February 22, 2016—Center for Food Safety today criticized a study being promoted by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) regarding the cost of labeling genetically engineered (GE) foods. CRA’s study follows in a line of discredited industry funded studies that claim GE food labeling will raise food prices. Yet a report conducted on behalf of Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, concluded that the median cost of labeling in the studies that provided relevant models was only $2.30 per person per year.
“The food industry is once again attempting to scare consumers and legislators in order to get their way,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety. “Campbell’s Soup has announced it will label all of its GE products, at no added cost to the consumer. If a company like Campbell’s can take this step to label their food accurately, then there is no reason the rest of the industry can’t follow suit.”
In January, Campbell’s broke with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which has long opposed mandatory GE food labeling and is currently under legal scrutiny for its multimillion dollar campaign to fight Washington State’s GE food labeling ballot initiative. The iconic soup company instead announced that in the interest of its consumers, it would label all of its products containing GE ingredients. In an interview with The New York Times, a Campbell’s spokesperson “noted that adoption of the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which required companies to add nutritional information to their labels, did not significantly raise costs.”
Opponents of mandatory GE labeling frequently cite significantly higher food costs as part of their rationale, however, the higher numbers they reference are based on the assumption that manufacturers will incur costs by switching to non-GE ingredients. This is a false assumption and should not be equated with labeling costs. Such a move would be the result of market pressures, not labeling mandates. 64 countries around the world require GE food labeling and have not reported higher food costs as a result.
In their executive summary, the researchers behind the Consumers Union study stated:
“Many studies consider possible market impacts (e.g., speculation regarding consumer behavioral changes), and other matters not directly related to the cost of designing and labeling a product as containing a GE ingredients. A number of these studies report estimates of food price impacts from scenarios in which companies subject to GE labeling requirements are assumed to reformulate their products to contain only organic ingredients. We did not consider such scenarios. Rather we approached the question as FDA did in its study of the cost impact of nutritional labeling. FDA states that its model does not consider reformulation costs as ‘they depend on marketing decisions and are impossible to predict. Moreover, they do not result directly from these proposed rules.’”