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Analysis: Food-labeling measure could cost consumers $2.30 a year

A new study from Portland's ECONorthwest finds that the cost to label genetically engineered food, as Measure 92 would require, comes to a cost of $2.30 per person each year.

The information "should be the death knell of the tired, fearmongering propaganda" launched by the measure's opponents, George Kimbrell, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety, said during a Wednesday morning conference call.

The labeling requirement on Oregon's Nov. 4 ballot "will not increase food costs in any significant way," added Kimbrell, one of the authors of the measure.

Genetically engineered foods are required to be labeled in 64 countries, and food prices have not increased there, according to Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports.

Two food giants have also moved to GMO-free products: General Mills' Cheerios and Post Grape-Nuts cereal, and their prices haven't gone up because of labeling costs, says Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union.

Consumers Union approached ECONorthwest in May to commission the independent study.

Bob Whalen, senior economist at ECONorthwest, says he pored through all available public research on the subject, and came up with an analysis that is not Oregon-specific, since "Oregon is pretty much an average state."

Opposition ads have been claiming farmers and producers will have to spend "millions" to meet the labeling requirement. They've also claimed farmers will have to use organic ingredients, which would be more expensive.

Yet Halloran says that is not the case. Farmers will not have to use separate storing and packing lines, nor organic ingredients.

"It requires only that a farmer who grows genetically engineered crops say so and producer puts it on the package for the consumer.That's it."

Large agribusiness companies like Monsanto have defeated GMO labeling requirements in Washington and California; Colorado also has a labeling requirement on the ballot in November.

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