Statement about Bogus Economic Analysis of GMO Labeling Costs - Yes on Prop 37
The same companies that told us DDT and Agent Orange were safe and that have a history of misleading the public with bad science are now making false claims that Proposition 37 will raise the cost of groceries by hundreds of dollars a year.
The No on 37 campaign’s recent economic analysis of Proposition 37, conducted by Northbridge Environmental Management Consultants, is based on so many flawed premises that it is an entirely useless analysis of the California ballot initiative for labeling genetically engineered foods. Northbridge has no economic expertise; they are a consulting firm best known for opposing recycling laws for the soda pop industry.
In contrast, a real economic study on Proposition 37 conducted by Joanna Shepherd Bailey, Ph.D., a tenured professor at Emory University School of Law, found that: “Consumers will likely see no increases in prices as a result of the relabeling required.” Among the report’s findings –- backed by empirical literature and historical precedents – is that companies’ fear of losing customers due to increasing grocery prices is a significant deterrent to passing on the “trivial” labeling costs to consumers.
“California consumers know that putting a little ink on a label is not going to change food prices,” said Stacy Malkan, Media Director of California Right to Know. “No one is going to be fooled by this work of fiction dressed up in a little economic flourish.”
“Did food prices change when we put calorie content on labels? Of course not,” Malkan said. “And they won’t change when we label genetically engineered foods.”
In Europe, there were no changes in food costs due to labeling of genetically engineered food. According to David Byrne, then-European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection of the European Parliament, “When the current labeling regime ... was introduced in 1997, it did not result in increased costs, despite the horrifying (double-digit) prediction of some interests. Similarly, when Norway introduced its current labelling regime (similar to the one now proposed), it did not provoke any price increase or disruption in trade.”
Other US food processors agree that changes in labeling having no effect on consumer costs. “We, as with most manufacturers, are continually updating our packaging. It is a regular cost of doing business - a small one at that - and is already built into the price consumers pay for products,” said Arran Stephens, president and founder of Nature’s Path. “Claims that labeling GMOs would significantly increase the price of food for consumers just aren’t true. Companies would certainly be updating their packaging for other reasons within the 18 months they will be given to comply with the new law, and could simply make the additional GMO labeling changes at the same time.”
Following are just a few of the major false premises and statements in the No on 37 analysis.
- It assumes that if genetically engineered foods are labeled, that food producers will abandon these foods entirely, and switch entirely either to organic or non-genetically engineered ingredients. But their analysis produces no evidence to support this premise. If the biotech and food companies really believe their genetically engineered food is so great, then consumers won’t abandon genetically engineered foods, and this premise is incorrect.
- It assumes that, under Proposition 37, processed foods may not be labeled as natural. This is incorrect. Proposition 37 only covers genetically engineered foods, and does not affect processed foods that are not genetically engineered. The measure states this clearly at the outset: its purpose is ”to create and enforce the fundamental right of the people of California to be fully informed about whether the food they purchase and eat is genetically engineered and not misbranded as natural so that they can choose for themselves whether to purchase and eat such foods."
- It claims that “an outright ban of GE foods is the publicly stated goal of the proponents of the Initiative.” This is false. Proposition 37 is not a ban on genetically engineered food. It’s a label that will put the choice in the hands of consumers who have a right to know what they’re buying and eating.