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CHARLESTON/ORWIG: SEVEN THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FOOD, AG IN 2017
Source: Charleston/Orwig

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New regulations, innovations and challenges are constantly reshaping how the industry talks about-and how consumers interact with-brands and products. By knowing, understanding and staying one step ahead of these challenges, you can make proactive decisions that move your brand and business forward rather than spending time and resources trying to play catch-up. To help you in that process, here are seven of the biggest topics and issues we think will be impacting the food and agriculture industries this year.

ANTIBIOTICS: With the implementation of this month's Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) Final Rule, the prescription and handling of antibiotics by vets, producers and feed mills will shift. Responsible antibiotic use in both humans and animals is at the forefront of food system issues-and we don't foresee this changing any time soon. For more information on all things antibiotics, check out last month's State of the Plate.

PRECISION GENETICS: The era of genetic modification technologies will reach new heights this year thanks to the advent of gene-editing tools with capabilities that could extend further than even their creators imagined. Gene-editing tool CRISPR allows scientists to accurately and efficiently tailor genetic compositions, removing undesirable genes and inserting more positive traits. By controlling whether specific genes are expressed or eliminated, CRISPR has the potential to redefine the way we tackle issues like food security, chronic illness and genetic disease, and dependence on fossil fuels.

REDUCING FOOD WASTE: Spurred on in part by the success of 2016's "Save the Food" public service campaign, the issue of food waste has entered the spotlight. Start-ups nationwide are encouraging the consumption of "imperfect" produce. Globally, countries like France and Germany are reforming processes for supermarket waste and determining expiration dates. Government agencies, nonprofits and large food corporations alike will likely continue this initiative to increase awareness around the severity of consumer food waste in the U.S., the extensive resources required to produce our food and ways to reduce waste every day.
LABOR: The current agricultural labor shortage shows no signs of easing up in 2017, as visa application and regulatory delays, decisions by workers to return to or remain in their home countries, and uncertainty about how a new presidential administration will impact immigration are all contributing to the strain on the availability of farmworkers in the U.S. Now agriculture-and other industries affected by similar shortages - is exploring ways to minimize its need for intensive manual labor, such as investing in robotics research and innovation.

SUGAR: America's favorite sweetener is still under fire-the FDA's updated Nutrition Facts labels now specify the amount of added sugars in food. Debates over banning sugary drinks and snacks rage everywhere from school boards to city councils. The future of sugar in 2017? We predict more widespread efforts to reduce added sugars-particularly in packaged foods like breakfast cereals and snack bars-and an increased emphasis on alternative sweetener options, such as stevia, sugar alcohols and natural sweeteners like honey.

FOOD JUSTICE: Awareness of issues like food security, food system inequality and access to affordable, nutritious food for all communities has been raised over the past year by journalists, food justice advocates and community startups and cooperatives nationwide. Food that is produced ethically, sustainably and fairly is now considered both a right and a necessity, with all food system stakeholders pressured to answer the call.

FOOD WITH A STORY: Consumers have high expectations from the food industry. In today's cycle of continuous news and content, we know they'll only be demanding more in 2017. Consumers want brands that are practicing sustainability, ethics and transparency across all points in their supply chain-while also sharing the story behind their food. Sharing a narrative-one that connects consumers to the people producing the food, highlights the field-to-shelf journey, and introduces the brand's values and guiding principles-is a must this year for all food system players, from global fast-food chains to local farmers' markets.


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