Judge allows Vermont's GMO law to stand, but lawsuit to proceed

By Sara Wyant

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BURLINGTON, VT., April 27, 2015 - U.S. District Judge Christina Reiss rejected the food industry's petition to stop Vermont's plan to require labeling on some genetically-modified foods, but has also decided not to dismiss the case - setting the stage for ongoing legal battles.

Reiss ruled against the Grocery Manufacturers' Association (GMA), the Snack Foods Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and other industry groups in their request for a preliminary order to block the law from going into effect as scheduled on July 1, 2016. However, the judge partially denied the state's motion to dismiss the industry lawsuit.

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The law passed the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Peter Shumlin in May 2014.

In a statement, GMA said that while it was “pleased that the District Court found us likely to succeed on several of our claims, we are nevertheless disappointed by the court's ultimate decision to deny our Motion for Preliminary Injunction to block the implementation of the Vermont GMO labeling law - Act 120 - on grounds that the manufacturers had not yet shown a sufficient degree of harm. 

“We are reviewing this decision and considering our legal options.  Manufacturers are being harmed, and they are being harmed now.  Act 120 is unconstitutional and imposes burdensome new speech requirements on food manufacturers and retailers. It will also set the nation on a path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies that will be costly and confusing for consumers,” the organization said.

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The Center for Food Safety (CFS) hailed the federal court decision issued today.

“This important ruling affirms the constitutionality of genetically engineered food labeling, as well as the rights of Vermonters and U.S. citizens across the country,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety (CFS) and counsel in the case in a release. “Americans are demanding right to know if their food is produced through genetic engineering, for health, environmental and many other reasons. This decision is a crucial step in protecting those rights.”

CFS noted that, in the denying the Plaintiffs' injunction, Judge Reiss declared, “Because the State has established that Act 120's GE disclosure requirement is reasonably related to the State's substantial interests, under Zauderer, Act 120's GE disclosure requirement is constitutional.”

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