Don’t “Just Label It” – The hidden costs of GMO Labeling

The proposed patchwork of state mandatory GMO labeling laws will have unintended consequences

November 1, 2014

Today, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will review the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, HR 4432, a bill that would eliminate the threat of a patchwork of state labeling laws for foods produced with genetically modified organisms.
 
The proposed patchwork of state mandatory GMO labeling laws will have unintended consequences: at the very least, an added expense at the grocery store, and at the most extreme, the elimination of some of your favorite foods from the marketplace.
 
As the president and CEO of the Snack Food Association, I represent snack makers across the country, from large multi-national companies that distribute products to every state in virtually all snack food categories, to a family-owned chip factory with only a few employees. And while all of SFA’s members would be impacted by GMO labeling, small businesses would be hit the hardest.
 
But have you ever stopped to think that these laws could also mean saying goodbye to your favorite tortilla chip or pretzel?
 
Should one state call for GMO labeling, companies that distribute product there would be put in the difficult position of either complying with the law and investing in separate storage and production lines in order to process non-GMOs, or pulling their products out of that particular state altogether.
 
Some companies – most likely small, family owned businesses - would not have all of these options available. This is especially true considering that sourcing non-GMO ingredients would be a huge challenge since more than 80 percent of America’s corn and soybean crop is GMO, products largely used by snack makers. The significant costs and wait times to design new packaging would also prevent some companies from adapting. If enacted, GMO labeling will pose serious complications to the supply chain that consumers will ultimately pay for in the form of high prices.
 
A recent Cornell University study concluded that mandatory GMO labeling would increase the cost of food by about $500 per family per year – in New York state alone.
 
While we fully support the safety of GMOs, did you know that consumers already have options when it comes to buying non-GMO products?
 
Today, a company cannot display a USDA Organic Seal or a Non-GMO Project Verified Seal without completing thorough certification processes. The independent Non-GMO Project alone has certified over 20,000 non-GMO products in the last 10 years. Many of our member companies are proudly providing organic and non-GMO products through this rigorous and expensive certification process. The system in place works.
 
To be clear, campaigns for state-by-state GMO labeling laws aren’t about improving consumer choice, they are about forcing businesses to comply with costly government mandates while the market forces in place are already working. A patchwork of state rules is unnecessary and confusing for consumers.
 
Voters in four states have already made their voices heard by rejecting GMO labeling. Congress should enact a federal standard that eliminates confusion, advances food safety, and provides consistency for manufacturers. SFA supports bipartisan legislation, HR 4432, which does just that. We call on Congress to help bring this commonsense solution cross the finish line and ensure that America’s favorite snacks remain on your local grocery store shelf.
 
Tom Dempsey is the president and CEO of the Snack Food Association