GMA Takes Vermont to Court Over GMO Labeling Law

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, with three other trade groups, filed a suit against Vermont last week, arguing that the state is violating federal precedent with its first-in-the-nation law.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, with three other trade groups, filed a lawsuit against Vermont last week, arguing that the state’s first-in-the-nation law requiring GMO food labeling is unconstitutional.

It’s official: The food industry is suing Vermont over its first-in-the-nation law mandating the labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) announced the suit last week, which it filed jointly with the Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers.

“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 group said in a statement. “Act 120 exceeds the state’s authority under the United States Constitution, and in light of this, GMA has filed a complaint in federal district court in Vermont seeking to enjoin this senseless mandate.”

In their complaint, the plaintiffs argue that the law violates the First Amendment by compelling and restricting manufacturers’ speech and that it conflicts with federal statutes regulating food inspection and labeling. They allege that the law’s exemptions for meat, dairy, alcohol, and food served at restaurants mean that “processed foods are unjustifiably singled out.”

Ready for Battle

State officials say they’ve been gearing up for this lawsuit ever since the ink dried on Act 120, which was signed last month by Gov. Peter Shumlin (D).

“I want to see the nature of the attack on the law,” Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell told the Burlington Free Press. “[But] I don’t think there are going to be any surprises.”

Meanwhile, advocacy groups that backed the measure, such as the Vermont Right to Know GMOs Coalition and the Organic Consumers Association, characterized the lawsuit as a big-business attempt to rein in an organic populist effort that succeeded after years of hard work.

“This is the moment of truth for the grassroots GMO labeling movement,” OCA National Director Ronnie Cummins said in a statement. “If Monsanto and the GMA succeed in overturning Vermont’s GMO labeling law, lawmakers in the other 29 states that are currently considering GMO labeling bills will drop them like hot potatoes.”

Connecticut and Maine have passed their own GMO-labeling laws, but those are contingent on their neighbors in New England passing similar measures. Vermont’s law has no such contingency.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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