There’s a lot of good reasons why it’s a bad idea to impose mandatory labeling of foods made with genetically modified crops or GMOs. You can start with the fact that there are no nutritional differences between foods made with GMOs and non-GMOs, and eventually you can make your way to the fact that labels are supposed to convey real information.
But there’s another very good reason why mandatory labels are very bad idea: higher food bills for consumers.
A new study by a Cornell University professor found that mandatory labeling would tack on approximately $500 per year to each family’s food budget in the state of New York. That’s a sobering and wallet-cringing thought given that New York is considering a mandatory labeling bill, a copycat of one passed by Vermont.
Why does mandatory labeling hike up the food bill for consumers? Economics researcher William Lesser found that the scheme would shift labeling costs to consumers. In comparison, a voluntary labeling system is partly funded by retailers that are trying to make their products stand out in a crowded supermarket.
Lesser found that the labeling law would affect every aspect of food production, "from the seed to the store shelf." There is the actual cost of sticking in the label itself, plus the additional cost of warehousing and restocking.
A pull back for GMOs
Perhaps, more worrisome, is that the mandatory labeling laws would prompt many retailers to shift away from foods made with conventional crops to those made with organic or non-GMO items. Those ingredients, Lesser notes, are almost always more costly than their conventional counterparts, and there is also the cost that multi-state food manufacturers would see from keeping the two types of food separate.
In addition, Lesser notes, if GMO use is curtailed, farmers and society won’t get the environmental benefits offered by the technology.
Added all up, it’s a hefty bill that hits hardest at the wallets of poorer families, who spend a larger percentage of their income on food.
That’s why nationwide voluntary labeling system makes so much more sense. Consumers who want to avoid GMOs are free to do that under a voluntary system. And the rest of us wouldn’t be faced with a patchwork of state laws and spread confusion and that will only add to food costs.