Adwatch: Ad supporting Prop. 37 minimizes potential cost of labeling measure

10/29/2012 12:00 AM

10/31/2012 10:05 AM

The campaign for Proposition 37, which would require new labels on food containing genetically engineered ingredients, is on the air with its first statewide television ad combating the opposition's argument that the measure would raise grocery prices.

Below is text of the ad and analysis by Laurel Rosenhall of The Bee Capitol Bureau.

Narrator: Because food is love. Food is life. Food is family. We all have the right to know what's in our food. That's why the California Nurses Association, consumer groups and thousands of others say Yes to 37. Pesticide companies like Monsanto and Dow shouldn't be able to hide that they are genetically engineering our food. Sixty-one other countries already have the right to know. Shouldn't we? Simple. Clear. Doesn't cost a dime. Yes on 37. The right to know what's in our food.

ANALYSIS: The claim that Proposition 37 "doesn't cost a dime" is based on a dubious premise – that the only cost the measure would create is the cost for state government to regulate food labels. There could be other costs passed to consumers depending on how the food industry reacts.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office says that charging the Department of Public Health with regulating food labels – as called for by Proposition 37 – would cost the state "from a few hundred thousand dollars to over $1 million annually."

That works out to about 3 cents per Californian, according to an economic analysis being promoted by the Proposition 37 campaign – or less than a dime.

The study, by an economist at the Emory University School of Law, was paid for by a group that opposes genetic engineering.

The same study also says the cost for food companies to redesign packages with new labels could raise the price of groceries for the average California household by as much as $1.27 annually. Not much money – but more than a dime.

The report says it's unlikely that food companies would raise prices to cover such a minimal one-time cost, leading to the conclusion that consumers could end up paying nothing. However, the study assumes that the only consumer price changes created by Proposition 37 would be those associated with the companies' cost of redesigning package labels. Opponents of the measure say that's unlikely.

They've commissioned a study saying food companies would probably try to avoid labeling their products by dropping genetically engineered ingredients in favor of costlier ones, resulting in greater increases in grocery prices.

Neither claim has been independently verified.

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