Are GMO food labels and a ‘right to know’ worth the price?

Label GM Foods

Whether the labeling debate continues to play out on a state-by-state basis, or the federal government eventually intervenes, chances are good that we’re looking into a future food supply dotted with mandatory GMO labels. More than 90 percent of Americans think this is a good idea. As matters now stand, the voluntary “non-GMO” label, started in 2008, inadvertently sows confusion. Non-GMO labels have been placed on products such as orange juice, suggesting that there are genetically modified oranges on the market when, in fact, there aren’t. None of this seems quite right. To a meaningful extent, a GMO label would bring some clarity to the situation. But clarity comes at a cost—and how much cost is the subject of intense debate. This disparity hinges less on sloppy science or ideological bias than a basic disagreement over how food suppliers and consumers would react to a freshly minted GMO label. One side—the no cost/low cost advocates—equates a labeling mandate with little more than the paper and ink required to manufacture the label. The idea here is that food suppliers and consumers wouldn’t necessarily shift their purchasing choices in the face of a GMO designation. Those who see the GMO label leading to higher food prices begin (as they should) by highlighting the sham science that’s been used to vilify GMOs over the past two decades. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that GMOs are safe to eat. That hasn’t prevented the disingenuous association of genetic modification with maladies ranging from cancer, autism, impotence, allergies, and infertility to farmer suicides in India.  One change seems absolutely certain: The food system’s foundation would tectonically shift to accommodate dual ingredient streams (if not multiple streams). It would have no choice. GMO and non-GMO crops are currently massively mingled. The logistics of crop segregation, says Jennie Schmidt, a Maryland corn farmer, terrifies conventional farmers. It has also led the Washington State Academy of Sciences, in a report prepared last October, to write, “The costs of actual labeling are a tiny fraction of the costs of compliance and certification.” Read the full, original article: The Price of Your Right to Know

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