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Consumers Union: Labeling GMOs Would Cost Each Consumer $2.30 Annually

The median cost of labeling genetically modified ingredients on grocery products would equate to an additional $2.30 per consumer each year, according to a new report sponsored by Consumers Union and conducted by ECONorthwest, an economics consulting firm in the Pacific Northwest.

Consumers Union is the policy and advocacy branch of Consumer Reports. The organization advocates for the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food supply and has been one of the major donors for GMO-labeling initiatives in several U.S. states.

Oregon Ballot Measure 92 is the latest such state-level attempt to label GMOs. Oregon voters, who vote by mail, have up until 8 p.m. on Nov. 4 to decide whether they want to label foods that contain genetically modified ingredients.

One major controversy in the labeling debate hinges on whether or not mandatory labeling will force food companies to pass extra costs on to the consumer. Opponents of labeling say the costs would be high, while proponents say they would not.

ECONorthwest collected studies on the cost impact of state ballot initiatives, the European Union’s labeling regime, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s labeling cost model.

Their analysis did not account for changes in consumer taste due to GMO labels and therefore did not assume that companies would be altering their products that currently include genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.

“These costs do not necessarily translate directly into increases in the prices consumers pay for food products, as competitive forces may prohibit retailers from fully passing on some or all incremental GE labeling costs to consumers,” the report states.

While the final conclusion was that the median cost would be $2.30 per person for year, the six relevant estimates reviewed for the study ranged from $0.32 to $15.01.

The main considerations factoring into the estimates included the cost of repackaging food products to food producers, the cost of changing placards in retail stores to signify raw foods that are genetically engineered, and how much of that cost food producers and retailers would decide to bear themselves or pass on to consumers.

Worldwide, 64 countries require GMO labeling, including all countries in the European Union, Australia, China and India.

In the U.S., California and Washington state hosted high-profile votes on GMO labeling in recent years, with voters in both states ultimately rejecting labeling laws.

Maine and Connecticut have passed labeling laws, but they require more states to also pass labeling laws before they go into effect. Vermont’s labeling law is set to take effect in July 2016 and would be the first labeling law without any such conditions, pending the outcome of a lawsuit from food industry producers.

© Food Safety News
  • Michael Bulger

    The report doesn’t appear to say how many the added costs are expected to persist. I would think that once existing packaging has been changed, retail placards have been replaced, etc., the added costs attributed to those factors would disappear.

    • A food company that packages foods for all 50 states will now have to package foods one way for states that require GMO labelling and another way for those that do not.

      To save money, companies might just label all their foods with a “may contain GMOs” label, but then we’ll have food-labelling policy being set for the whole country by just a few states.

      Hardly democratic, now is it? Never mind economic.

      And all just to satisfy an anti-GMO political agenda that no one wants.

      • Warren Lauzon

        And if they go with the “May contain GMO’s” packaging, then 90-95% of all foods will end up with that label, making it meaningless.

        • Canadian_Skeptic

          That would be rather funny actually.

        • First Officer

          Like California ‘ s cancer labels.

          • Warren Lauzon

            Exactly – that stupid California law from Prop 65 turned out to be one of the dumbest things ever. It is so strict that even streets and buildings have to be labeled. It has turned into a massive joke, with people going around putting up bio-hazard signs on trees and bushed.

  • By that same token, it would only cost $2.30 per-person to label cars so people know they might die in car accidents. The only difference being that there is actual evidence that car accidents kill people, while after 30 years there is no such evidence for GMOs.

    • Veluux

      This is the token golden lie that GMO producing companies hinge their bets on. Technically you (and GMO companies) are correct. GMO’s don’t kill people. Cancer and Diabetes kill people. And it’s going to be very difficult to prove that GMOs are linked to Cancer and Diabetes because we can’t physically observe how our bodies ingest GM-products and how that unnatural genetic information affects our bodies cell’s over repeat absorption over 10, 20, 30+ years.

      That’s why they can get away with it.

      Yet nobody can deny that we have seen dramatic increase in the number of Cancer and Diabetes diagnosis in parallel with increased GM-product consumption by the American Population at large.

      While direct links have not yet been proven, it is at least plausible that GM food products are potentially one of the reasons for increased genetic abnormalities.

      We’re not asking for them to stop producing GM products. All we’re asking for is LABELING, so that the consumers can make educated choices for themselves. Additionally, the price increase nonsense is just propganda. Companies change their labeling frequently, sometimes even month to month. It would be SO easy for all producers to just start printing their next batch of products with a new label that cantains “GMO” or “GMO-free”.

      They just don’t want to. Because they know they will lose a ton of sales.

    • One other person is typing…

      It doesn’t cost 2.30 per person, I’ve bought the same brand of carrot juice for the last 15 years. They recently added No GMO’s to the label, the cost was the same.

    • cath

      Where do you get 30 years from, I thought the experiment with human consumption started in 1996

  • Ben

    What a laughing matter! When I see all the advertising signs and labels from the food industry it shouldn’t make a difference if they put one or two more words on it GMO or NO GMO. BTW since GMO is on the market an explosion of intestinal and immune disorders is well documented. It goes faster in rats: after just 10 days of GM feed given to rats, the cells of their stomach lining and
    intestines were significantly altered. Enjoy your GMO food but let otheres decide if they want to eat it too. To take about some dollars a year is cilly enough by all the food waste on a daily basis.

    • Ben

      correction to my last sentence: To talk about some dollars a year is cilly enough by all the food waste on a daily basis.

    • Advertising is done by choice. What you want is to force food companies to label for no reason merely to satisfy a political agenda.

      If you want to avoid GMOs, buy organic. Otherwise, assume GMOs are in all foods.

      • Ben

        It’s not a political agenda to tell the people for what they spend their money! In all the labels and advertisements should be some room to print one or two words. Why can companies selling non GMO food print it on their packages without charging more money and the GMO people have a problem? If GMO would be such a healthy stuff, they would print it in such big letters you couldn’t read anything else. They can print Gluten free, all Natural (whatsoever this means). I’m not sure to buy organic products is the answers when I read they are using on apples, pears, grapes, citrus, celery, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers antibiotics like streptomycin without any notice for the consumer. Of course they are only sold in the U.S. Market because other countries don’t buy it.

        • So, let me see if I’ve got this straight then Ben…

          Organic activists abuse the tax system for two decades vilifying the science of genetic engineering, and when they fail to ban GMOs, they turn instead to labelling them, which they admit is the first step to banning them.

          And you don’t see anything wrong with this?

        • Canadian_Skeptic

          Ben, they’re already are ways to tell if a food product contains GM ingredients. If it has soy, canola or corn in it and is not certified organic, you might as well just assume it contains GM ingredients. Frankly, I don’t understand why that isn’t enough? Works well for me. But then, I’m also not shunning such foods out of irrational prejudice.

          • Yes, that does work marvelously, doesn’t it?
            But organic activists want to use GMO labelling to scare people out of eating GMOs altogether. So the push to label will continue… at taxpayer expense sadly.

          • Canadian_Skeptic

            It does seem like the anti-GMO message has become more ideological as evidence to support anti-GMO claims continues to fail to materialize.

          • Not only that, but organic activists had the opportunity to embrace GMOs on a case-by-case basis back in 1997/98, but they instead chose to reject this new field of science because they knew then it would make the perfect foil.

          • Warren Lauzon

            That “scare them with BS” tactic is the real agenda. The anti-GMO side cannot come up with any real science, so they have adopted the Goebel’s Maneuver.

          • Veluux

            False. Not at the taxpayer’s expense. At the GMO producer’s expense. They’ll be the ones losing sales. Taxpayers will see no difference other than an increase in the price of GMO-free food as demand outweighs the supply.

            This should eventually lead to a market shift as GMO producers can’t sell and are forced to revert back to non GMO pesticide control or organic products.

            Taxpayers will actually pay LESS over time, as their health will improve, and their non-emergency medical expenses will drop. No more need for all the cold and flu medications and vaccinations when your immune system is healthy.

            GMO products destroy the immune system – that has been proven. And sick people make for great antibotics and medical customers. These industries work hand in hand and it’s no surprise that the food and drug companies are all rolled up together in our government’s current system.

            It isn’t a conspiracy, its morally-bankrupt capitalism – and the American public is at the whims of these profit-seeking machines that care little about the long term effects on human beings other than themselves. (Which if you do any real research you will learn that executives at these companies don’t eat the very GMO products they produce.)

          • Ben

            It’s really, so easy!? I’m a consumer and have nothing to do with growing food conventional or organic. I just want to decide what I’m eating and I’m educated enough to make the decision for myself. So when I buy a yoghurt I can see on the label if it contains GMO or not? How? Because it says it contains cows milk, correct? Even Mr. Chobani said it is not easy for him to know if the cows the milk he buys have eaten GMO feed. Ice Cream is another product where you don’t know if contains milk from GMO fed cows or not. You tell me I can see this on the label, where? The movement of companies labeling GMO free is probably the best way so far to make the most sales. I just bought Boulder Kettle cooked Potato chips as it says on the package NON GMO verified and it’s not even organic! You don’t have to buy organic to get NON GMO food. Somehow the whole conversation went in the wrong direction.

          • hyperzombie

            if the cows the milk he buys have eaten GMO feed.

            Wow, how would cows that ate Gmo crops make the milk GMO??? You have no idea what a GMO is do you?

  • Warren Lauzon

    I lost what little trust I had left in CU when they went on their pseudo-science soy milk rant a little bit back. In looking over the CU report I see several things that they did not even consider, such as possibly having to have dual supply chains and dual storage facilities. It appears to me that the only thing they looked at was the actual cost of just changing the label.

    • First Officer

      They did ignore the supply chain costs of separation and tracking, I believe, plus the inevitable costs of mistakes and fines and the destruction of perfectly good but mistakingly labeled food.

      • Warren Lauzon

        They ignored just about every factor except the actual cost of printing the label.

  • Canadian_Skeptic

    I suspect GMO labeling will eventually pass. I also suspect it will cause a brief kerfuffle, but then people will realize that they have been eating these foods all along without any negative consequences associated with the GM ingredients (versus non-GM version) and go back to shopping the same way. I’ve known for years that any time I buy something with soy, corn, or canola in it, it’s pretty much a given that the product contains GM ingredients. It’s not exactly a secret. I don’t see the need for a label.

    • Veluux

      Yet more and more studies are coming out linking GMO products to increased risk of cancer and diabetes, which are becoming more and more prevalent in America (as generations and generations continue to pass on corrupt genetic information). GM ingredients have an indirect effect that is very long-term and difficult to prove on short-term studies.

      Now that testing has been on-going, I highly suspect more links and analysis to come to light as long-cycle research starts to come around towards completion. Not unlike vaccinations and links to autism, which with more autism in America today, links are finally solidifying as these young children grow older and as generations on generations of vaccinated human beings are passing on deadly genetic abnormalities.

      All that being said, I suspect the exact opposite – that there won’t be a “kerfuffle”. I suspect when the real information gets out (unless large corporations continue to monopolize mainstream media and keep everything behind closed doors) that most individuals would actually shift to forgoing GM-related products. Once they realize what it is slowly doing to them, and more importantly, what it is doing to their children, they will turn away.

      It will force the market to shift by reduced demand for GMOs and more demand for organic or natural products. Sadly I don’t think it is coming anytime soon, as there are a handful of extremely powerful and influential GM companies with a stranglehold on legislation and strong-arming political figures.

      The corruption is probably so much worse than the hear-say we get by digging into things with our own individual research. It’s actually quite scary…

      • Canadian_Skeptic

        “Yet more and more studies are coming out linking GMO products to increased risk of cancer and diabetes”
        >>Really? Let’s see some examples. The fact that you didn’t provide even a single example says a lot actually.

        “GM ingredients have an indirect effect that is very long-term and difficult to prove on short-term studies.”
        >>Which “GM ingredients” specifically? Where are the studies demonstrating this?

        “Not unlike vaccinations and links to autism”

        >>Ah. Now I see what kind of pseudoscience BS I’m dealing with and why you didn’t bother presenting even a single example of a scientific paper supporting your claims. It’s because you don’t actually have any examples and get all your info from anti-science blogs written by clueless individuals.

  • ForGMOEducation

    Honestly, who cares about a cost when the actual problem is that we will be adding words that simply scare people and add no relevant information about the product.

  • ForGMOEducation

    It adds no relevant health information because there is no evidence of harm from GMOs. There is already a voluntary labeling system for organic and certified non-GMO that consumers can choose or choose not to buy. We already have what you want, which is labels and people choosing which one they want. The only difference is now food companies are not forced into labeling.

    • Karcryo

      Companies can currently label voluntarily if the product contains genetically engineered ingredients. They have chosen not to do so, because they are not mandated to do so. No relevant health information goes both ways. No evidence of harm, no evidence of safety.

      • ForGMOEducation

        Except there are roughly 2,000 studies that support GM safety. You forgot that part.

        • Karcryo

          There is no forgetting the studies that are used in selling a product by the industry of the bio-tech, chemical companies, or universities that receive funding from like minded non-profits or organization. It is interesting that no raw data from those 2000 studies has been released to have an independent study completed.

          Hence, we should go back to the reason of the article. I for one, would be willing to pay less then a penny a day to know the process (how something is grown) in my inner isle grocery item on the shelf. Consumers having the final say on what they are putting in their body. We know about the salt, sugar and fat that are in these items and that hasn’t stopped the public from buying them. Wasn’t it just reported that we are the fattest county in the world? Nice example of choose in those safe ingredients.

          • First Officer

            Go to biofortified.org genera .

  • Colton Bond

    Faculty in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University have developed a new resource for the public on biotechnology in agriculture. The intent is not to take a position on Measure 92 or other ballot initiatives, but rather to present unbiased, science-based information to Oregonians on issues related to genetically modified organisms. http://agbiotech.oregonstate.edu/

    In my personal opinion, both sides of the labeling issue have their merits. Regardless of where you come down on this issue, please help promote informed decision making by sharing this website.

  • MF

    Hundreds of countries around the world already provide GMO labels. Why not the US?

    • Many countries that have GMO labelling also have bans on GMOs for use by their farmers. Then officials turn around and import millions of tons of GMO product from countries that have not banned GMOs. How does that hold water exactly?

  • battleshiphips

    Again, the answer is buy certified organic. Organic beef must be fed on organic pastures or organic grain. Same for organic ice cream or any other diary product, which is made from organically produced milk. If you are so afraid of GMO, paying the organic premium is the solution. Stop demanding the rest of us cover the cost of your eating choices via unnecessary and expensive labeling.

  • Why are you so hung up on the process Karcryo? What about end results? Don’t they matter?

    The reason, incidentally, that they label ethanol is because they’re trying to brag about it being “green.” But the fact is ethanol is harder on the environment than fossil fuel.

    In any case, it was the organic industry that decided the process was more important than the results, and they imposed some strict standards on themselves that aren’t really enforced with any alacrity. To take this flawed model and apply it elsewhere seems like a fool’s errand.

    • Karcryo

      Yes, I would agree that the genetically engineered corn that is used in the ethanol is harder on the environment.

      In any case, results in an organic model, flawed ? Have you read the peer reviewed study by Rodale Institute: Farming systems trial

      This study has given me plenty to cheer about.

      • I support organic farming. But under the current certification system there’s no field testing, so we have no way of ensuring people are following the rules. The result is that HALF of all USDA certified-organic food tests positive for prohibited pesticides.
        I’d really like to know what The Rodale Institute has to say about that.

        • Karcryo

          Hence my same reason for “labeling” genetically engineered ingredients, the current FDA system of GRAS there’s no independent safety system, so we have no way of ensuring people are following the rules. The result is the majority of the products that are advertising “Natural” are filled with genetically engineered ingredients (material) and 64% of the public believe that natural means genetically engineered ingredients “free.” Yes, knowing your organic farmer and the growing practices and the being able to pick off a mealy worm are all part of how we should know where are food is coming from. The certified-organic may be flawed, but at least half are following the rules. The question I would have is “Who is the half, the larger producers, who feel they can bend the rules? ” History shows the larger the power, more the greed. I’m sure you could write Rodale and have the respond to the pesticide issue, they are very nice.

          • At least half of organic players are following the rules? That’s your endorsement for organics?

            That’s abysmal Karcryo. You’re whitewashing the fact that the self-righteous organic industry doesn’t have a leg to stand on in its attacks on the perfectly safe science of genetic engineering.

            If the Consumers Union wants to help consumers (thus their name… right?) they must return to their call for organic farms to be tested. Until then, they don’t have a leg to stand on either!

          • Stephanie

            I’m really interested to know how and why those following organic practices are getting away with not following the rules. I work at Whole Foods and we are audited monthly on our organic practices. I would love to read this the results of the test that claims that HALF of organics are tested positive for prohibited pesticides. I’ve read the opposite from consumer reports that 95%+ of self-labeled organics are, in fact, organic. Just curious!

  • I eat real food


    If I eat nonorganic food my joints, muscles hurt and my intestineses become inflamed.

    GMO companies say that GMO labeling will cost $2/yr. The GMO companies are spending more than that per person during each GMO labeling vote.

    Will the $2/yr increase per person be spent on advertising to promote GMO food?


  • One other person is typing…

    This article is hyperbolas fear mongering! The cost of adding GMO’s to an existing already highly regulated label is negligible. It’s quite simple, the manufacturer will know if the food is a GMO, identification cost zero. Adding it to an exiting label, the cost of a new template for the printers which many companies change all the time for marketing purposes.

  • Brandon Allen

    I am not a scientist and I am not a farmer…just a regular guy. After doing personal research, it is clear that the cancer-related fears for consuming GMOs are not conclusive in any known study. Basically, there has not been any proof that GMOs cause cancer. And yes, not all “certified organic” are true to their name. However, I believe this specific argument comes down to consumer choice. Labeling gives people more information. Regardless, don’t you think companies owe consumers the courtesy of a simple product label?