Cornell Study: State-mandated GMO Labels will Drive Up Food Prices

A recent study showing how mandatory labels for foods made with genetically modified ingredients would cost families in one state hundreds of additional dollars each year at the grocery store is yet another reason why Congress shouldn’t delay in passing the bipartisan Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, according to farmers and ranchers. 

In making it clear that the Food and Drug Administration is the nation’s foremost authority on the use and labeling of foods containing GM ingredients, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R. 4432) will provide a federal solution to protect consumers from a confusing patchwork of 50-state GMO labeling policies, and the misinformation and high food costs that would come with them, explained Andrew Walmsley, American Farm Bureau Federation biotech specialist. 

Cornell University researchers earlier this month revealed the results of a study showing that New York’s proposed mandatory GMO labeling bill would cost families an average of $500 per year at the checkout aisle. The findings come on the heels of similar studies in Washington state and California that showed mandatory GMO labels would result in comparable increases in the cost of food.

Proponents of GMO labeling say they’re concerned about the safety of foods made with GM ingredients, despite the fact that GMOs have been used in our food supply for more than 20 years and no study has ever shown them to be unsafe or even different from foods without GMOs.

“There is no uncertainty about the safety of GMO food ingredients,” Walmsley emphasized.  “And as the Cornell study and others have shown, nor is there any doubt mandatory state-by-state labeling requirements will hit consumers’ wallets hard, with those who can least afford it hurting the most. ”

The Cornell study found that a mandatory labeling law like the one proposed would likely cost the state of New York millions of dollars in revenue to implement the new requirements and to account for a loss in farm income. 

The study was conducted by Professor Bill Lesser from Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management to evaluate the added costs that will be passed on to consumers if mandatory labeling becomes law in New York.

The federal Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act will safeguard farmers and ranchers access to the technology they need to provide consumers with the variety of food options and price points they expect, and need, while ensuring food safety is the leading driver of a national labeling policy.  Specifically, the measure requires FDA to conduct a safety review of all new GMO traits well before they’re available on supermarket shelves and empowers the agency to mandate the labeling of GMO food ingredients if the agency determines there is a health, safety or nutrition issue with a new GMO technology. 

The bill would not prevent companies from voluntarily labeling their products for the absence or presence of GMO ingredients, but would instead direct FDA to establish federal standards for those voluntary labels.

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