Food companies appeal court ruling on Vermont GMO labeling law

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 6, 2015-- The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) today said it will appeal an April 27 federal court ruling denying the organization's attempt to halt Vermont's mandatory GMO labeling law.  

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Vermont's law, passed a year ago, would make it the first state in the country to require labels on some foods made with ingredients derived from genetically modified (or “GMO”) crops. GMA, as well as the Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers, filed a lawsuit last summer against Vermont, saying the law is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Christina Reiss last month rejected the food industry's petition to stop Vermont's plan, but has also decided not to dismiss the case - setting the stage for ongoing legal battles.

The District Court's ruling against GMA's motion for a preliminary injunction means that Vermont can continue implementing the labeling law, which is set to go into effect in July 2016.

GMA filed a notice of appeal in court today in Vermont federal district court - the first formal step to appeal last week's ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  A legal brief outlining GMA's grounds for the appeal will be filed with the appellate court in the weeks ahead.

“The court's opinion in denying our request to block the Vermont law opens the door to states creating mandatory labeling requirements based on pseudo-science and web-fed hysteria,” said Pamela Bailey, president of GMA. “If this law is allowed to go into effect, it will disrupt food supply chains, confuse consumers and lead to higher food costs.” 

George Kimbrell, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety, which supports mandatory GMO labeling, said GMA's appeal means “industrial food interests will stop at nothing to keep their ingredients secret and deny Americans genetically engineered food labeling.”

In her preliminary ruling, Reiss noted that Vermont could pass a state labeling mandate because no current federal law regarding the Food and Drug Administration's authority over food labeling preempts state action.

“This court ruling shows why Congress should pass the voluntary uniform GMO labeling bill quickly and federally preempt state mandatory GMO laws,” Bailey said.  

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is preparing to move a bill that would do just that. Under the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (H.R.1599), sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., no labeling of foods with genetically engineered ingredients could be required unless there is a “material difference” between the biotech ingredient and its conventionally bred version. The bill also would set up a USDA-run certification process run for foods that are labeled as non-GMO.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., is working on gathering support from Democrats before introducing a bill in the Senate.

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