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how much would it cost to label GMOs?

Submitted by: JWeidTeddyBear


Expert response from Alison Van Eenennaam

Animal Genomics and Biotechnology Cooperative Extension Specialist, University of California, Davis

Thursday, 06/12/2014 17:39

“The potential economic impact of state and other initiatives that would mandate labeling for the presence of GE ingredients in foods has also been of much interest. Opponents of mandatory GE labeling schemes have argued that they would be paid by all consumers, including those who do not wish to avoid GE. Proponents have argued that the implied costs would be minimal. Indeed, a handful of studies has sketched out the potential costs of the mandatory labeling initiatives in California and Washington. The results have varied from more than $1 billion per year to a few thousands of dollars (Alston and Sumner 2012; Robertson 2013).


“The widely differing calculations in the estimated costs of the proposed mandatory labeling schemes are explained by fundamentally different conjectures about the responses of key players in the food supply chain and the changes they could bring about in the U.S. food market. Much depends on how food manufacturers, food retailers and other food merchants would choose to act if mandatory GE labeling were put in place. On the one hand, they could choose to maintain the current composition of their products, placing GE labels on them when necessary. On the other hand, they could choose to change the composition of their products in order to avoid the use of GE labels.


“The reactions of food manufacturers and retailers could be shaped by expectations of negative consumer response toward GE labels (Marchant, Cardineau and Redick, 2010), targeting of their products by activists (Gruere and Rao, 2007), exploitation of GE labels by competitors (Kalaitzandonakes and Bijam, 2003) and concern that a mandated label might be mistakenly interpreted by consumers to confer a food safety warning (Marchant, Cardineau and Redick, 2010). If manufacturers choose to maintain their products and place labels on them, the cost impact of mandatory labeling would be the relatively minor cost of the ink to print new labels and the more significant costs associated with tracking and monitoring to ensure compliance. If manufacturers choose to substitute GE ingredients with non-GE ingredients to avoid labels, the cost impact of mandatory labeling would be substantial and associated with new product formulation and sourcing non-GE ingredients.”


This excerpt is from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) Issue Paper “The Potential Impacts of Mandatory Labeling for Genetically Engineered Food in the United States” (Van Eenennaam, Chassy, Kalaitzandonakes and Redick, 2014).