up being as much as $825 more per family every year.
Yet a look at the literature on mandatory food labelingreveals that a much lower cost is likely.An impartial consulting firm did a study in 2001 for theU.K. Food Standards Agency and found that GE labelingwould increase a household's annual food spending byonly 0.01 to 0.17 percent — a very small figure rang-ing from an increase of $.33 to $5.58 in 2010 real U.S.dollars (inflation-adjusted) annually.
The GMA's esti-mate of $825 would be 13 percent of the 2010 averageannual household food expenditure in the United States — about 150 times more than the U.K. Food StandardsAgency's forecasted increase in household food spend-ing.
The GMA report grossly overestimates the impactthat labeling would have on food costs for consumers.It is worth looking at some of the costs that could be in-curred with mandatory labeling. Labeling would requiresegregating seeds according to GE content through-out the food chain, which is already done with manyidentity-preserved crops. Farmers are already segregatingcrops to prevent cross-contamination in fields, althoughsome cases of GE contamination do still occur. Label-ing requirements would not necessarily require farmersto incur any extra costs while keeping seeds separatedat the field level.
Depending on the markets where theseeds or grains are sold, grain handlers and seed compa-nies do testing to ensure the purity of the seeds that theysell or distribute. There are already segregation methodsin place today for crop and seed export to countrieswith GE labeling requirements, such as European Unioncountries, Japan and China.
Once labeling is requiredin the United States, these practices would have to beexpanded, but an entirely new system would not have tobe developed.Food processors and manufacturers would have to makesure that there is proper segregation in crop storage andcleaning of equipment,
but as long as labeling is main-tained throughout the process this should be straight-forward. Manufacturers can reduce the costs of actuallychanging their labels by waiting until their inventoryof labels is low and making the change before reorder-ing packaging materials, or coordinating the requiredlabeling change with a scheduled labeling change.According to an FDA Labeling Cost Model, “the pricingfor graphic design services does not differ substantiallyif additional changes are made because of a regula-tory requirement at the same time as a scheduled labelchange.”
Food Industry Claim:
GE labeling means morebureaucracy and taxpayer costs.
For decades, the food industry has opposed any newfood labeling requirements, including nutrition labelsand ingredient listings. One of their favorite argumentsis that new labeling requirements will drive the growthof government bureaucracy and cost taxpayers money.
Mandatory labeling would take monitoring and enforce-ment, but this does not have to be difficult as long asall players participated in labeling along all steps of thefood chain. If GE labeling is mandatory, federal and stateagencies could simply add GE labeling to the food label-ing requirements that they would already be assessingduring compliance inspections.
Food Industry Claim:
GE labeling would burdengrocers and retailers withmountains of paperwork.
Changing food labeling to reflect the presence of a GEingredient wouldn't be any different for grocery storesthan stocking a product that has changed its ingredientsor added a nutritional-benefit claim to the package. Atthe retail level, the costs for pre-packaged foods willbe very small, because the labels will have been addedlong before the food gets to the store. For foods that thestore handles (such as produce or some meat that isrepackaged on site), retailers will have to be sure that GEand non-GE products are kept separately and labeled assuch, not unlike what they do to provide country-of-ori-gin information or even pricing information. The bulk of the labeling costs will be incurred at the processing andmanufacturing stage, with grocery stores having smalladditional costs.
Food Industry Claim:
It is not the responsibility of the statesto create food labeling requirements.
States often lead the way when the federal governmentis too slow, too gridlocked or too weak to take action.Long before the United States enacted a mandatoryCountry of Origin Labeling (COOL) policy, eight statesrequired this labeling on their own.
Some states havealso led the way in enacting renewable energy stan-dards and mandates, as funding for federal initiatives has