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Food ‘disruptors’ like Trump deregulation but fear benefit to large companies

Several executives from companies that can be considered disruptors in the food industry told the Consumer Federation of America's National Food Policy Conference Wednesday they like the idea that President Donald Trump's administration may reduce government regulation, but they fear that the administration is inclined to help established companies rather than startups and is too domestically focused.

"The broad strike of deregulation is good," said Seth Bannon, a founding partner in Fifty Years, a San Francisco early-stage venture capital fund that invests in companies that he said "will be massively valuable and also create massive impact" based on the United Nations Millennial Development Goals.

But Bannon added he fears that Trump "has a mindset" of protecting big companies rather than startups and wants to "empower" companies like Ford and GM and benefit large corporations and entrenched industries.

Bannon also noted that applications to U.S. universities are down and said that "Silicon Valley exists because the brightest Chinese come here."

“The broad strike of deregulation is good.” Seth Bannon, founding partner in Fify Years

Erin Dreyling, vice president, research & scientific affairs, Roka Bioscience, a Warren, N.J., and San Diego firm that has developed molecular rapid pathogen testing for food safety problems, said she hopes the Trump adminsitration's regulation agenda "will be science-based" and that new technologies can be adopted. Dreyling added she will be watching how the Trump administration implements the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Regulation has been a barrier to new product development, Dreyling said. "We have regulators not using the best available technologies," she said.

Ryan Pandya, co-founder and CEO, Perfect Day Foods, a company that is developing dairy products without milk from animals, said he had spent the last few days in Washington working with regulation and that the issue that keeps coming up is "standards of identity."

FDA's definition of milk, which is lactose from animals, and other terms are

"kind of antiquated, not in line with what a lot of people think," Pandya said.

Deregulation might help companies like his make more money, but he doesn't like Trump's emphasis on "the idea of the border," he said.

"We don't want to think of things being limited to America when we are all sharing one planet," Pandya explained. The greenhouse gasses coming out the U.S. are going to go all over the world."

Michael Berger, a founding partner and vice president of the supply chain for Elevation Burger, a restaurant company that specializes in 100 percent organic, grass-fed beef, said he will be "fascinated to see what happens with trade."

There is a strong consumer movement in favor of grass-fed beef, Berger said, but other countries including Uruguay and Ireland are more "predisposed" to raising grass-fed beef.

The panelists made their comments as Quartz reported that the Good Food Institute, an organization that lobbies in Washington on behalf of companies making lab-grown meat and plant-based foods, is expanding to other countries including Brazil and China.

–The Hagstrom Report