June 17, 2018

Consumers Union: Cost of GE Food Labeling $2.30 Per Year

Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports has estimated the cost of labeling GE foods and has released a report based on a literature review. They state that the median cost incurred by producers and retailers will be $2.30 per person per year; less than a penny a day.

Food LabelLabeling foods that contain genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified (GMO) ingredients has been a contentious issue for years. Consumers and consumer groups want these food labeled so people can make an informed choice; polls show that more than 90% of consumers want these foods to be labeled. Industry generally opposes labeling, stating it would increase costs dramatically.

Consumers Union asked ECONorthwest to resolve this disagreement. The studies reviewed include assessments from the FDA, academic studies of the global impacts of GE agricultural products, and research on Oregon’s Ballot Measure 92.

The studies that found GE costs would be insignificant pointed out that relabeling costs are one-time expenses, and competition in the food industry holds prices down naturally. Many of the studies that showed large cost increases considered other matters “not directly related to the cost of designing and labeling a product as containing GE ingredients.” The studies that predict high cost assumed that corporations must reformulate their products to contain only organic ingredients, which has not been proposed by any labeling proponents. Other studies that assumed large price increases used a lower threshold for GE ingredients in the products; some as much as 20 times lower.

One study that found costs would increase for a family of four by $800 a year was paid for by an industry group. Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union said that industry cost estimates incorporate unrealistic assumptions. “There is no factual basis for this assumption and we believe producers will continue to sell GMO foods once they are labeled.”

Halloran continued, “Companies change their labeling all the time and with GMO labeling costing so little, it is likely some producers won’t even bother to pass the minimal increase on to consumers. Given the minimal cost to consumers, the increased herbicide use involved in growing almost all genetically engineered crops, as well as the failure of government to require human safety assessments before genetically engineered foods reach the marketplace, GMO labeling is well worth it.”

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