JWeidTeddyBear's picture
how much would it cost to label GMOs?

A:Expert Answer

That's an easy question to ask and a very difficult one to answer. There are some circles that would lead you to believe that it’s a simple matter of putting the acronym "GMO" on a label. For people who haven't followed a corn or soybean seed from the field to the fork, it would seem to be an easy thing to just "put" on a label. For those of us in farming, we know that it’s not so simple and would have a catastrophic impact on our family farms if it passed. There is nothing simple about the food supply chain, from a commodity grain grown in my field to a food ingredient used in a baked good, cereal or other item on your grocery shelf. My blog, The Cost of GMO Labeling, will give you a view of the impact of how grain is handled, from our farm perspective, and the infrastructure that would be required to accurately put the acronym "GMO" on a label. It would mean nothing short of a recapitalization of our entire farming infrastructure system, and conversion from commingled to segregated grain tracking along the entire food supply chain. It would be extremely expensive for farmers to add storage, and that's the perspective from which I wrote my blog.

A:Expert Answer

“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).


Community Manager's picture

Hi @JWeidTeddyBear, while we're reaching out to an expert to answer this question, we wanted to share two studies with you related to your question. The first is from Cornell University (http://dyson.cornell.edu/people/profiles/docs/LabelingNY.pdf) and the second is from the Washington State Academy of Sciences (http://www.washacad.org/initiatives/WSAS_i522_WHITEPAPER_100913.pdf).

Taz21's picture

Here's one thought on the matter! Considering there are still organic companies that don't use GMO, but they don't spend the organic labeling fees because it's not worth it for them since they don't make so much profit. For them, it'd be either business as usual or higher profits because the Organic label would not be so sought after compared to those just avoiding GMO labels.

Passing a bill to label GMO would ruin Monsanto because not only are they GMO, but they are also connected to RoundUp fertilizers. They would be the most avoided food out there. Who would rise up in this situation? Traditional farmers who have been struggling thru the situation for years, families, small businesses at farmers markets probably. Someone in the mix would probably be the next Monsanto of non-organic label and non-GMO label; a new conglomerate on the scene!

The cost of GMO labeling would be lower than Organic labeling costs because it's much easier to find the evidence of GMO in a crop, than to have an in-depth review of an entire farm and it's processes, to see if it "makes the grade".

The prices they put out are just a number, my question is, where are all the numbers? None of these responses show you what a company makes in a year, along side the cost they would have to fork over to GMO label. If they did that, we would simply just want the comparison to earnings and costs for Organic labeling!