I know there is no straight answer, but can you give me a breakdown of the costs of LABELING genetically engineeredbioengineered foods? Not only for consumers, but for the farmers and those behind the scenes?
Submitted by: USfarmkid321
Expert response from Jennifer Schmidt
Maryland Farmer and Registered Dietician
Friday, 16/01/2015 10:14
The true cost of GMO labeling, I believe, has yet to be determined. Of the literature that I have read, none have fully considered the capitalization of infrastructure in which farmers would need to invest in order to keep genetically engineered seed segregated from non-genetically engineered seed. That’s not to say it’s not possible, we and many other farmers already do that and get paid a premium to do so. The issue is because a large percentage of genetically engineered grain produced in the U.S. goes to animal feed, and the various traits can be co-mingled in the same grain tank for storage, as well as “non-GMO” grain that is also sold for feed. This greatly reduces the storage capacity required to store grain throughout the year. Remember that grain isn’t produce; if dried and stored properly, it can keep for more than a year. Considering that harvest happens once in the fall, there has to be enough grain stored to last for 12 months until the next season of harvest.
My argument is that labeling of foods derived from GMO ingredients is worthless unless the grain is segregated by genetic trait – the type of GMO in the seed because they’re not all the same. The premise of the argument for labeling is that the consumer has the “right to know” because of some potential safety issue related to the genetic trait. If we assume that this is true, then to co-mingle all genetically engineered seeds together means that in the event of a safety issue, there is no way to know “which” trait was the culprit.
In order to have truth in labeling, the grain must be segregated by trait, or consumers know nothing. For our farm to segregate by trait, we would need to add 150,000 bushels of additional storage space to separately store the six varieties of corn, four varieties of soybeans, four different varieties of wheat, and the single variety of barley. Remember that wheat and barley are all non-GMO, but we still need storage space for them. Storing grain through the year means we can plan our sales and maintain an income stream to pay bills during the off season. The cost of building storage runs $1-2 per bushel so we’re looking at an investment of up to $300,000 just for us to have storage to segregate. Considering our current farm debt load, additional storage isn’t even on the table for discussion.
Then there’s the rest of the food supply chain system, which I discuss in my blog “The Cost of GMO Labeling”. From farm to processor to refiner to distributor to grocer, maintaining identity of the ingredient as being derived from a genetically engineered seed would mean huge capitalization of equipment and storage throughout the entire food supply chain. Since the evidence shows no health or safety concerns with ingredients derived from genetically engineered seeds, this would be a waste of capital indeed.
Consumers would know nothing if a label simply said “contain ingredients derived from genetically engineered seed”. GMO isn’t a “food” – it is a plant breeding process. And it’s one that is specific and well characterized, or it doesn’t make it through the regulatory process. Truth in labeling demands accuracy which ultimately demands segregation by trait. Given the safety record of ingredients derived from genetically engineered grain, the consumer gains nothing in the process.