State science panel predicts food prices will rise with GMO labeling

SEATTLE -- A new report from the Washington State Academy of Sciences - an independent research group funded by taxpayers - mirrors key arguments being made by opponents of I-522 that would require labeling of genetically modified foods in the state.

Opposition to labeling GMO foods in Washington has relied on several central arguments like price, hassle, and unfairness. Each argument gets countered by supporters of labeling GMO foods, And vice versa.

Let's face it, many shoppers and voters are confused. Just remember that genetically-modified foods are already in every grocery store; from fruits and vegetables, to soft drinks, meat, fish and everything in between. But you wouldn't know it because they're not labeled. The academy's study says adding those labels would tick up the price a little because of complexities in the supply chain.

"They're talking about would-be, could-be-maybe scenarios," responds Elizabeth Larter, Director of Communications for 'Yes on I-522,' "when we actually have real world evidence from 64 countries that do label GMO products and their food prices didn't go up."

Additionally, the familiar black-and-white nutrition labels were opposed years ago by the food industry fearing higher prices. But that didn't happen.

"American foodmakers are sending their food there (to 64 other countries). They just label it. Why can't they do that here in Washington State?" asks Larter.

Beyond price, the study mirrors opponents' claims that GMO foods do "not differ" in safety from regular food, different labels in one state is unfair, and that voluntary labeling already exists.

Non-GMO labeling is happening. And organic foods, which have no GMO elements, continue to grow as a choice, adding to opponents' claims that voluntary labeling is a viable alternative.

Larter said Thursday millions of dollars from opponents like Monsanto, DuPont and Dow may have indirectly influenced the independent state science panel's report. "Our opponents bought and paid for two studies," said Larter, "one of which was cited in the report."

The fight in Washington is really about precedent: whatever Washington voters decide could replicate in other U.S. states. California voters turned down the labeling requirement by a slim margin after food companies spent tens of millions of dollars opposing the measure. Several Northeastern states have approved GMO labeling but only to start once other states have approved and commenced labeling.

Whole Foods Market, a strong supporter of I-522 to label GMO foods, says regardless of what happens Nov. 5, it will require all its suppliers to label their foods by 2018.