The hysterical arguments being made by some food companies to fight GMO labeling should sound familiar: they’ve made the same claims to combat food safety and food labeling laws for decades.
When Congress was deciding whether to require the now familiar Nutrition Facts Panel, lobbyists for the Grocery Manufacturers Association warned that changing labels would increase food prices and that only consumers with a “graduate school course in nutrition” would understand basic information about food. Years later, when Congress was deciding whether to subject the food industry to tougher food safety standards, GMA once again warned that steps to keep food safe would increase food prices. Most recently, food companies warned that banning trans fats would cause “costly” reformulations – even though many companies have already eliminated or reduced trans fats.
It should be no surprise that food companies are recycling the same tired myths that sharing basic information about food will increase food prices.
Here’s the truth: Food companies routinely change their labels to make new claims or to highlight new innovations.
What’s more, adding a few words to the back of a food package will not cause costly supply-chain disruptions. Studies show that consumers tend to look for one or two attributes on a package – such as calories – and disregard the rest.
In addition, farmers and food companies have already established systems to segregate GMO and non-GMO commodities to serve our trading partners and to meet demand for non-GMO and organic products.
Finally, the price of food at the grocery store is driven by much more than the cost of making food, according to numerous studies.
Fortunately, we’ve already run the experiment. More than 60 nations require GMO labeling, and food prices in those nations have not increased.
No wonder the Washington Post’s “fact checker” gave the food industry “three Pinocchios” for claiming that GMO labeling would increase food prices.
As the Post noted:
It is an exaggeration to use the $500-per-family figure from the New York labeling bill in the national GMO debate. Those who oppose mandatory labeling are making the assumption that companies will switch out all GMO ingredients, produce completely new products, and then pass on all the costs of stocking, warehousing and producing those products to consumers. There may, indeed, be increased competition for companies to switch to non-GMO ingredients. But there are many other factors that affect wholesale or retail prices than just the cost of ingredients.