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The Food You Eat: Report Calculates Cost of GE Food Labeling

PHOTO: A comparison of studies concludes listing genetically engineered ingredients on food labels would cost $2.30 per person, per year. Photo credit: Mangostock/iStockphoto.com.
PHOTO: A comparison of studies concludes listing genetically engineered ingredients on food labels would cost $2.30 per person, per year. Photo credit: Mangostock/iStockphoto.com.
October 6, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A consulting group has "studied the studies" about what it could cost consumers to label the genetically engineered ingredients in foods sold in Florida and other states – and it says the answer is, not much.

Increased food cost is a major argument of food producers and agribusinesses that support the continued use of genetically modified foods.

So, the firm ECONorthwest analyzed more than two dozen studies on GE labeling.

Bob Whelan, director and senior economist at ECONorthwest, says not all of them mentioned cost, and the estimates from those that did ranged from 32 cents to $15 a year. He says his group calculated the median figure.

"I guess in theory you could skip labeling food altogether and save a few dollars a year on groceries,” he says. “But consumers value information and, when you cut through all the research, it's quite clear, the cost of changing the label is about $2.30 a year."

Food industry-funded studies have estimated the additional annual cost per person at $100 to $200.

The labeling cost research was done for Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports. But Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, says food prices aren't the primary concern for her group.

"Given the minimal cost to consumers, the increased herbicide use involved in growing almost all genetically engineered crops, as well as the failure of the Food and Drug Administration to require human safety assessment before these foods reach the marketplace, we believe genetically engineered food labeling is important," she states.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - FL