Election season is a dizzying array of radio ads, commericals and pamphlets vying for voter attention, and the bills to label GMOs are no exception.
With Oregon and Colorado's anti-labeling coalitions receiving millions of Big Food and biotech dollars, citizens in these two states are being bombarded with advertisements expressing the drawbacks of GMO labeling. According to No on 105 and No on 92, labeling GMOs would make food more expensive to buy and produce.
Our budget isn't quite as robust as Monsanto's (who recently pumped $6.2 million into this year's anti-labeling campaigns) to counter with a flurry of pro-labeling ads. But with the help of Steven Hoffman, managing partner at Compass Natural and experienced GMO-labeling advocate, here we're debunking top claims made by those who oppose labeling GMOs.
The claim: Labeling GMOs would increase food costs.
The counter: A new report by the Consumers Union found that labeling GMOs would cost each consumer just $2.30 annually. “[Mainstream] manufacturers in the United States are spending millions of dollars not to label GMO-containing products,” says Steven Hoffman. “These manufacturers are labeling the very same products for foreign markets that require labeling. In these markets, prices have not been raised.”
Manufacturers alter and redesign their labels all the time—the only reason a GMO labeling bill would raise prices is if these manufacturers reformulated to non-GMO supply, Hoffman continues.
As for creating separate storage and packaging lines, “There are farmers that separate GMO and non-GMO ingredients now,” says Steven. “The opposing side is making a very big deal about the cost of doing business because they really have nothing else to reach for.”
The claim: The bill is badly written because meat and dairy, food and beverages sold by restaurants, and alcoholic beverages are exempt from labeling.
The counter: “Let’s look at these exemptions,” says Hoffman. “First, it’s very difficult to write a bill that covers everything—especially when these items are under different regulatory jurisdictions.” For example, the USDA covers meat and dairy, while the FDA covers grocery products. Alcohol is also regulated differently than food.
“These exemptions exist because you can't cover everything in one bill,” says Hoffman. “We decided to go after grocery products.”
The claim: There are existing GMO labeling systems (such as USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified)
The counter: “Most people in America don’t realize that 80 percent of grocery products contain GMOs,” says Hoffman. “Consumers get to know calorie content, fat content and salt content. But a fundamental way that affects the very genetics of food production we don’t get to know about?”
Additionally, the opposing side argues that labeling would only confuse consumers. “But we think the American consumer is smarter,” says Hoffman. “And parents across America that don’t know about Non-GMO Project Verified and USDA Organic should have the right to know [about GMOs] when they’re buying baby formula.”
Each shopper is entitled to transparency—regardless of his or her involvement in the natural products industry.
What are the reasons you support GMO labeling? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter!