(This paper was originally published by Walden University, 2012, under the title "Bio-genetic Innovation in food production – Benefits and Un-intended Consequences"; ID- 254037869. All duplication rights reserved)
Although Genetic Engineering on Food Production is an ancient practice, production of plant and animal food for consumption has increase in disruptive innovations in the past 92 years. This paper briefly looks at genetic bioengineering of Corn, Wheat, Soy, and Animal proteins to increase yield, disruptive innovation non-food based derivatives from innovation and reduce disease. This paper also looks at the unintended consequences human allergies and sensitivities as a result of the innovations, and how business using both Ettlie’s and di Norica’s models can reduce or eliminate harm of these innovations. The Author notes that further research is required.
The field of bio-genetic engineering is not new scientifically or from a business prospective; in fact innovations from both fields of study have produced disruptive and compatible innovations since 50,000 B.C. (Faerber, et. al., 2005). Jones would further defend the point by stating, “Genes change every day by natural mutation and recombination; humans have been exploiting this for centuries” (1999). What has caused marked, and disruptive, innovations is within the last 92 years is due to the advent of two global wars that strained production and ability to produce food for consumption (Connell, 1942; Dubner, 2012); converse decrease availability of arid land; and innovations in the production of foods from plants and animals become essential in a highly competitive market (Ettlie, 1983; Nordin, 2010). The vast hosts of bio-genetic engineering innovations are too broad to be reviewed in depth. Therefore, this paper shall briefly review three topics bioengineering that are both positive disruptive innovations (White and Bruton, 2008) with detrimental unintended as a results of the innovations (Taylor and Hefle, 2001; O’Brien, 2011; Merton, 1936; Jones, 1999). They are the innovations of plant genetics of corn (also known as maize), soy bean, and wheat; disruptive innovations as a result of genetic modifications of corn, soy bean, and wheat; bioengineering innovations in sequencing of proteins in livestock production to resist disease and increase valuable products. And lastly, this paper will annotate one detrimental result within the food production value chain, which is an increase of systemic allergic reactions in humans as a result of the above mentioned innovations. At this time, the Author offers a prospective for business leadership, particular to the study of management of technology and innovation within the strategy phase, how to minimize or eliminate these un-intended consequences (White and Bruton, 2008; Merton, 1936). At the same time, the Author acknowledges that the subject requires more extensive research and literature which can be conveyed or annotated within this paper. To start, an examination of the events which lead to both the emergence of genetic alteration to particular foods and the systemic reaction is vital to put this topic into prospective.
As Dubner notes, in the United States between 1914 and 1950 production food became a serious study for both business and government (2012); even though food production was a chief factor in the early study of economics, the sheer volume of production now required in shorter periods of time became the factor for business to devise disruptive and compatible innovations. The reason was twofold: First, two global conflicts which required large amounts of food for troops and civilians exported in addition to internal consumption. In fact, it was Wickard who quipped, “Before this thing is over, (the United States) will have to feed other countries besides ourselves” (1942). Connell was more blunt, “The American Farmer must feed himself and 54 other (persons)” (1974). Second, the United States decision to reduce imported foods products, and labor required to process and harvest food products, due to tariff and legislation caused abnoral strains on food production (Dubner, 2012; Wickard, 1942). The normal techniques of plowing and sowing more crops or reproducing more livestock was a natural reaction, however, as Merton noted, both had direct and un-intended consequences (1936). Those consequences were the dust bowl during the 1930’s (Wickard, 1942) and increase diseases in livestock; with a glut of beef and pork production resulting inflated prices (Connell, 1974). Again, another standard method and technique to reduce harm was for the US government setting controls on pricing marketing (Wickard, 1942) which did not affect the prices nor spur innovation effectively (Shapira and Rosenfeld ,1996); in fact, it had the opposite affect a two year reserve in beef and pork meats at inflated costs (Connell, 1974).
However in 1950, science and business in the United States began reviewing production of food both as a means of sustaining the growing domestic population, and as “a political weapon” to prevent detriments of loss of arid land for crops or disease to livestock in order to produce food for future war-time consumption as a measure of national defense (Nordin, 2010; Connell, 1974). It also should be noted this decision was also based the broad migration from urban areas into rural areas and increase of diseases in plants and moving into non-fertile areas with the goal of successful production (Dubner, 2012). This required a “Radicalism of modern food, production, protection, and processes (by) producing more high quality of Animal protein (and) increase farm output by 53%” (Connell, 1974). After 1950, famers increase effective production (Connell, 1974) by reducing the diversity of crops down to three aired crops (maize, wheat, and soy) and diversified the breads of livestock into newer stock for greater outputs of meats or derivatives such as eggs or milk (O’Brien, 2011; Dubner, 2012). This was due to disruptive innovations in genetic bio-engineering of corn, wheat, and the introduction of soy from Asia (O’Brien, 2011; Jones, 1999; Dubner, 2012). Which leads to the first innovation, altering genetic structures through bioengineering.
The genetic bio-engineering had three principal goals: increase the yield of each plant’s viable consumptive value, reduce destruction of crop from insects or micro-organisms, and grow the genetic seeds in non-aired soils. This was accomplished by isolating specific DNA sequences, copying other DNA sequences, or introducing organisms into the genes in a direct and controlled method into the nucleus of a plant cell (Jones, 1999; Faerber, et al., 2005). Using corn and wheat as the examples of bio-engineering, the result was production of larger and more viable wheat and corn kernels, that could be grown even in salt polluted soils (Faerber, et al., 2005), resist disease and organisms which promote spoilage after harvest, AND at a production rate of 333% for corn and 136% production rate for wheat (Jones, 1999; Faerber, et al., 2005). Even O’Brien conceded at the initial review of the figures, and paraphrasing for the innovations, demonstrated a viable business model (2011).
With better production rates and yields for crops which undergone genetic manipulation, the surplus can be made into newer disruptive innovations that are not food related but derivatives from food.
The second disruptive innovations are products created from the surplus of the innovations which complement existing technologies and markets. For example, Jones noted that soy and maize products have pharmaceutical applications in preventative human vaccines (1999). And Faerber and his colleagues at UCLA note not only the creation of vaccines from soy and maize, but specific vaccines which can be consumed and not administered via intra-muscle injections; reducing both cost of equipment and the risk of reduction of needle based infections (2005). A much wider application with broader appeal and compliment innovations is plastics from soy and corn instead of using petroleum at one third costs to produce (Jones, 1999; Faerber, et al., 2005). One needs look further than your morning Iced Late or your neighbors Frappuccino© at your local Starbucks’ store or franchise to see corn based plastic cups instead of petroleum based plastics. Harrington advises the cost of cup is 50 percent less with the “Greener Plastics” than with regular plastic composites (2010). With the cost of corn or soy based plastics, comes the final innovation, the increase production of livestock at a rate of 300% return with one-half the cost today than in 1950 (Faerber, et al., 2005; Dubner, 2012).
In 1950, scientists discovered that vaccines for use in livestock, when administered in smaller, daily doses yielded greater muscle density and bulk (Dubner, 2012) which lead to the third disruptive innovations: Better livestock growth and yields based on vaccines and genetic bio-engineering of livestock. This meant that livestock breeds not associated previously with mass animal protein production could be included into the food production value chain. For example, diverting production from the Dexter bread of Cattle, traditionally bred for meat and dairy production, into breeds like the Limousine Cattle which was genetically bred for lean meat production or the Swiss White for dairy (Myers, 2012). Likewise, most common diseases which keep muscle mass low or infection which deters growth rate can be eliminated with vaccines and advance livestock medicines (Jones, 1999). And, a very important innovation, large amounts of livestock can be kept in closer proximity before processing without infections or diseases affecting the meats or destroying the whole animal (Dubner, 2012). This discovery of small dosage vaccines also lead to innovations in high yield production of derivatives from animals such as greater yields in cattle dairy production and eggs from chickens (Jones, 1999). With rates of production in excess of 300% in both plant and animal based food production, the question raised then is what evaluations during the control phase should be raised about the life cycle of the innovation and what results have occurred as result of the innovations. Professor Robert Merton of Harvard University raised such a question in 1936 when he devised the model of Unanticipated Consequences in the American Sociological Review; which now is colloquially known as Unintended Consequences. This portion will examine briefly, the unintended reactions of bio-engineering with regards to food production.
In 1974, Philip Connell, raised the question and challenge of innovations in food production and consequences when he said, "As Businessmen, you are really the people whom the consumer hold responsible for the price and quality of her food. It is your name on the package, and you are the ones who take the consumers money at the cash register. There is no question that we need to maintain and increase the supply of food, and that this food must be safe
(emphasis added)". (Connell, 1974, p. 70)
It would appear that questions of safety, as an unintended consequence, due to disruptive innovation in food production are being raised as a consequence of bioengineering. O’Brien noted that an increase of allergies and sensitivities to foods in humans has increased as disruptive innovations and technologies in food production increased (2011). The reason for levitated allergies and food sensitivities, notes Taylor and Hefle, in non-technical terms, is during the bioengineering process a string of eight particular amino acids, ir-regardless of plant or animal genomes, form a protein called a novel gene within the cell nucleus (2001). When the novel gene is introduced by food into the mouth, it potentially reacts adversely with human immune-suppression system causing the body to react “as though it is under attack” (O’Brien, 2011). Over the past 40 years, the reaction to the novel protein appears to be unified in the literature and exponentially increasing each year (Taylor and Hefle, 2001; O’Brien, 2011), however the reasoning how the novel gene is formed still is unclear and contested within the literature (Connell, 1974; Taylor and Helfe, 2001; O’Brien, 2011; Jones, 1999). Moreover, this also leads to questions about the safety of the bioengineering innovations, which scientifically are inconclusive in the absents of direct causality of harm (O’Brien, 2011; Connell, 1974; Taylor and Helfe, 2001). That is to say, “The absents of harm does not mean it is safe” (O’Brien, 2011). Safe is the hallmark of any consumer trust in business. If a brand or item cannot be deemed safe by it’s segments, a firm cannot continue to operate. Holding in abeyance the legal and scientific debate over innovations and safety, as business leaders the question becomes how then can business create innovations which are either disruptive or complimentary into the market, with regards to food production which are deemed scientifically safe. This last part shall briefly address how business can innovate with some modicum of safety.
In 1983, Professor John Ettlie of DePaul University devised a model for innovation and policy with regards to food process called, Organization Policy and Innovation among suppliers to the Food Processing Sector. Within Ettlie model are two factors that directly correlate to the issue of safety, the first is Environmental uncertainty and the second is the rate of product innovation (1983). These factors can be employed during, what White and Bruton calls, the Planning and Gathering Data process in which the innovation is analyzed and should be considered within the strategy of planning innovation (2008). During this phase, Ettlie demands that the firm posse two question before formulating a strategy: First, What is the motivation for developing the innovation? Second, “How does one reconcile the apparent contradictions in the literature?” (1983); especially with regards to safety within bioengineered genes in the food production, there are many apparent contradictions which have not been answered by firms producing the bioengineered proteins. The questions, according to di Norcia, distill into the application and adherence of ethics (1994). During both White and Bruton’s (2008) Planning and Gathering Data phase and Ettlie’s (1983) Environmental uncertainty question, di Norcia firmly advises that a firm assess that, “complexity of technology development and the broad range of social issues involved, an ethical framework for controlling a technology is needed” (di Norcia, 1994). This must include a SEER evaluation of both the demand for the innovation and bringing an ethical prospective to reconcile the conditions in the literature during the gathering data phase: the Social, Economic cost to society and companies in defense, Environmental, and the human Rights of the stake/share holders in the innovation (1994). If any of the datum points have direct negative impact in result of deploying the technology, di Norcia suggests holding in abeyance diffusing the innovation until the datum point is resolved. This would suggest that any direct or indirect harm can be minimized or eliminated by deploying or diffusing innovation which could potentially cause a safety or risk factor. Though more research is required to fully evaluate the SEER model within the context of Food Production and innovations; do to both a lack of literature and research on the subject.
In conclusion, although bioengineering has held ancient place within the food value chain, it is within the last 92 years that innovations have increased with the diffusion of genetic bioengineering of crops and animals for greater production. It has resulted in greater consequences which call into question safety of food consumed. Before further innovations can be deployed into food production, business must assess during the innovation phase the ethics of un-intended consequences and how to minimize or eliminate these consequences.
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