Non-GMO labels make initiative unneeded

Published online: Aug 19, 2014

Instead of waiting for state initiatives to pass or for Congress to adopt a law addressing the labeling of foods that have genetically modified ingredients, some forward-thinking companies are taking the issue into their own hands.

In addition to providing those consumers who are interested in GMOs with the information they want, these companies are leaving government out of the loop and saving taxpayers money.

Talk about a win-win.

A state committee earlier this week estimated it would cost Oregon taxpayers about $600,000 to implement the GMO labeling initiative that will go before voters this fall. That doesn’t include the untold expenses it would cost farmers, cooperatives and processors to keep GMO and non-GMO ingredients separate, test for them and provide separate labels for various states.

That’s why the many private companies that provide their own labeling are so far ahead of the curve. For example, New Seasons, a grocery story chain based in Oregon, has said it will begin labeling poultry raised using non-GMO feed. The stores will sell chicken and turkey with the Non-GMO Project label. New Seasons and 2,811 other stores across the nation sell food carrying that label as a way of attracting customers.

Combined with the USDA organic label, customers already have two ways to know whether their food includes GMOs.

Because of that, it appears to us that an initiative aimed at dragging the state government into the labeling business is unneeded and costly.

We fully understand the debate over GMO foods. We also understand that the goal of some extremists who promote GMO labeling is to get rid of GMOs altogether.

But for the vast majority of consumers, the Non-GMO Project label and the USDA organic label accomplish everything they want.

If farmers, processors and retailers can carve out a profitable niche by labeling non-GMO foods, more power to them. Already the organic industry has grown exponentially since that label was introduced more than a decade ago. For a segment of the market to advertise the absence of GMOs only makes sense. In a free market, if consumers will pay for it, producers and retailers will provide it.

What doesn’t make sense is to require processors to label foods as having GMO ingredients when other labels already exist stating that other foods don’t have GMOs.

We think the Non-GMO Project and USDA organic certification already offer ample opportunity for consumers to find the food they want and like, without added costs to taxpayers.