The Washington Post reports “A new method against genetically modified salmon: Get retailers to refuse to sell it.”
With the U.S. Food & Drug Administration signaling its prospective approval of genetically modified salmon–the first genetically modified animal to be declared safe for human consumption–advocates have turned to retailers to block sales.
As reported in Serve to Lead, this follows a series of examples of public and private functions being reconfigured in the new world of 21st century leadership.
Retailers Are 21st Century Food Regulators
In the early 20th century, food and drug regulation was established on a centralized basis in the national government. Agencies were viewed as protecting consumers from business, shielding them from harm.
What a difference a century makes.
Today, the regulatory process is often beset by extended delays. Priorities and decisions are frequently criticized–often with objective merit–by stakeholders who may possess technical data that is equal to or even superior to that of the government agencies.
Internet-savvy consumers are connected with various stakeholders to monitor health studies and other data. Smart companies, led by WalMart, attempt to get ahead of these trends. As part of their broader effort to attain competitive advantage, they create value by advancing the values of consumers in their offerings.
If you’re coming of age in the early 21st century you might well be forgiven for thinking that Whole Foods is a more relevant and reliable source of information and action about food safety than the Food and Drug Administration.
Trend Likely to Continue
It may be that there will be progress in averting appalling situations such as the repeated U.S. government shutdowns in Washington. Irrespective of that, the 21st century will likely continue to be marked by trends of devolving power to organizations–and to individuals and networks–close to the problems at hand. In the Information Age, the burden of proof is against centralization and distance.
So, too, problem-solving will drive all manner of institutions to reform and reshape themselves continuously. Rather than shaping problems in their own image (and, all too often their own interest), established organizations will have to shape-shift to survive.
The federal government in America is far from immune to these trends. The fact that they’re protected in the short-run may make their ultimate transformation all the more wrenching. The regularity and predictability that are hallmarks of bureaucracy are against the grain of the 21st century.
The FDA–among other longstanding organizations–is being paid a visit by the future. That visitor may seem unwelcome–but it’s not going to disappear. In fact, the future is here to stay, and it’s going to occupy ever more space.
And, of course, corresponding challenges–and opportunities–are also on the doorsteps of other regulatory agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency.
If We Were Starting Today
A useful question for all individuals and organizations confronting new challenges: How would we seek to create value, to serve our customers and employees and other stakeholders, if we were starting up today?
What would that question suggest for the FDA? What does it suggest for other regulatory agencies–and for the enterprises they regulate?
21st Century Food Safety Regulations | Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, etc.