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Legislative Memo

Darren Suarez
Director of Government Affairs
T 518.465.7511
www.bcnys.org

BILL:

S.3835-E (LaValle) / A.3525-E (Rosenthal)

Support

SUBJECT:

Mandated Labeling for Genetically Engineered Crops

 

DATE:

June 2, 2014

 

The Business Council of the State of New York opposes mandating the labeling of food derived from genetically engineered crops. Distinguishing food containing genetically engineered crops when they are compositionally the same as other produced foods is misleading and scares customers by falsely implying they are a different food product.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees food labeling, and requires labeling of food products containing ingredients from GM seed if there is a meaningful difference between that food and its conventional counterpart. The American Medical Association (AMA) supports FDA's approach.

The Council (AMA) supports this (FDA Labeling) science-based approach, and believes that thorough pre-market safety assessment and the FDA's requirement that any material difference between bioengineered foods and their traditional counterparts be disclosed in labeling, are effective in ensuring the safety of bioengineered food. -  Report 2 of the Council on Science and Public Health (A-12)  Labeling of Bioengineered Foods (Resolutions 508 and 509-A-11).

The Business Council agrees with the AMA and support FDA's guidance on labeling food products containing GM ingredients. The FDA allows food manufacturers the choice to voluntarily label their products noting certain attributes or production methods (e.g., organic) provided the label is truthful and not misleading.

Evidence from some other countries is clear, mandatory labeling provides food processors and retailers a choice, but it does not facilitate consumer choice. Because of rational food processor decisions, mandatory labeling acts as a market barrier and GM products do not appear at the retail level. Some consumers if provided a choice would buy less costly and safe GM products if they had the choice, but the mandatory labeling system does not give them any choice.

In contrast, voluntary labeling provides consumer choice as long as the maximum willingness to pay for non-GM products exceeds the corresponding price premium. This is why most economists argue that voluntary labeling is more efficient—it allows consumers to choose product quality. Voluntary labeling is like a voting system with proportional representation, where a share of the market may buy non-GM food, and the rest will buy mixed conventional and GM food.

For these reasons we urge the legislature to disapprove of this bill.