Peter W.B. Phillips
University of Saskatchewan, Canada
University of South Australia, Adelaide
Genetically modified (GM) foods represent a significant techni- cal and commercial breakthrough, but they have also revealed a major weakness in product development and commercialization in the global agri-food system. Although the biotechnology industry has developed a number of new technologies and prod- ucts and marketed them effectively to producers, the biotechnol- ogy industry has almost completely ignored the need to market these products to consumers. One facet of the marketing litera- ture suggests that innovative products need to be proactively positioned in the market either as a replacement for what exists or as an addition. The literature suggests that innovations like GM foods must be placed in the market in such a way as to allow consumers to test and compare the new products against existing products. We suggest that although the biotechnology industry did this effectively with producers and for a few output- trait whole foods, it has relied on the concept of substantial equivalence embedded in regulatory regimes to justify ignoring the concerns of consumers for most of the GM foods currently in the market. The industry has been almost universally unwilling to proactively market input-trait GM foods to consumers. This has created a variety of consumer responses, ranging from indifference in much of North America to citizen demands for tighter government regulation and mandatory labeling, to con- sumer boycotts in the EU and other countries. This paper reviews the relevant marketing literature, examines the few cases where new GM foods have been proactively marketed, and draws the conclusion that it may be necessary to more clearly and fully market GM foods to consumers. This has impli- cations for future introductions of other innovative food products.
Key words: Genetically modified foods; marketing; innovation goods; labeling.