WASHINGTON, June 12, 2014 – The legal battle over Vermont’s first-in-the-nation, no-strings attached GMO-labeling law is under way.

On Thursday, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Snack Food Association and the International Dairy Foods Association filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Vermont had exceeded the state’s authority under the U.S. Constitution.

“Vermont's mandatory GMO labeling law — Act 120 — is a costly and misguided measure that will set the nation on a path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies that do nothing to advance the health and safety of consumers, the groups said in a statement.

The law, signed by Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, this spring, imposes “burdensome new speech requirements – and restrictions – that will affect, by Vermont’s count, eight out of every 10 foods at the grocery store,’’ the groups said, adding that the state has conceded that the law has no basis in health, safety or science.

The groups noted that the law exempts milk, meat, restaurant items and alcohol from the labeling requirements, meaning some foods containing ingredients made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will not have to disclose that fact.

“The First Amendment dictates that when speech is involved, Vermont policymakers cannot merely act as a pass-through for the fads and controversies of the day,” the groups said, adding that the state must show a truly “governmental” interest, not just a political one.

“And the Constitution prohibits Vermont from regulating nationwide distribution and labeling practices that facilitate interstate commerce. That is the sole province of the federal government. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have both the mandate and expertise to incorporate the views of all the stakeholders at each link in the chain from farm to fork.”

The groups said they look forward to presenting their arguments in court.

The Burlington Free Press, meanwhile, reported that Vermont officials including the governor and Attorney General William Sorrell have said they are prepared for the lawsuit and that the state has been building a legal defense fund through a grassroots fundraising campaign.

Sorrell, who was in New York City yesterday afternoon, told the newspaper that he had not seen the filing.

“I will want to see what the nature of the attacks on the law, but I don't think there are going to be any surprises,” he said. “We have been gearing up.”

Meanwhile, the Organic Consumers Association announced a campaign to raise $250,000 to help Vermont defend the law.

“After years of good old-fashioned work, and playing by the rules, the grassroots labeling movement achieved its first real victory this year, when Vermont passed the first no-strings-attached law requiring mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms,” the group said on its website. “But the rules mean nothing to the rich and powerful companies like Monsanto and Coca-Cola, who belong to one of the country’s most powerful lobbying groups—the GMA.”

“This is the moment of truth,” the organic group said.


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