GMO labeling the issue that won t go away

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153697219The New York legislature, like those in other states, is considering mandating labeling of genetically engineered (GMO) foods. ACSH is firmly against such laws, for reasons we have presented on numerous occasions. However, for good or ill, such mandates seem to have lives of their own.

A new study published on the website of Cornell University s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management investigated the costs that would accrue if such a labeling law were passed. Professor Bill Lesser conducted the study, in which he evaluated the effects of the proposed legislation on a myriad of factors that would affect New Yorkers food costs.

Among the conclusions he reached, Dr. Lesser found that the law would apply to 40 percent of food and alcohol items, which would translate into 50 percent of food items in supermarkets. He noted that while the costs associated with voluntary labeling laws, which producers may opt to use, would be borne by sellers, a mandate would shift those costs to consumers.

Some of the factors that would increase costs would be a mandate for separation of GMO and non-GMO foods from farm to table. Thus, it would require separate processing and storage facilities for the different food streams. Further, such separation would likely be subject to government regulation and oversight, and require additional record-keeping.

In sum, Dr. Lesser estimated that GMO labeling would raise the cost of food for a family of four by $500.00 per year.

ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava s opinion: These GMO-labeling laws are examples of regulation gone amok. There is no benefit to be obtained in terms of human health or environmental preservation. Mandating such labels is cynical kowtowing to fear-mongering. The only group likely to benefit is the organic food industry.

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom comments, The most anti-scientific part of the law is requiring the labeling ofproducts that are made from GM crops, e.g., sugar from GM sugar beets. This reflects a fundamental ignorance of chemistry. Sugar, whether it is derived from GM beets, non-GM beets, sugar cane, or made synthetically is still sugar. It makes no difference where it comes from. So, putting the source of the sugar on the label is as useful as putting down the winning lottery numbers in Cleveland on the day the crop was picked.