This week, the Washington Research Council came out with a special report titled “Initiative 522: Costly, Flawed and Ill-Conceived”, predicting that proposed legislation to label genetically engineered foods in Washington state would result in increased food prices for consumers.
According to the report, I-522 would require manufacturers to change their labels, resulting in costs that would be “passed on to Washington consumers through higher food prices.” The report predicts families could see an increase of as much as $500 per year for their grocery costs.
This dialogue is nothing new. The report from the Washington Research Council pulls data from a study undertaken in response to last year’s Prop 37 initiative in California. The research related to Proposition 37 estimated the possible increased cost to consumers from labeling GE foods but was based on a set of assumptions that extended far beyond the label changes, including the substitution of ingredients by food processors and significant changes in shopper’s purchasing behavior.
A new independent study released last week by Just Label It shows that simply changing the label won’t cause food prices to rise. The study, conducted by food marketing expert Kai Robertson, confirmed many factors play a role in a product’s price with no evidence connecting changes on afood label to supermarket prices.
“Food processors regularly make changes to the labels of their products – as part of ongoing product innovation to anticipate and meet changing consumer demands and for other marketing and regulatory reasons,” Robertson wrote. “There are no studies that document the impact of changes to a product’s label on prices charged by supermarkets.”
As supported by Jerry Greenfield, founder of Ben & Jerry’s, “The impact on the cost just to put something on your label is essentially zero.”
Washington residents should expect to hear more of this rhetoric leading up to November’s ballot. The same handful of companies who spent $45 million dollars in an advertising blitz to defeat Prop 37 are already pouring millions into defeating I-522, and will likely continue to use the same tactics in order to fight our right to know about our food.