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