Written by Steve Savage
When asked, “Do you want foods that contain GMOs to be labeled?” most US consumers say, “Yes.” To those unfamiliar with the food system, this sounds like a simple request. The reality is that GMO labeling would be very complicated because it involves “negative identity preservation in low value, commodity channels.” (I’ll unpack that terminology below.) The best precedent for what that would mean is what has happened with certified Organic grains and grain-based ingredients. Over time, the Organic industry has shifted towards more and more off-shore sourcing of such foods – particularly from places like China. Many of the same groups promoting GMO labeling have been also been concerned about the integrity of imported “Organic” foods. The irony is that if the GMO labeling campaign is successful, it is very likely that the “Non-GMO” segment will follow the same “China Scenario*,” and its associated risks.
Specialty Crops vs Commodity Crops
There is a broad spectrum of food and beverage crops ranging from very high-value, specialty items to low-value, bulk commodities. Elite wine grapes are a high value crop that is “identity preserved.” Because climate and soil are so important for wine quality, the exact region, variety and even vineyard are carefully associated with the grapes after harvest, and great care is taken not to mix them with grapes of lesser or different value. Field corn (“#2 dent corn”) is at the opposite end of the spectrum. For most uses, corn is corn and it generally does not matter where it came from. It is handled in huge quantities (like 110 car trains, giant barges…) and is “co-mingled” with corn from many sources. If it moves into milling steps, the resulting “ingredients” also flow into more, low-margin, high-volume, and commingled streams.
Wine grapes are used in an extremely “high margin” business since the grapes are worth a great deal (~$1-3 per pound) and the resulting wine is worth far more. Corn, even at current high prices, is only worth 10-12 cents per pound to the grower and only slightly more at each subsequent step in the food chain. Keeping track of separate lots of grapes, handling them in small specific containers, and tracking the information costs money, but for the grapes it is more than worth it. To keep track of individual lots of corn in the vast river that is the commodity corn market would also cost money – vastly too much money to be practical. Corn is a “high volume, low value commodity,” as are most of the other crops that are “GMO.” (soybeans, cotton, canola). For purely economic reasons, GMO crops will almost always be confined to high volume commodity crops because those are the only markets that involved enough acres to justify the investment in the generation and regulatory approval of a GMO crop.
The Organic Precedent
The rules for production of Organic crops include a requirement for “chain of custody,” another term for “identity preservation.” That is one of several reasons why Organic is more costly. In this case, the tracking is based solely on a paper trail and there is not any regular or even random testing. That is unlikely to be a reason for suspicion in the US and Canada, but whether such a self-policing system is suitable for some other foreign countries is doubted by many (PRI, Grist, USDA, Seattle Times, Treehugger, Organic Consumers Union). The cost of identity preservation has not been too limiting for high value Organic fruit and vegetable crops as they have increased to a few percent of the total. For low value, commodity crops, Organic has made extremely limited inroads (Corn 0.25%, Soybeans 0.13%, Winter Wheat 0.51%, Spring Wheat 0.69%. Also because these are crops that can be shipped long distances, the domestic Organic production has had difficulty competing with foreign (and sometimes suspect) sources. That is the first example of the “China Scenario.”
Would Labeling Create A Significant “Non-GMO Market?”
If mandatory GMO labeling were to be instituted, the only practical option would be to label any product that contains any ingredient from the major GMO crops as “may contain ingredients from crops modified by genetic engineering.” That would include the vast majority of “processed foods,” but not almost any fruits or vegetables. Even though these GMO containing foods have been on the market for 16 years without incident, and even though there has been abundant information about this in the press and on the web, a sudden wave of labeling might alarm some segment of the population and induce them to look for non-GMO alternatives. That is almost surely the hope of some of the commercial interests that are promoting labeling. Consumer alarm might establish a new, “Non-GMO” sub-market which goes beyond the current Organic market (The Organic community decided to reject genetically engineered crops long before they were ever commercialized).
Who Would End Up Fulfilling That Demand?
A new group of non-GMO customers might be willing to pay somewhat of a price premium, but probably less than that which is tolerated for Organic. Foreign sources of grains and related ingredients would be very likely to enter the market, and that would make trying to supply non-GMO crops even less attractive to domestic grain growers. Exactly how unattractive will depend on what is described by another, obscure, food industry term: “adventitious presence.” There are some medium value commodities that are “identity preserved” in the normal system. High protein, Hard Red Spring Wheat is segregated and identity preserved because it has a “positive attribute” that is valued by the baking industry (high dough strength). If there is a little bit of other wheat mixed in because of carryover in bins or harvesting equipment (this is how adventitious presence happens), it is no problem because the 95-99% of desired wheat will still provide the desired properties. In the case of a non-GMO grain, it is being bought for what it isn’t, and a decision will have to be made about what level of “adventitious presence” to tolerate. The lower that threshold, the harder it will be for any American or Canadian farmer to sell into the non-GMO market. A consumer market based on fear is likely to favor a “zero tolerance” which would make it extremely difficult to source these grains domestically.
The more this market might grow based on off-shore sources, the more likely it would be that there will eventually be a major food scandal. It might involve adulteration (e.g. as in the melamine milk disaster), unregistered pesticide residues, heavy metals, or most likely of all – mycotoxin contamination.
Mycotoxins – Not Just An Abstract Concern
Just because low value commodity markets don’t track “identity” does not mean that they are unprotected from real threats. Corn, for instance, can be contaminated in the field or in storage with certain fungi, which can make seriously nasty toxins. The levels of these are closely regulated in the domestic food and feed industry with limits set by the FDA and enforced by the USDA. Our industry does a great job overall of making sure that contaminated grain does not makes its way into the system in the first place. Such testing and exclusion mechanisms are practically non-existent in places like China. In recent years the Chinese government has begun to do some mycotoxin testing and they find serious contamination with things like Aflatoxin on a frighteningly regular basis. Thus, if the GMO labeling campaigners generate the non-GMO market they desire, they will be setting-up consumers for a very real health risk. This exposure already exists in the imported segment of the Organic market, but even a moderately large non-GMO segment would magnify that risk.
It would be interesting to poll the average American after they were told about the risks associated with “the China scenario,” and to see how that influences their support for a labeling law.
You are welcome to comment here and/or to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*BTW: I’m not a “China Basher.” I think that China does many things extremely well, but when it comes to certain food safety issues, the story gets to be complex.
non-GMO label image from decorat
Written by Guest Expert
Steve Savage has worked with various aspects of agricultural technology for more than 35 years. He has a PhD in plant pathology and his varied career included Colorado State University, DuPont, and the bio-control start-up, Mycogen. He is an independent consultant working with a wide variety of clients on topics including biological control, biotechnology, crop protection chemicals, and more. Steve writes and speaks on food and agriculture topics (Applied Mythology blog) and does a bi-weekly podcast called POPAgriculture for the CropLife Foundation.
Interesting take on the labeling issue. Since Europe, in general, is perceived as GMO free and could be seen as more reliable for the chain of custody, would this potentially open opportunities for non-gmo production there or is their potential production capacity too low? Also, China might find it hard to pursue this if their own GMO production ramps up. It would also be interesting to see how closely tied labeling is to the Organic designation. My experience with “labelers” is they are typically concerned about using Organic products as well. If that tie is close, then the chain of custody issues become moot as Organic already encompasses non-gmo. All they have to do is slap on the label (if they haven’t already).
Europe and Organic are potential suppliers of non-GMO products, but both will be relatively expensive. Europe is already a massive net importer of food, so they won’t be exporting at cheap prices. If, as it seems, the goal of the GMO labeling forces is to create a broader market, it is not clear that they would be willing to spend as much.
You are right that Organic and others can do voluntary non-GMO labeling and have always been able to do so (on the “front,” minimally regulated label). That should be sufficient to satisfy the demand, but those driving this issue have not been satisfied with that because they appear to desire a disruption of the system.
Great article Steve. The thing with the mycotoxins, I have been wondering about people who grow their own grain, as there is a little bit of a trend for that. I doubt that most “homesteaders” are aware that such a problem exists or take sufficient measures to prevent it.
That is something they should definitely learn about if they grow and store their own grain. The thing is that with wheat and Fusarium Head Scab, there is not a 1 to 1 relationship between visual symptoms and toxin levels (DON or vomitoxin in that case). What I would suggest is that someone who grows their own grain should start Google alerts for words like “mycotoxin”, “vomitoxin”, “aflatoxin”, “Fumonisin”. This will come up with the frequent entries in the farm press that warn about “hot spots” by geography and year.
Hmmm, That is an excellent suggestion!
You write: “Consumer alarm might establish a new, “Non-GMO” sub-market which goes beyond the current Organic market…A new group of non-GMO customers might be willing to pay somewhat of a price premium, but probably less than that which is tolerated for Organic.”
This has already occurred, google “The NonGMO Project” – mostly non-organic companies that are capitalizing on the fear. They go so far as to distort the fear into labelling raw foods – carrots or almonds for example – as “NonGMO Project Verified” and then consumers pay more for this meaningless deceptive label – when there is no possible way these foods could have any GMO presence. Talk about a misinformation campaign.
The Non GMO Project, while still trotting out the same old claims about risk, has been so far one of the most transparent and honest groups. The even gave me the list of authors for the anonymously-written “Just the Science” essay on their site and others. That being said, they do rather admit that not having a non-GMO label implies that it may be GMO. Check out the example given on this page:
They go on to argue that that is why food companies should also pay to have crops where there are no GE versions commercially grown at all “verified” as non-GMO – to prevent ‘confusion.’ But if their argument is correct – that having a label on one but not another cereal box will confuse customers – so too will having a label on one wheat bran and not another – when there is no GE wheat at all. Of course, that’s why all foods where there are no GE versions available should be labeled with their logo. I have read the verification requirements, and if your food does not contain an “at-risk” ingredient, like say, carrot sticks, you pretty much have to just pay a fee to state the obvious.
“you pretty much have to just pay a fee to state the obvious.”
Ha! Ha! Seriously, why would you do that? That’s damn close to extortion. Just state it on the box without their verification label!
Hey, Karl! Give me $50 to put a sticker on your bike to say that it’s not a car! 🙂
Well I mean, if it is a prestigious branded sticker, maybe it would be worth it to make people wonder why all the other bikes don’t have that kind of sticker.
Seriously, though, it is capitalizing on the fact that most people don’t know what is a ‘GMO’ and don’t know what crops are currently engineered. I was surprised to find an admission of this fact delineated by them so clearly.
How much could I make by selling “XYZ FREE!” stickers? I’m thinking that that I could make them with a lot of different terms like
“Dairy FREE!”/”Lactose FREE!”
“High-Fructose Corn-Syrup FREE!”
“Sheep’s Bladders FREE!”
At first I could sell them for apples, toothbrushes, bathroom tissue, and the like, but once they catch-on, EVERY product would have to have ALL the stickers to have any chance at all of selling. I’ll make a fortune!
Perhaps you could make an anti-free sticker “Contains VerySmallRocks”. I have a few foreheads I’d like to slap that on to …….
Since I graduated from a natural health cooking school, friends at my alma mater have kept me up to date with the Kashi “nightmare” – the alleged discovery of GMO grains in some of Kashi’s products.
One item sent to me contained this:
“While acknowledging that over 80% of the soybeans grown in North America are GMO, they (Kashi spokespeople) explain that, “practices in agricultural storage, handling, and shipping, have lead to an environment where GMOs are not sufficiently controlled.”
“This is classic public relations spin and crisis communications work, where corporations use misinformation to try to cover their tracks,” said Rebekah Wilce, of the Center for Media and Democracy/PRWatch, …”
Thanks to what I’ve learned here, I’ve explained that storage and handling IS a problem, which is why it is difficult to label GMO products. But what is amusing to me are the number of comments expressing shock at learning that Kashi is owned by “big AG Kellogg’s” and not so much the alleged GMO ingredients being found. I say alleged because the whole thing started with some store owner reading a report called Cereal Crimes on Cornucopia.org that stated GMOs were in Kashi products and he took the products off his shelves and left a note explaining why.
You say, “Even though these GMO containing foods have been on the market for 16 years without incident,” Who says without incident? How many parents are having autistic children, down syndrome, these genetically altered foods are killing us I believe. Why are people trying to change what God made. This is no different than trying to change your genes.
Down Syndrome – that is a new one. Why do you believe that a few small genetic alterations of crops that have been altered immensely over time (from what God has made, so to speak), are killing us? What is your evidence for this belief?
I’m going to add that on top of the evidence for the ridiculous claim that autism or downs have some sort of link to GMOs you also supply evidence to support the equally ridiculous claim that god made anything.
As tragic as autism and downs are, they are clearly not related to GM foods. First of all they were problems that occurred long before there were any GMOs. Downs is correlated with older parents. Some of the genes associated with autism are now being identified and hopefully the erroneous idea that it is caused by vaccinations is fading.
I happen to believe in God and I marvel at how flexible and adaptable he made the genetics of plants and animals etc. Far from being some fixed thing, genes are very dynamic. Long before we knew anything about genetics, we have been managing that process. One example would be all the different kinds of dogs and horses that we bred. One the other side, we learned how to “clone” desirable fruit trees (cuttings, grafting) because if we grew them from seed we would get some new (and often less desirable) type every time.
This was a great article. Very informative. I was speaking with a friend who is teaching a middle school health class. He inspired me to read up on GMO vs. Non and organic because we both realized in conversation we did not know much about which products in the grocery store to stand clear of. I am now going to write an article on my blog and featuring this article. Thank you
Chef Sarah Naugler
If you look at the ancestors or undomesticated versions of the plants we eat you’ll find them to be much smaller, less nutritious, and sometimes even poisonous. Corn’s ancestor looked like a grain with about 6 paltry kernels on it, the wild avocado is about the size of a grape, carrots until the 1700s didn’t even have beta-carrotine in it …which I’m pretty sure got it’s name from carrots.
In short god was quite miserly indeed when it came to what he made, what you eat today is due to the work of generations of humans fighting against their nature, that is, of plants to exist and evolve for their own purposes, not for ours.
Where can I get my free sheep bladder? 🙂
The problem is with the non-labeling. Most people do not know that their food has been modified. It is not even thought about. Some people are so oblivious and just go to the store and eat what ever. They think the government will protect them from everything. People need to take control of their lives including what kind of food they eat.
Are you planning to prevent earthquakes?
It does seem that many of the people who are anti GMOs are actually anti big corporations or anti capitalism. It does seem a bit dishonest that the parent company isn’t listed on the packaging or on the website of the subsidiary brand (at least in Kashi’s case). People assume Kashi is a small company alternative to the big dogs when it hasn’t been since 2000. Still, it’s not like it’s a secret – you can find the info on Wikipedia just by Googling Kashi, and Kellogs verifies the info on their investors’ website.
The Kashi story frustrates me a lot. Kashi
iswas one of a few cereal options out there that was relatively inexpensive but high quality, full of whole grains and a good amount of protein. I don’t know if the soy has been tested and proven to be GMO but if they are buying commodity soy, at least some percentage of it is guaranteed to be GMO (specifically Roundup Ready). An equivalent organic or non-GMO cereal would inevitably be either lower quality or more expensive due to the additional costs of sourcing those ingredients.
Now that Kashi has bowed to demands and is adding the Non-GMO labels, the people who demanded it will continue to boycott Kashi products (as they demonstrate with much virtual spittle flying in the comments of Kashi’s announcement), a very few people like me will stop buying it because we don’t want financially to support the Non-GMO Project, and many consumers will stop buying the cereals due to any price increase, even a small one, and they won’t notice the label because most people don’t care.
The point is, they propose using the non-GMO Project label as a marketing tool, even where there is no GM product for that crop. That is misleading advertising.
Since our connections with the farmers are not what they used to be, labels are now needed to clear confusion. It might state the obvious to some, but not to others. The information is out there, but not everyone has seen it. The nonGMO Project is indeed capitalizing on the misinformed public, but what label organization isn’t? There is a need out there that customers want to know whether is it GMO or not and this label seems to be clearing up the confusion whether it is GM or not. How many people know what crops are GM and which ones are not? Say that you know that there is soy that is GM and non-GM, how could you tell the difference from looking at the product itself and not the label?
The example with bikes.. you are obviously not going to put a “this is not a car” sticker on a bike, because everyone knows the difference. However, look at the “fair trade” label on coffee. How in the world would a normal person be able to tell if a product is following fair trade practices? 1. Look for the “fair trade” label, 2. Read the information provided by the producer or 3. Contact the producer. Labels will be needed until we re-establish our trust on the “farmers”, or product producers in this case, that they are matching our personal standards.
Farmers markets conversations help, but at the grocery store.. you’ll need to do a bit of research ahead of it IF you want to make informed decisions.
Hi Jorge, good points. Your example or fair-trade coffee is a good one, as no one can see that the process of growing and marketing them is different just from looking at the beans. However, fair trade is an example of a voluntary labeling scheme that adds value to the beans in the store. They are not mandatory. In the case of GE foods, there are companies that voluntarily label (including some that certify) their foods as being “non-GMO”, to differentiate themselves in the market niche of those who care about such characteristics. If fair trade coffee is used as an example, it would tend to support the current system of voluntary “non-GMO” labels.
I think everyone has the right to find out what the GMO/non-GMO purchasing practices of food companies are, and that is the best way right now to know what the foods are. But once you get into testing and labeling everything for this characteristic, it starts to be a big financial burden. I haven’t yet heard an argument for mandatory labeling that convinces me that this cost would be worth it.
As Karl points out above, the GMO labelling law would be tantamount to legally demanding that all food be labeled “This product was not produced using fair trade practices” (or indeed legally demanding that if your product was produced under fair trade practices you have to label it as such and provide documentation of such along the way – and face penalties if it is discovered that you failed to label your practices despite using them (that falls down a bit at the end due to becoming somewhat absurd, I realize!))
Jorge, I hope you will be the first to answer the question of why a “may contain GMO ingredients” label is better than a “GMO-free” label. Obviously all products could only be accurately labeled with only one of these two options, so either kind of label gives you exactly the same information as the other.
There are some differences, but not in the information conveyed. There are three possible groups of customers. One group, negligibly small, seeks out GMO products. Another group wants to avoid them. The third group does not care one way or the other. Because there are very few customers who actually seek out GMOs, any vendor knows that a label “may contain GMO ingredients” will probably reduce sales, so he has an incentive to leave that out. If you insist that it be there, you need a law, including penalties and enforcement. On the other hand, any vendor who can honestly say “GMO-free” knows that it will attract some customers, so he has an incentive to include it on the label. No laws are needed. That’s what we have now. Include the foods labeled “organic” – you have plenty of choices of non-GMO food available.
It’s the same principal that you like with fair trade labels. You aren’t asking for a law that compels vendors to label “unfair trade”. Orthodox Jews aren’t clamoring for “non-Kosher” labels. Cans of tuna are sometimes labeled “dolphin-safe”, but I don’t see any labeled “dolphin-threatened”.
So please tell us why a “may contain GMO ingredients” label is needed.
Though I did not mention it, my comment above was a reply to the sub conversation about the nonGMO Project speaking about voluntary labels. “GMO-free” to me means the product does not contain GMOs. “May contain GMO ingredients” to me means that the product may or may not contain GMOs. For me these are two different things, not the exact same information. A “may contain” label is never better than a label that says “contains” or “does not contain”. This would be similar to the “may contain peanuts” label (or line) which definitely pushes away people, mostly who are allergic to peanuts, because they do not know if the product actually contains peanuts.
It seems like people want to have companies show a little transparency through mandatory labeling. If there is so much concern on the financial burden of mandatory labeling, why not look into the countries that require GM labels? And if GMOs are perceived negatively and this is not the reality, why fear? Educate the public and if those mandatory labels appear, GMO-containing products should do okay.
There Are very few labeled GMO products in Europe. Even though they import a huge amount of biotech grain it is used for animal feed with no labeling. They have always gotten their processed food ingredients from different crops. E.g starch from potatoes instead of corn. Oil from sunflowers… When biotech wheat was close to commercialization their big importers basically blackmailed US and Canadian farmers not to grow it because they didn’t want to have to lable
Jorge, thanks for replying.
But I think there are some differences still needing clarification. Respectfully, I don’t think you answered my question about why a compulsory label is required. Instead, you separated the possible mandatory labels into “may contain” and “contains” – and told us that you aren’t satisfied with the “may contain” label. You clearly understand that “GMO-free” and “may contain GMO” labels carry identical information. So you wouldn’t be insisting on a mandatory “may contain GMO” label.
Yet you want a mandatory label of some kind, a “contains GMO” label!
Let’s think about the difference between a “may-contain” label and a “contains” label. Suppose Joe is a food manufacturer and Joe buys large quantities of, say, soybeans. Right now, Joe doesn’t pay attention to whether a particular soybean (or batch of soybeans) is GMO or not. He just buys the least expensive soybeans that meet all his other standards. His competitor, who sources only non-GMO soybeans, must pay whatever the extra price is for guaranteed non-GMO soybeans. But there is also some cost for traceability and segregation, even if there is no difference in production cost. You, his customer, bear that extra cost because you want to buy the non-GMO product. You wanted it and you pay for it.
If a law is passed such that the “may contain” label is required, the only extra cost Joe, the manufacturer, will have is the cost of a few drops of ink to print the extra words on the label. But you are saying that the “may contain” label is not satisfactory.
But if the new law requires “contains GMO”, Joe then has to make sure that he has at least some GMO soybeans in his product, in each package. So even though you will not buy his product, you have forced the costs of segregation and traceability on his customers. That’s frankly just not fair. And you haven’t told us why it is necessary.
You may argue that the extra costs of traceability and segregation are very slight. I think that it is your responsibility to prove that.
You also owe us an explanation of why the difference between “may contain” and “contains” is important to you. I can understand how it would be important to you if what is contained is something you want. But the GMO is something you want to avoid. Just as the Orthodox Jew would avoid a product labeled “may not be Kosher” or an environmentalist would avoid a tuna fish can labeled “may not be dolphin safe”.
The rest of your reply is about the need of the biotech industry to educate the public. I agree completely, but this has been made far more difficult because there is an organized campaign to misinform the public. And that misinformation campaign has been very effective. In fact, in countries I have visited which have a “contains GMO” labeling requirement, the manufacturers have given up. They just don’t sell GMO ingredients in those countries.
I believe you might have misread what I wrote. I never stated wanting a mandatory label. I only addressed the first sentence of the article: “When asked, “Do you want foods that contain GMOs to be labeled?” most US consumers say, “Yes.”” On my first comment, which was a reply to a sub conversation on a voluntary label by nonGMO Project, I said “labels are now needed to clear confusion.” Perhaps you implied that I stated “mandatory labels are necessary to clear confusion.” And also you were the one who separated the labels into “may contain” and “contains”, not me.
Jorge, I reread your several posts and I have to agree that you are right. You never demanded mandatory labels. Sorry for the confusion.
Wow, I can’t people actually support GMO’s, it just boggles the mind. Anyway, keep eating them, however I choose not too and avoid purchasing foods that are high risk, any soy, corn & sugar(beet) product that is not labeled “Organice” or “Non-GMO”.
As for proof that GMO’s are bad? The evidence is lacking because 1: monstanto states they do not test their GMO’s 2: any independent research get squashed and discredited with career ruined. Even the FDA scientists insisted that this stuff be tested long term, but what do scientists know right?
There was recently a study done in London I believe, the first long term study and it showed horrible results. Yes they used a breed of rat prone to tumors, however please note there was a control group were only 20% had tumors compared to the 70% in the group feed GMO’s. They also had increased liver and kidney issues. People really have to wonder why americans are getting sicker and sicker and more people are on meds with cronic diseases, really? Look no further than our diet.
You have to ask yourself, why does monstanto have a multi million dollar lobby? Why are the people in charge of the FDA, ex Monsanto executives? Why is so much money spend to discredit any argument that GMO’s are bad? Why not just do the studies to determine if GMO’s are safe are not, settle the argument once and for all?
I think there are alot of people on this site that need to do some deep research.
We have … 🙂
Looks like someone else should be studying up.
I would agree that American health and poor diet are associated, but unfortunately for your argument, it’s not a GM thing.
Mr. Savage is grossly misinforming the public on the issue of GMO labeling. There is a special identity to GM products, and there is a special identity for organic products,but there is no special identity for non-GMO. To claim that non-GMO products are specialty products is a false statement. They are non-patented seeds, planted and grown with conventional biotech products like the latest herbicides, pesticides sprayed on. There will be no cost increase, and sourcing from China is unnecessary. Instead, the domestic fields that are currently planted with GM corn will simply be planted with conventional corn, and everybody will have their cornflakes like usual. In other countries like Taiwan, GM/non-GM labeling is already in place. Some people still choose to pay premium for organics at specialty stores, but most people go straight to their local supermarket, read the labels, and make their choices based on whatever is on sale at the time. What Mr. Savage doesn’t understand is that GM labeling doesn’t raise prices at all. Non-GM soy and GMsoy milk sit on the shelves side by side with comparable prices, based on brand labels. It is the free market at work. In Taiwan and other countries, people are free to choose.
When someone passes something like Proposition 37 in California, it suddenly does create a special identity for non-GMO. Even if there are no GMO varieties of a given crop, this misguided law requires an audit trail saying that. Also, many non-GMO crops are from patented seeds or patented varieties that are vegetatively propagated. Plant patents were around decades before GMO crops.
My bet is that Taiwan is much like Europe. The GMO crops that are imported are all for animal feed and the meat/milk is not required to be labeled. The food ingredients like starch or oil come from different sources anyway. Virtually no products are labeled.
GM labeling as defined by proposition 37 would absolutely raise prices. Today GM soy and non-GM soy sit on the shelf with the later voluntarily labeled as such. That is fine. Leave the system alone.
Thanks for clearing up the issue of negative identity preservation for me. But now I was wondering what you might think about positive identity preservation for GMOs? You see what I meant about the Taiwan situation is in fact something like that. The two brands of soymilk that referred to are in fact labeled “water, sugar, GMO soy….” and “water, sugar, non-GMO soy….”. In Taiwan, manufacturers who use GM ingredients specify that the ingredients are GMO, while manufacturers who source non-GMO ingredients specify the negative identity. Labeling GM ingredients doesn’t add to the cost at all. And I really mean products for human consumption; we’re not talking about a situation like Europe where GMO and non-gmo are separated for animals and humans, respectively. If Prop 37 did not require negative identity preservation, but required labels to positively identify GM corn, GM soy, GM wheat, etc, then the chain of custody wouldn’t affect prices. Do you think this would make a more reasonable proposition?
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