How Much Will GMO Labeling Cost Consumers?

October 9, 2013

ANH – Nothing. Not a single dime, notwithstanding the false claims being made. More than ninety percent of American consumers want food labels to say whether they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The big food companies have been claiming—in advertising and published articles—that the new labels would cost too much, that they will place an unfair burden on business and raise food prices for consumers. In a new study commissioned by ANH-USA, Joanna M. Shepherd-Bailey, PhD, a professor at the Emory University School of Law, found that the opposite is true.

GMO-label-shutterstock-300x228According to her research and calculations, consumer costs will not increase at all because of labeling. Food companies change their packaging all the time, and for most companies, adding a GMO label would happen during a normal package update. In fact, manufacturer costs are so minimal that it would actually cost more for food companies to print new price tags than it would for them to label GMOs!

The economic assessment study, which we commissioned, was prepared for Washington State Initiative 522, to address the question of expenses associated with the redesign of package labels and the display of placards in grocery stores. Her analysis shows that there will be no change in consumer food prices as a result of these relabeling expenses. In fact, she says, countless empirical studies and reports by government agencies establish the numerous reasons why food producers do not raise prices to offset the trifling expense of relabeling:

  • For many food producers, label changes required by Initiative 522 will be incorporated into regularly scheduled label redesigns.
  • The repercussions of price adjustment will deter food producers from raising prices to offset relabeling under Initiative 522.
  • As relabeling costs under Initiative 522 are a one-time expense rather than a permanent cost increase, sellers will not be willing to incur the repercussions of re-pricing.
  • The fear of losing customers in the competitive food industry is an important deterrent to changing prices.

Dr. Shepherd-Bailey’s study has implications beyond Washington. An earlier study of the economics in California showed similar results. Importantly, Bailey drew some of her conclusions from national data,  such as the FDA’s Labeling Cost Modes, which estimate the impact of regulatory labeling changes. The implication is that costs are unlikely to rise no matter where in the country GE labeling is introduced—in direct contradiction to claims from the pro-GMO coalition. Indeed, when the European Union required labels to indicate the presence of GMOs, there were no increases in grocery prices.

The biotech industry has an immense advertising war chest. But they can’t use deception to win every battle. We announced last week that the Monsanto Protection Act was stripped from the Senate’s version of the government funding bill—all because of your letters and phone calls. They listened to you!

The provision would have stripped federal courts of the authority to halt the sale and planting of potentially hazardous genetically engineered crops. It was inserted at the last minute in a funding bill back in March by allies of Monsanto and other GMO companies, but as Sen. Barbra Mikulski, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, put it, “My promises made are promises kept. . . . There’s no reason for [the Monsanto Protection Act] to be included in a short-term CR [Continuing Resolution].”

You can read Dr. Shepherd-Bailey’s full report on the new ANH GMO campaign page, which launches today. It’s a “one-stop shop” for GMO news, educational materials, videos, and infographics you can share on social media, as well as breaking updates on Washington’s Initiative 522 campaign. We’ll have an abundance of good information in an easily digestible format about GMOs and the consumer’s right to know. We hope readers like you will share the info you find there to friends and family, and really make the site go viral (we have easy one-click social media sharing buttons).

We’ll also will be posting more reports—with lots of hard data—showing the economic and environmental impact of GMO labeling, not to mention the threats if we don’t act now. And of course we’ll have ways our members can take action. There’s a state-by-state push for GMO labeling afoot, as well as some buzz in Congress about a national GMO labeling bill. We need all our readers to educate themselves on the facts about GMO labeling, and share it with others.

GMO labeling won’t stifle innovation, it won’t cost consumers any money, and it won’t take GMOs off the market. All it will do is tell you what you and 282 million other Americans want to know: what’s in the food you’re feeding your family?

 

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