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GMO food labels in the United States: Economic implications of the new law


  • Bovay, John
  • Alston, Julian M.


In July 2016, the U.S. Congress passed Senate Bill 764, which requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a national disclosure standard for GE foods, as a compromise between forces pressing for a much stricter labeling law versus forces that opposed mandatory labeling laws altogether. The legislation, now known as Public Law 114-216, also preempts states from setting their own standards for mandatory GE labels. This article discusses the implementation of the new law and its potential economic consequences. We conclude that PL 114-216 is worse than a complete absence of mandatory labeling laws. However, it should be better than the likely scenario of policies that it pre-empted, and could be reasonably inexpensive, depending on the implementation details of the new law—which are yet to be determined—and how producers and consumers choose to respond to it.

Suggested Citation

  • Bovay, John & Alston, Julian M., 2018. "GMO food labels in the United States: Economic implications of the new law," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 14-25.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfpoli:v:78:y:2018:i:c:p:14-25
    DOI: 10.1016/j.foodpol.2018.02.013

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Oecd, 2016. "Intergovernmental organisation activities," Nuclear Law Bulletin, OECD Publishing, vol. 2015(2), pages 97-104.
    2. Saitone, Tina L. & Sexton, Richard J. & Sumner, Daniel A., 2015. "What Happens When Food Marketers Require Restrictive Farming Practices?," farmdoc daily, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, vol. 5, September.
    3. Kuchler, Fred & Greene, Catherine & Bowman, Maria & Marshall, Kandice K. & Bovay, John & Lynch, Lori, 2017. "Beyond Nutrition and Organic Labels—30 Years of Experience With Intervening in Food Labels," Economic Research Report 291967, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    4. Bovay, John & Alston, Julian M., 2016. "GM Labeling Regulation by Plebiscite: Analysis of Voting on Proposition 37 in California," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 41(2), May.
    5. Oecd, 2016. "Intergovernmental organisation activities," Nuclear Law Bulletin, OECD Publishing, vol. 2016(1), pages 95-102.
    6. Guillaume P. Gruère & Colin A. Carter & Y. Hossein Farzin, 2008. "What labelling policy for consumer choice? The case of genetically modified food in Canada and Europe," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 41(4), pages 1472-1497, November.
    7. Jura Liaukonyte & Nadia A. Streletskaya & Harry M. Kaiser & Bradley J. Rickard, 2013. "Consumer Response to "Contains" and "Free of" Labeling: Evidence from Lab Experiments," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 35(3), pages 476-507.
    8. Henry An & Leslie J. Butler, 2012. "A Discrete-Time Duration Analysis of Technology Disadoption: The Case of rbST in California," Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics/Revue canadienne d'agroeconomie, Canadian Agricultural Economics Society/Societe canadienne d'agroeconomie, vol. 60(4), pages 495-515, December.
    9. Guillaume P. Gruère & Colin A. Carter & Y. Hossein Farzin, 2009. "Explaining International Differences in Genetically Modified Food Labeling Policies," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17(3), pages 393-408, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Elena Rosculete & Elena Bonciu & Catalin Aurelian Rosculete & Elena Teleanu, 2018. "Detection and Quantification of Genetically Modified Soybean in Some Food and Feed Products. A Case Study on Products Available on Romanian Market," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(5), pages 1-13, April.
    2. Carter, Colin Andre & Schaefer, K. Aleks, 2018. "GE Labeling Laws and Segmentation of the Sugar Market," 2018 Annual Meeting, August 5-7, Washington, D.C. 273855, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.


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