GM Labeling: Dollars Make a Difference

GM Labeling: Dollars Make a Difference

Consumers say in polls they want GM labels, but are they willing to pay more for food?

Spend much time on the internet – and particularly within social media – and it's tempting to believe all the world hates GMOs, Monsanto, RoundUp and the food industry. Also, that everyone wants organic food, non-GM food, and they don't care what it costs.

But Jayson Lusk, Oklahoma State University ag and food economist, says real life doesn't play out in quite the same way. Lusk, who also authored The Food Police, studied grocery store scanner data in Washington state, as residents of that state decided and voted on a referendum to label genetically modified foods last year.

Consumers say in polls they want GM labels, but are they willing to pay more for food?

"Labeling GM foods is a very popular policy, but the votes in states like Washington and California show that when people are confronted with additional arguments and information, they are often persuaded to be less concerned," Lusk shares.

Related: New York GMO Labeling Bill Buried, For Now

Indeed, in a recent New York Times survey, 90% of Americans say they think GM foods should be labeled. Lusk doesn't deny those results but says you have to look at what people actually do. "In California and Washington, less than half voted for labels," he explains.

He's learned that something called hypothetical bias plays heavily into surveys. "People are much more likely to say they are willing to pay a premium for a product," he says. "People will tell you they're willing to pay twice as much as they actually are."

As an economist, though, Lusk likes to see what people are actually willing to pay, when they have to. So he studied grocery store scanner data in Washington state during the labeling debate. He specifically studied soy milk, which carries a non-GMO label.

"People are much more likely to say they are willing to pay a premium for a product," Oklahoma State University ag and food economist Jayson Lusk says of survey results on GM labeling. "People will tell you they're willing to pay twice as much as they actually are."

Related: National GMO Labeling Bill Draws Favorable Reaction

"Interestingly enough, the market share for soy milk went down during that time period, which coincides with the opinion poll," Lusk reports. "People said, 'we want the label,' but as time went on, people got more information and it failed. That mirrored choices people were making in the marketplace."

He concludes, "It's further corroboration of the same story: people are open to information and the information they received cause them to be less concerned about biotechnology, both in their desire for a label and for paying for it in the store."

GM Labeling: Dollars Make a Difference

State by state labeling legislation, 2013


Interested in the GMO discussion? Farm Progress Special Projects Editor Holly Spangler is exploring GMO foods, GMO labeling and the general genetically modified food debate in an exclusive series. Follow along with @HollySpangler on Twitter and using the links below:

Would GM Label Ensure Food Safety?
Farmers Talk: GMOs and GM Labeling
GMOs: The Fight to Label
Urban Moms on GMOs


Hide comments

Comments

  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Publish