Those who oppose mandatory labeling for genetically-engineered foods love to claim that to pass such a law will cause food prices to skyrocket. In a time when many Americans are struggling to put food on the table, this is a terrifying prospect. According to a former vice president of one of America's biggest food lobbies, however, this claim is completely unfounded and designed to scare voters away from supporting mandatory GMO labeling laws.
Here in the United States, we like things cheap. Gas, clothes, food—somewhere along the line, we decided that getting these things at dirt cheap prices was an inalienable right, up there with free speech and voting.
This simply isn't true, of course. Good food takes a lot of time, effort, and yes money, to produce. If you're getting foodstuffs for dollar store prices, it typically means one of two things: those prices are being artificially suppressed or you're eating crap. In America, both are true.
Now, biotech companies like Monsanto and DuPont are telling us that if we want to know exactly what kind of crap we're eating, it will cause food prices to shoot through the roof. Imaginging $10 gallons of milk and $5 apples, it's easy to see how this is an effective tactic. Here's the problem though: it's a bald-faced lie.
"In my role as a vice president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), I learned a lot about what drives the price of food," wrote Scot Faber, VP of Government Affairs, Environmental Working Group and current Executive Director of 'Just Label It' in a recent op-ed. Among other things Faber learned was that "adding a few words to a label has no impact on the price of making or selling food."
It's worth pointing out that GMA has been one of the most vocal opponents of GMO labeling, especially in Washington State where voters will soon decide whether or not to pass a labeling law. As Organic Authority recently reported, GMA has invested $7.2 million to defeat the Washington GMO labeling law.
And what makes Faber so sure that re-designing each label to identify GMOs won't affect food prices? History. "[F]ood manufacturers are constantly changing their labels to highlight product innovations or to make health claims. Although it varies from product to product, the average 'refresh' cycle for a food label is about a year. Adding the words 'may contain genetically engineered ingredients' will add as much to the cost of making food as adding the words 'can help reduce cholesterol' — nothing," Faber writes.
Still not convinced? Faber points to the GMA's own admission that labels have nothing to do with food prices, which occurred in the 1990s. "A former GMA spokesman told The New York Times as much in 1990 when the first Bush Administration decided to require mandatory nutrition labeling. A recent study by a former Food Marketing Institute expert also found no evidence that label changes boost food prices," writes Faber.
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