Last week, the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (commonly called the state legislature) went into recess. While it is a year-round legislature, bills not passed by the end of last week are now considered dead. This would include the GMO labeling bill which proponents only weeks earlier had proclaimed to be supported by the majorities of both the House and Senate.
However, a large coalition of agricultural and food organizations spent several months to convince state policy makers that the proposal would be disruptive to food processing and distribution, and additionally would likely cost the average Massachusetts household an additional $500 or more per year in grocery bills. The cost estimate is based on a recent study at Cornell University by a leading economist, William Lesser, who studied the potential cost impact on households throughout the Northeast states should GMO labeling be mandatory.
An editorial in the Boston Globe last week on this issue stated that such mandatory labeling would result in higher consumer costs.
“That’s a steep price to give consumers virtually no useful information. Many foods are manipulated for sensible reasons through genetic engineering. A GMO labeling law would only drive consumers to more expensive products that would not necessarily be any healthier for them.”
2014 has been a record year for proponents of GMO Labeling in terms of legislative proposals in states and territories. At last count, almost a hundred GMO labeling bills were pending at some point earlier in the year before 30 state legislatures. With the exception of the Vermont version that passed and is now being challenged in court (where proponents bragged about spending upwards of $1 million to pass the bill), every other bill has either been voted down or like the Massachusetts’ version remained without further action. In addition, there is a GMO labeling ballot initiative pending for statewide votes in Oregon this fall, and also possibly in Colorado if the submitted signatures there are adequate to place that version on the ballot.
We keep seeing reporters looking at GMO labeling bills as though this is a new trend. If they did a little homework (scratch past that first page on a Google search or call knowledgeable people) they would see that in reality probably near a thousand GMO labeling bills and initiatives have been proposed for well over a decade at the US state level. With the exception of Vermont again, nothing else that is enforceable has passed.
Proponents of such labeling clearly have financial vested interests in continuing this movement – look at any organic sales statistics for the same number of years in North America. At over $30 billion dollars, the organic sector clearly has seen that vilifying agricultural biotech via GMO labeling misinformation campaigns is financially savvy.