business news in context, analysis with attitude

A new study says that "the median cost to consumers of requiring labeling of genetically engineered food, also known as genetically modified (or GMO) food, is $2.30 per person annually," or less than a penny a day.

The analysis was commissioned by Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports, and conducted by the independent Portland-based economic research firm, ECONorthwest. Consumers Union supports Oregon’s GMO labeling ballot initiative, Measure 92, scheduled to be voted on next month, and says it "disputes claims made in ads opposing Measure 92 that labeling will force farmers and food producers to spend  'millions' and increase food costs for consumers," and takes issue "with the assumptions made by industry-funded studies that it says have overestimated the cost of similar GMO labeling proposals in California, Washington, and New York—putting the cost at $100-$200 annually" per person.

“Industry cost estimates incorporate unrealistic assumptions about how GMO labeling requirements will drive food producers to switch to all organic ingredients, which would be much more expensive," says Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union. "However, there is no factual basis for this assumption and we believe producers will continue to sell GMO foods once they are labeled, and many consumers will continue to buy them, with no discernible price impact."
KC's View:
I'm not smart enough to do the math and evaluate all the various components of these arguments, though I do tend to have a certain level of faith in the folks at Consumer Reports. Sure cost is a factor … but in the end, I just think it is important for people to be able to know what they're eating. As we've often said here, information is not condemnation.

I have no sense of whether this will pass or not in Oregon, but I can tell you this. In my trips there this year, I have been enormously impressed by the overall get-out-the-vote efforts that seem to have people on every street corner and most mass transportation vehicles, registering voters and urging people to cast ballots on November 4. And I've seen an awful lot of people out there lobbying for the GMO labeling legislation (almost as many as I've seen lobbying for marijuana legalization).

There does seem to be a grass-roots effort going on here. And I, for one, find it heartening when citizens are able to accomplish something that millions of dollars in corporate dollars have been fighting against.