the con­sumer doesn’t want, and you will fail. If your prod­uct is in de­mand, you get the chance to in­crease price. If it isn’t, drop­ping the price is one of the few ways to make it at­trac­tive.

At least, it works that way as long as no one, and no gov­ern­ment, ar­ti­fi­cially in­ter­feres with the process.

In mid-Novem­ber, the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­proved the consumption of ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied salmon. It’s the first time a ge­net­i­cally al­tered an­i­mal has been ap­proved as a food. The Aqua Bounty salmon has deep roots in At­lantic Canada — it was first de­vel­oped us­ing re­search from Me­mo­rial Univer­sity in St. John’s, and its cur­rent op­er­a­tion pro- duces salmon eggs in P.E.I. (though the fish are grown out in Panama).

Trade­marked as AquAd­van­tage salmon, th­ese fish grow al­most twice as fast as tra­di­tional aqua­cul­ture salmon; the process in­volves us­ing a growth hor­mone gene from Chi­nook salmon, along with a gene trig­ger from the ocean pout. (The ocean pout trig­ger keeps the Chi­nook gene switched on con­stantly.)

Get­ting the salmon to this point has taken more than two decades; part of the de­lay has been pub­lic un­ease with eat­ing the ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied prod­uct.

And there’s more un­ease com­ing: the FDA has said it will not re­quire the salmon to be la­belled as ge­net­i­cally en­gi­neered, a stance in keep­ing with the way many reg­u­la­tory agen­cies have viewed ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied plant crops.

You can ar­gue that peo­ple un­rea­son­ably fear ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied foods, that a largely un­in­formed pub­lic might shy away from pur­chas­ing salmon or corn or any­thing else that has un­der­gone a tin­ker or two deep in its ge­netic code. Fair enough. But we re­quire fat, sodium and calo­rie counts on pro­cessed foods — whether or not or cus­tomers understand or even read them. And we’re sur­rounded by foods whose price de­pends ex­actly on the de­tails of its ori­gin: Parme­san cheese, Cham­pagne and Bel­gian chocolate, to name a few at the top of the sup­ply and de­mand chain.

Since AquAd­van­tage grows faster, there must al­ready be a po­ten­tial price edge for its de­vel­op­ers; they won’t be buy­ing feed for as long.

Sell AquAd­van­tage if you like. But la­bel it for what it is. Then, in­formed con­sumers can de­cide whether they want to buy. If I want to eat grass-fed beef or or­ganic beef or bi­son, I should be able to trust that I know ex­actly what I’m eat­ing. Some ar­gue that ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied crops are noth­ing more than a kind of sped-up hy­bridiza­tion. Do I need to point out that if I want to pick dif­fer­ent hy­brid ap­ples, all I have to do is read the la­bel to de­cide if I want Hon­ey­crisps, Rus­sets, Cort­lands or Granny Smiths?

Put it an­other way: if I think it’s bet­ter to drink whip­ping cream than milk, there might well be health im­pli­ca­tions from my de­ci­sion. It’s un­likely a gov­ern­ment will or­der a stop to milk and cream la­belling just to pro­tect me from my mis­guided be­liefs.

If I don’t want to eat a ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied salmon — or any other ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied prod­uct, for that mat­ter — why should a gov­ern­ment help a par­tic­u­lar pro­ducer or com­pany by hid­ing its prod­uct in amongst ev­ery­thing else?

Let the mar­ket de­cide.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.