“What I’m hearing from a lot of folks, and we’ve heard from a number of companies, is that they’re seeing an opportunity here,” says Dan Sorenson, a senior research fellow at the Cato Institute.
“The companies that are interested in this are not all the same companies, but there’s a lot going on.
I think this is the way forward.”
“There’s a tremendous amount of value here.
It’s not just the technology or the process,” he says.
“We’re going to need it.” “
In the long term, this technology is going to be the catalyst for the growth of the economy and the health of the American people,” Sorensson adds.
“We’re going to need it.”
But while many of these companies have already started to invest in this nascent industry, there are a number who are still waiting for the big players to step in.
“There is a lot still to go,” says Soren, who is also a senior fellow at Cato.
“They’ve got to invest a lot in research and development, to get the next-generation process down and getting it on a mass scale.”
And while the companies have started to make the technology available to their customers, it’s unclear how the federal government will ultimately approve or even regulate this new technology.
While the Food and Drug Administration will have to approve the products to be sold under its “approved” label, the FDA is still working out what standards it will require for the product to qualify as a “food additive,” which is a category that includes things like flavoring, coloring, or preservatives.
And even if the agency approves the technology, there’s still a long way to go before this technology can be used to produce food at scale.
“This is a new industry,” Sorensons co-author and senior policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Michael Pollan told NPR.
“And I don’t think we’ve seen it before.
It has never been the way of the future, but it’s a new way of doing things.”
Soren has a few suggestions for what the next steps could look like: The FDA needs to start looking at all of these new technologies, so that it can start determining whether these new products are safe for human consumption.
There should be an open process to let the public comment on these new ingredients, so there can be more time for FDA to get to a final decision.
And Congress should consider creating a commission to examine all of this, and if the FDA agrees, then the companies would be required to submit a report to Congress.
The FDA could then also require these companies to put their new technology to a rigorous peer review process.
That would allow more time to figure out whether these products are as safe as they claim, and make sure that their products are marketed properly.
“That’s going to give a lot more time and attention to these technologies,” Pollan says.
But for now, the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act are the only regulatory bodies that have oversight over this new industry.
If Congress does not act, it could be years before the next wave of companies can make the product available to consumers, or even begin manufacturing the technology in large numbers.
“It’s just a question of when we get there, not how,” Pollans co-authored an op-ed for NPR.