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Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Food Industry Sues To Block Vermont GMO Labeling Law

Angela Evancie
On May 8, prior to Shumlin signing the bill into law at the Vermont statehouse.

Food industry trade groups filed suit in federal court Thursday to overturn Vermont’s first-in-the-nation law requiring labels on foods made with genetically modified organisms.

The suit says the Vermont law is unconstitutional, because it forces food companies to label their products without a compelling government interest.

“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 Grocery Manufacturers Association said in a statement.

The GMA was joined in the lawsuit by the Snack Food Association, the Intenational Dairy Foods Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers.

The 21 page complaint says the law violates the Constitution on a number of counts. It says the supremacy clause of the Constitution pre-empts Vermont from enacting a state labeling requirement. It says the law would restrict trade between states, and therefore violates the commerce clause of the Constitution, and it says the law illegally regulates commercial speech.

“Act 120 imposes burdensome new speech requirements – and restrictions – that will affect, by Vermont’s count, eight out of every ten foods at the grocery store. Yet Vermont has effectively conceded this law has no basis in health, safety, or science. That is why a number of product categories, including milk, meat, restaurant items and alcohol, are exempt from the law. This means that many foods containing GMO ingredients will not actually disclose that fact.”

The federal complaint says federal regulatory agencies – the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency – have reviewed GMOs and found them safe.

The legislature passed the labeling requirement this year, and Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law in May. The attorney general’s office expected a legal challenge. The state set up a legal defense fund to defend the law.

John worked for VPR in 2001-2021 as reporter and News Director. Previously, John was a staff writer for the Sunday Times Argus and the Sunday Rutland Herald, responsible for breaking stories and in-depth features on local issues. He has also served as Communications Director for the Vermont Health Care Authority and Bureau Chief for UPI in Montpelier.
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