Vermont GMO legislation kicks off food fight

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers have filed a complaint in federal district court against Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law, passed last month.

The GMA characterized the new law, which goes into effect in 2016, as shortsighted and pointless, which is not altogether surprising given that U.S. organic farming interests were heavily involved in pushing it through.

The law is bound to impact states beyond Vermont borders. The GMA said, “Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law 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 GMA filing pointed out that the Constitution “prohibits individual states from regulating nationwide distribution and labeling practices that facilitate interstate commerce. That is the sole province of the federal government. FDA, USDA 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 GMA said the act “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.”

Vermont policymakers “cannot merely act as a pass-through for the fads and controversies of the day,” the GMA filing said. “It must point to a truly governmental interest, not just a political one.”

Vermonters responded to the suit saying there is a lack of consensus on the safety of GM crops, and pointed to a statement saying as much from the European Network of Scientists for Social & Environmental Responsibility. However, one of the most controversial studies ENSSER cites to back up this claim, that GM corn causes cancer in rats, has since been retracted.

The new rule is pointless, GMA says, because consumers who want to avoid GMOs already have that choice through purchasing items labeled as certified organic, or non-GMO. Consumers should assume that any product not displaying these labels probably contains products made with genetically-engineering.

The GMA and most of U.S. agriculture back a federal labeling bill that would require the FDA to mandate the labeling of GMO food ingredients if the agency determines there is a health, safety or nutrition issue with GMO technology.

The FDA will also establish federal standards for companies that want to voluntarily label their products for the absence-of or presence-of GMO food ingredients so that consumers clearly understand their choices in the marketplace.

TAGS: Legislative
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