Adwatch: Anti-Prop. 37 ad misleads on labeling costs

10/20/2012 12:00 AM

10/25/2012 2:47 PM

The campaign against Proposition 37, which would require new labels on food containing genetically engineered ingredients, is airing television ads around the state that include the argument that Proposition 37 would increase costs for consumers and farmers. Below is the argument made in one of the ads and an analysis by Laurel Rosenhall of The Bee Capitol Bureau.

Narrator: "It would increase costs for California farmers and food companies by over a billion dollars per year, and increase grocery bills for a typical family by $400 per year."

ANALYSIS: The ads imply that adding labels saying food has been genetically engineered would cost food manufacturers more than $1 billion a year and cost families $400 a year.

But both those figures assume that the food industry will respond to Proposition 37 by trying to avoid placing the labels on products and instead changing ingredients to exclude genetically engineered crops.

That means you'd be paying more to eat something different.

According to economic analyses produced for the No on 37 campaign, most food manufacturers would not want to label their food if Proposition 37 passes, so they would likely go organic or switch to ingredients that are not genetically engineered – which are costlier.

Researchers point to the example of Europe, where labeling genetically modified organisms is required and very few products contain GMOs. In the United States, however, thousands of grocery products contain GMOs, which are common in ingredients such as corn syrup, corn meal, sugar, canola oil and soy-based emulsifiers.

The estimates in the studies have not been confirmed by independent researchers.

The same studies say the cost increases would be much smaller if manufacturers chose to keep their ingredients the same and label their food as genetically engineered: For the typical California family, that approach would amount to $23 to $62 more per year.

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