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Lawsuit Challenges Vermont's GMO Labeling Law

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our Vermont News page.

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Four national organizations whose members would be affected by Vermont's new labeling law for genetically engineered foods filed a lawsuit Thursday in federal court challenging the measure's constitutionality.

"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 about the lawsuit.

The state Legislature passed the labeling law in April, and Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the bill in May. The labeling requirements would take effect July 1, 2016.

Attorney General William Sorrell noted Thursday he had advised lawmakers as they deliberated that the law would invite a lawsuit from those affected "and it would be a heck of a fight, but we would zealously defend the law."

"We have been gearing up," Sorrell said Thursday. His office had yet to be served with the complaint.

The statement from the Grocery Manufacturers Association summarizes the grievances of the four plaintiff organizations: GMA, the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers.

"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," the GMA said. "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 groups added that the federal government has the sole authority over regulating nationwide distribution and labeling practices that facilitate interstate commerce, and the Constitution prohibits Vermont from doing so.