The bottom line of last week's release of a Cornell study on the cost of mandated GMO labeling in New York State was bad news for consumers. It would hike the grocery bill for the average family of four by $500 to $800 more a year.
What's certain is that there would be notable costs, and most of those costs will be reflected in higher food costs, noted the Cornell Economist William Lesser. Lesser's Labeling_New_York findings mirror similar studies conducted in other states. More details are in GMO_controversy .
The higher consumer price tags would be the result of increased packaging and distribution costs as well as from companies looking to source more expensive, non-GMO ingredients. Those costs would inevitably be passed on to consumers.
State mandated labeling laws, such as enacted in Vermont and proposed in New York State, among other states, would shift those costs largely to all consumers.
The labeling change, if evoked, will be so large as to cause food system changes which can't be fully predicted at this time, acknowledges Lesser. But surveys and experiences from Europe suggest
that labeled GM products are more likely to disappear over time.
In theory, that would bring a seismic shift in crop production and reduce technologies that now hold down farm input costs and consumer food costs. It would also push many consumers, he contends, to the higher-priced organic option.
Consumer surveys and experiences in Europe suggest that GM products most likely to be dropped are the labeled ones resulting in a system with higher costs (due to more costly non-GM ingredients). But it would bring no real increase in consumer choice, adds Lesser.
Mandatory labeling unnecessary
Genetically engineered seeds have undergone extensive peer reviewed studies and have been found to be just as safe as their conventional counterparts, notes Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau President.
"It's unfortunate that when more Americans are struggling to make ends meet, some New York lawmakers would choose to raise the cost of feeding our families. This bill does nothing to improve our food supply."
Consumers currently have thousands of choices already on the store shelves, including organic and those voluntarily labeled as non-GMO, points out Norton. "That makes mandatory labeling unnecessary."