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In Today’s Economy Consumers’ Are Apt to Pay Attention to Where They Shop

March 6, 2009
This week when I got my most recent issue of Washington Consumer’s Checkbook,the magazine that provides you with consumer tips, on the cover was a basket of groceries. On closer examination I realized that this was because they had a big story, “Trim the Fat from Your Food Bill: Which Supermarkets Offer the Best Prices and Quality.” As a guy who works for BIO in the agriculture section (and eats groceries) I was fascinated — A key paragraph in the story states that for the Washington, DC region,

“The highest prices among stores we surveyed were found at My Organic Market and Whole Foods Market, whose prices were 94 percent and 45 percent higher, respectively, than the Giant/Safeway average. Prices for both My Organic Market and Whole Foods were high for fresh produce and meats, areas where the two chains rate relatively high in our surveys of consumers. But even when we looked only at nonperishable, national brands, for which product quality is not a concern, prices at Whole Foods, for the limited number of items it had in common with the other chains, were still 18 percent higher than the average for Giant and Safeway. (My Organic Market did not have in stock any of the nonperishable items in our market basket, so we were only able to compare its prices to other stores using its prices for fresh produce and meats.)”

Cost these days is always a factor no matter who you are. And we are trying to make a better world of food through biotechnology. Recently, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) issued a report, The Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2008. The report said that a record 13.3 million farmers in 25 countries are using agricultural biotechnology today. Ninety percent (12.3 million) of these are resource-poor farmers in 15 developing countries. These farmers are adopting biotech crops because, in addition to agronomic benefits, the crops are just better for their bottom line.

Biotechnology is a key contributor to sustainable agriculture. Ag biotech provides solutions for farmers in the form of plants that yield more per acre, resist diseases and insect pests and reduce farmers’ production costs, and inputs. It is these benefits, which drive down the farmers’ production costs and lead to cheaper food. With lower costs for the farmer, these reduced costs can then be passed along to you the consumer.

Technology as part of agriculture is not new. For example, according to the History of American Agriculture in 1830, “About 250-300 labor-hours [were] required to produce 100 bushels (5 acres) of wheat with walking plow, brush harrow, hand broadcast of seed, sickle, and flail.” The History then says, in 1987, “3 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (3 acres) of wheat with tractor, 35-foot sweep disk, 30-foot drill, 25-foot self-propelled combine, and trucks.” Now that’s innovation and progress.