Full list: GMO News

WCAX: Fall hearing could determine fate of Vt. GMO labeling law

Sep 15, 2014
By Kyle Midura
Full Article & Video

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Late last week lawyers for the Grocery Manufacturers Association asked a federal judge to shelve the state’s GMO labeling law.

It’s the latest turn in the challenge to Vermont’s first-in-the-nation law, and responds to the Attorney General’s call for the case to be thrown out.

“Our hope is that the court will schedule a hearing for oral arguments sometime in October or November,” said Attorney General Bill Sorrell, D-Vermont.

“What they’ve done is try to pass through this in such a way that it gets resolved sooner rather than later,” said Daniel Richardson, Vermont Bar Association president-elect.

Richardson says both sides benefit from a speedy resolution.

The state could be saved costly legal fees, while the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association could be spared from the court of public opinion.

Richardson says if the court does not rule against requests from both sides, the legal battle will likely be won before it even begins.

“We feel good about the arguments that we’ve made both on the facts and the law,” said Sorrell.

Vermont-based attorneys for the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association did not respond to our interview request.

Richardson says whenever the hearing on the motions does occur, the longer it takes the judge to rule; the greater the chances are that it effectively determines the outcome.


Washington Post: GMO labeling measure makes Colorado’s November ballot


August 20, 2014
Full Article

A proposal to require the labeling of genetically modified food qualified for Colorado’s November ballot, the secretary of state’s office announced Wednesday.

Backers of the measure, Proposition 105, submitted nearly 40,000 more valid signatures than the required 86,105.

The placement of the measure on the ballot could bring a huge wave of corporate spending, as was seen last fall in Washington state last year. D Groups opposed were funded in large part by food giants, such as Pepsico, Nestle, Coca-Cola, General Mills, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Monsanto and Dupont. Two groups opposed to the measure spent $33 million, while $10 million was spent by groups in support of it.

Colorado won’t be alone this year. A similar measure has already qualified for the ballot in Oregon. And Vermont earlier this year became the first state in the nation to enact labeling requirements. When legislators crafted the law, they were so sure of corporate pushback that they simultaneously created a $1.5 million legal defense fund. A month after the law was enacted in May, the state was sued by the associations representing grocery manufacturers, the snack food industry, dairy industry and manufacturing industry.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified one of the parties suing Vermont. It is the dairy industry.


Food Navigator USA: First Amendment challenge to Vermont GMO labeling law does not stand up, claims state AG

By Elaine Watson
12-Aug-2014
Full Article

Vermont’s new GMO labeling law (Act 120) does not violate the First Amendment because the disclosures it mandates are “purely factual” and the law “does not require manufacturers to state a particular viewpoint, such as whether GE foods are good or bad”, claims the state attorney general (AG).


Right to Know Colorado: Colorado GMO Labeling Initiative Makes November Ballot

Contact: Tammi DeVille Merrell, Right to Know Colorado, tel 720.467.0189, tammi@r2kcolorado.org
8/20/14

Colorado GMO Labeling Initiative Makes November Ballot

Backers of the Right to Know Colorado initiative to label GMO foods, Proposition 105, submitted nearly 125,000 valid signatures to
the Colorado Secretary of State – nearly 40,000 more than the 86,105 required – to qualify for the November statewide ballot.

DENVER (Aug. 21, 2014) – Right to Know Colorado proudly reports the GMO labeling initiative, which helps Coloradans make informed
decisions about the foods they choose for their families, will be on the ballot this November 4. The voter initiative requires the
labeling of genetically modified or GMO foods, and will appear on the Colorado statewide ballot as Proposition 105.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office announced on August 20 that nearly 125,000 valid signatures were received, giving the
Right to Know Colorado campaign 145% of the number of signatures required for placement on the ballot. Right to Know Colorado
submitted a total of 171,370 signatures by the August 4 deadline, with a 73% validity rate.

“This historic achievement is only possible because of the thousands of hours volunteers contributed to this effort,” said Right
to Know Colorado campaign Chair Larry Cooper. “We had more than 500 people collect signatures throughout the state with signatures
from every county in the state. The people of Colorado made this happen.”

“Thank you again to the hundreds of volunteers and the 171,370 people who signed in support of labeling GMOs,” said campaign issue
committee Co-chair Tryna Cooper. “Now we look toward to November and need your support. Go to our website at
RighttoKnowColorado.org, donate, volunteer, get involved, and vote YES on 105!”

Reflecting a July 2013 New York Times poll showing that a great majority (93%) of Americans are in favor of mandatory GMO
labeling, a recent independent survey in the state of Colorado shows that 75% of Colorado registered voters would vote yes to
require labeling of foods made with genetically engineered ingredients sold in the state.

Proposition 105 asks voters if foods modified or treated with genetically modified materials should be labeled “Produced With
Genetic Engineering” starting July 1, 2016. To view the official ballot language, visit www.righttoknowcolorado.org.

“If GMOs are safe, as companies say, then why not label them on food?” said Larry Cooper. “Coloradans should not be left in the
dark about what they are feeding their families.”

About GMO Labeling

With no federal GMO labeling requirements in place in the U.S., it is estimated that more than 80% of conventional processed foods
contain genetically engineered ingredients, primarily from GMO corn, soy, canola, cotton, sugar beets and other GMO crops.
However, according to a July 2013 New York Times poll, 93% of Americans are in favor of mandatory GMO labeling. More than 64 other
countries require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. Colorado joins more than two dozen other states, including
Oregon, Arizona, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, in calling for GMO labeling legislation. Mandatory GMO
labeling laws were recently passed in Vermont, Maine and Connecticut.

About Right to Know Colorado

Right to Know Colorado GMO is a grassroots campaign to achieve mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods or GMOs across
the state. Right to Know Colorado is built on the foundation that we have the basic right to know what is in our food and what we
are feeding our families. The campaign gives Coloradans the opportunity to make informed decisions about their diet, health, and
general lifestyle.

Food labels list and describe nearly every detailed component of the food product, from the caloric values and processing
information, to the fat and protein content and the known allergens. Adding a simple label for GMO ingredients would fulfill
Colorado consumers’ right to know, enabling them to make educated food purchases and dietary choices for themselves and their
families.

For more information visit www.righttoknowcolorado.org, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RighttoKnowColorado.


Burlington Free Press: Vermont defends GMO labeling law

By Terri Hallenbeck
August 8, 2014
Full Article

Vermont has the right to require that genetically modified foods sold within the state be labeled, the state attorney general argued in papers filed Friday in federal court.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell defended Vermont’s new labeling law with a 51-page court filing. He asked the court to throw out a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law filed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, International Dairy Foods Association and the Snack Foods Association.

Sorrell also asked that several state officials, including Gov. Peter Shumlin, be removed from the lawsuit and contended that the National Association of Manufacturers should be tossed from the case because it had failed to allege harm.

Legislators passed and Shumlin signed the first-in-the-nation law this year knowing that food manufacturers were likely to sue. Sorrell has estimated it could cost the state up to $8 million to defend the law, with no guarantee the state will prevail. The law establishes a defense fund for the public to help pay legal bills.

Supporters of the labeling law argued that consumers want to know whether the food they buy contains genetically modified organisms. Genetic modification commonly is used for corn and soy to increase resistance to herbicides or enhance other traits in seeds.

The lawsuit, filed in June, argues that the law is misguided, exceeds the state’s authority and confuses consumers by suggesting that GMOs are unsafe with no evidence to support that. The lawsuit alleges the law violates food manufacturers’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to label a product in a way they find unnecessary and misleading while also prohibiting them from using the word “natural” on genetically modified foods.

Sorrell and a team of lawyers he has appointed to work on the case argued the state may make labeling restrictions to promote “informed decision-making on matters of public health and the environment.”

The state also argues that the law steers clear of violating interstate commerce, as the labeling adds no burden that outweighs the benefits.

Pointing to two court cases, Sorrell argues that federal courts have upheld New York City’s law requiring the posting of calories on menus and a federal law requiring country-of-origin labels on meat on the premise that the laws allow consumers to make more informed choices.

Vermont’s labeling law is slated to take effect in July 2016 pending the outcome of the lawsuit.


Bloomberg: Ben & Jerry’s Throws Fudge Brownie Into GMO Food Fight

By Matthew Boyle
Aug 1, 2014
Full Article

In early May, Unilever (UNA) Chief Executive Officer Paul Polman paid a visit to the headquarters of its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s in South Burlington, Vermont, meeting with about 100 employees to share his views on deforestation, farming, and food made with ingredients from genetically modified organisms.

That night, Polman had dinner and ice cream with Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin and Ben & Jerry’s CEO Jostein Solheim. Two days later, with Solheim at his side, Shumlin signed the nation’s first law requiring labeling of foods made with GMO ingredients.

Ben & Jerry’s support of the law — a swirl of savvy public relations, financial backing, and grass-roots activism — pits the ice cream maker against the world’s biggest food companies, including its own corporate parent. Unilever has openly opposed state efforts to legislate GMO labeling, throwing money into campaigns to defeat an initiative in California. But it has quietly allowed Ben & Jerry’s to assert itself as a vocal proponent of such laws, especially in Vermont.

At the GMO Battle Front

The GMO labeling battle is heating up nationwide, with more than a dozen states considering legislation, including Oregon, which has a ballot initiative in November. A month after the Vermont law was signed, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) — a food-industry trade group representing more than 300 companies, including Coca-Cola Co. (KO), Nestle SA (NESN), and Unilever — sued Governor Shumlin and other state officials to block the labeling requirements, which take effect in July 2016.

‘Traitor’ Brands

In response to the lawsuit, the Organic Consumers Association, a Minnesota-based advocacy group, has renewed an earlier boycott of the “traitor” brands, as it calls them, whose parent companies are GMA members. Ben & Jerry’s, along with Kellogg Co. (K)’s Kashi cereal and PepsiCo Inc. (PEP)’s Naked Juice, is on OCA’s list of traitors. So far that hasn’t hurt Ben & Jerry’s sales, which rose 6.2 percent to $594 million in the U.S. for the 52 weeks ended June 15, according to data tracker IRI.

Rather than downplay the conflict with its British-Dutch corporate owner, Ben & Jerry’s has basked in it, donating about $5,000 to the state’s legal defense fund and pledging on its website to fight what it calls the “powerful corporate interests” who oppose “honesty in food.” Unilever says state labeling laws are costly and complex, echoing food-industry lobbyists who call GMO labeling a fad that violates free speech.

“If it’s a fad, then why have over 60 countries around the world adopted it?” Solheim asked. “I don’t think it’s a fad that people want to know what’s in their food. If you believe in a consumer’s right to know, you have to promote that belief. You can’t not take a stand.”

Ben & Jerry’s has never shied away from speaking out on social issues, and Unilever, since acquiring the company in 2000, has not interfered. Since 1985, Ben & Jerry’s has donated a portion of its profits to community projects across the U.S. In 1996, the company sued the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois for the right to label its products as free of recombinant bovine growth hormone, which is given to cows to boost milk production. A condition of Unilever’s acquisition was that Ben & Jerry’s would have a separate board of directors not chosen by its owner.

‘Label It’

The maker of Chunky Monkey and Phish Food is not the only feel-good brand whose outspoken views might make its parent nervous. Organic beverage maker Honest Tea, owned by Coca-Cola, is, along with Ben & Jerry’s, a member of the “Just Label It” campaign, which advocates for mandatory GMO labeling nationwide. Honest Tea founder Seth Goldman, who declined to comment for this story, said in a 2012 blog post that “there are bound to be moments when our enterprise does not share all of the same ideas as our parent company. But there’s never been any pressure to compromise.”

‘Food Fight!’

Solheim, a Norwegian who joined Unilever in 1991 and became Ben & Jerry’s CEO in 2010, said Unilever respects the brand’s GMO labeling push, which included temporarily changing the name of one of its flavors to “Food Fight! Fudge Brownie.” He added, “Obviously, there have been some bumps in the road, but our relationship is very productive.”

One out of three consumers intentionally avoids genetically modified ingredients, up from 15 percent in 2007, according to the Hartman Group, a trend tracker. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has rejected calls to mandate GMO labeling but allows foodmakers to volunteer on packaging whether foods don’t contain GMOs. More than five dozen countries require such labels.

Avoiding GMOs isn’t easy. More than 80 percent of the soybeans and corn grown in the U.S. in 2013 came from genetically engineered crops, according to the Department of Agriculture. About 75 percent of the foods Americans eat contain GMOs in some form.


Reuters: USDA leaning toward approval of Monsanto’s new GMO beans, cotton

By Carey Gillam
8/6/14
Full Article

Aug 6 (Reuters) – U.S. regulators on Tuesday said they are leaning toward approval of a new line of herbicide-tolerant crops developed by Monsanto Co even though they could increase problematic weed resistance for farmers.

Under the draft “environmental impact statement” (EIS) by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the agency said its analysis shows the new genetically modified cotton and soybean plants should be approved.

St. Louis-based Monsanto, said the APHIS move was “a noteworthy sign of progress.”

Monsanto developed the new soybeans and cotton to resist a new herbicide that combines dicamba and glyphosate and which Monsanto is branding as Roundup Xtend. The “Roundup Ready Xtend crop system” is aimed at combating the millions of acres of weeds that have grown resistant to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup, which has been used extensively on the company’s biotech corn, soybeans and cotton.

APHIS also on Tuesday issued a final EIS for genetically altered corn and soybean plants developed by Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical. That EIS also states that the agency intends to approve the products. APHIS has already said in January that it was leaning toward approval for Dow’s products.

Dow has developed what it calls Enlist corn and soybeans that resist a new herbicide developed by Dow that includes both glyphosate and 2,4-D.

A final decision is expected after a 30-day public review period, the agency said.

Both Monsanto’s and Dow’s new cropping systems have seen regulatory decisions delayed by intense opposition from many consumer, environmental and farmer groups who say there are a host of concerns with both products.

The groups say using more herbicides on weeds will only increase weed resistance over the long term. And increased herbicide use also brings increased risks of health problems and environmental pollution, they say.

“We are outraged,” said Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist with the Pesticide Action Network North America. “Despite all of this public outcry, what these decisions show is that USDA is much more interested in working with Dow and Monsanto and getting their products to market than in protecting the public.”

In its statement about Monsanto’s new products issued Tuesday, APHIS said farmers would see benefits, but acknowledged there also would likely be “an increased chance of the development of weeds resistant to dicamba.”

The draft EIS for Monsanto’s products will be available for a 45-day public review and comment period, APHIS said.

Alongside the USDA/APHIS regulatory process, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is concluding its concurrent review of the related herbicides.


VT Digger: Private donations boost GMO legal defense kitty to $160,000

John Herrick
Jul. 28 2014
Full Article

Vermont has raised more than $160,000 in private donations to help defend what would be the nation’s first GMO labeling law.

While the majority of these private donations have come from individuals, national advocacy groups are also lending their support. And last week, two consumer advocacy groups filed a motion to intervene on behalf of Vermont to defend the law in court.

Vermont’s law requires food manufacturers and retailers to label certain products containing genetically modified ingredients starting in 2016. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other national trade groups are suing Vermont, claiming the law is unconstitutional.

State officials estimate spending as much as $8 million to defend the law. The state is accepting donations to a special fund at foodfightfundvt.org.

The liberal advocacy group, MoveOn.org, made the largest single donation of $52,000 earlier this month, nearly doubling the amount of money in the fund at the time. The group is lobbying other states to pass GMO labeling legislation.

Two Minnesota philanthropists added $50,000 on July 17. The trustees with the private foundation Ceres Trust, Kent Whealy and Judith Kern, have a history of pushing for GMO labeling policies in Hawaii and California.

The foundation supports “organic research initiatives,” including “programs to eliminate pesticide exposure and GMO contamination,” according to its website. It describes genetic engineering as the “most difficult food safety, environmental and health challenges of the 21st century.” The foundation says it supports the Center for Food Safety, a national consumer advocacy group seeking to help Vermont defend its law in court.

Among the state’s other top donors are some that are represented by the trade groups suing the state.

The New Hampshire organic dairy products manufacturer Stonyfield Farm donated $5,000, the state’s third-largest donation. Stonyfield Farm is a member of the International Dairy Foods Association, which is among the trade groups suing the state over its labeling law.

Ben & Jerry’s in June announced it would rename its fudge brownie flavor for the month of July and donate $1 for every scoop of “Food Fight Fudge Brownie” sold at its locations in Burlington and Waterbury into the fund.

Among the other top donors are the Vermont Community Foundation, which has donated $2,000, and Toronto’s natural foods grocery co-op, the Big Carrot, which donated $1,000. Gov. Peter Shumlin also donated $100.

Vermont has hired a Washington, D.C., law firm to help defend the law. Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber was awarded a $1.465 million contract this month.

The private donations to date equal about 9 percent of that contract.

Sarah Clark, deputy commissioner of the Department of Finance and Management, said even with minimal marketing of the GMO fund, “we’ve really seen a significant increase in the last few weeks.”

The state’s response to the lawsuit is due Aug. 8.


Valley Advocate: Seeds of Rebellion

Vermont becomes a hotbed of resistance to high-tech agribiz.
7/2/14

It was the “Bring it on” law—a law that came out of the Vermont Legislature with a built-in weapon against an expected challenge.

Vermont’s GMO labeling law, passed this spring, required that most foods and seeds offered for sale in the state be labeled if they contained genetically manipulated elements. It also provided for a legal defense fund, the Vermont Food Fight Fund, in case the state were sued by the food industry and large agricultural firms engaged in the sale of genetically engineered seeds.

Attorneys general in some states might have been reluctant to see a law passed that would so obviously be a red flag to a well-capitalized industry, but Vermont’s attorney general Bill Sorrell was nothing daunted. “Our office did go before the legislature and testify that we expected a legal challenge, and laid out the possible risks that the law would face,” Assistant Attorney General Megan Shafritz, who heads up Sorrell’s civil litigation department, told the Advocate. “But our office is absolutely prepared to defend this law against all challenges, and we’re not afraid to do that. I think the Legislature was responsible and carrying out what they felt our citizens wanted.”

To no one’s surprise, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (of which Monsanto is a member), the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the Association of Manufacturers have now filed suit to overturn the Vermont law. The named defendants include Sorrell, Gov. Peter Shumlin, Department of Health commissioner Harry Chen, and James Reardon, commissioner of the Department of Finance and Management.

Connecticut and Maine also have GMO labeling laws, and another is pending in Massachusetts; no litigation cannon has been aimed at those states. But Vermont’s law is different. The laws passed or pending in the other New England states require that several other contiguous states pass similar laws before those now passed would go into effect, and that the population of all those states total 20 million. Vermont’s law has no external trigger; it would go into effect in 2016 independently of the passage or failure of any other GMO labeling law in any other state. Because it has no trigger, Vermont’s law is the first of its kind in the country.

However, Vermont’s law would add to the number of states necessary to trigger the implementation of laws in other states, such as Massachusetts. For the industry, the moment is strategic: a GMO law is being mulled in New York, and if it passed, that would add another state contiguous with Connecticut and Massachusetts—and with a population of 19 million—to the critical mass of Northeastern states with GMO labeling laws. Even before it filed suit against Vermont, the food industry was pushing a law in Congress that would prohibit mandatory GMO labeling and nullify state GMO labeling laws.

It makes sense that Vermont would be a leader of the resistance to agricultural monopolies. The tradition of small farming runs deep in this state, which has more direct farm-to-consumer sales per capita—more farm stands, farmers’ markets and CSA (comunity-supported agriculture) farms—than any state in the country. Organic sales also constitute a larger percentage of farm sales here than in any other state.

In Vermont, the preferences of many consumers as well as farmers are for food grown in a transparent, decentralized way that favors stakeholders rather than shareholders. Many Vermonters “have been around a long time and understand how difficult it is to make a living as a farmer and what difference that connection to the consumer makes—that understanding of how people farm their produce and their products,” said Sabine Rhyne, community relations manager for the Brattleboro Food Coop.

So far, most of the arguments pro and con about GMO labeling have centered around food safety, but another issue underlies the controversy about GMO foods and the labeling of them: the issue of plant patenting and monoculture. GMO foods and GMO seeds are products whose DNA is their creators’ property; consumers who purchase them are buying into a system that has drastically restricted the variety of plant material available for use as food and/or medicine. Today 10 multinational companies own 73 percent of the world’s commercial seeds. So much seed material is corporate property, according to seed farmer Tom Stearns of Wolcott, Vt., that “the major contemporary challenge that organic and public seed breeders face is a critical shortage of varieties that haven’t been patented.”

This spring, High Mowing became one of only two companies in the country (the other is Wild Garden Seed of Philomath, Ore.) to sell seeds produced by the new Open Source Seed Initiative, a venture created by University of Wisconsin researcher Irwin Goldman. The OSSI was formed to counteract the concentration of seeds in the hands of a few companies. So far it has created a “protected commons” of 37 seed varieties that are released on condition that no property rights can be attached to them or to plants bred from them.

In the long run, the role of companies like High Mowing may be decisive in the conflict between high-tech corporate agriculture and farming based on natural systems. Goldman’s dream is that the Open Source Seed Initiative will grow into an agricultural movement that will someday produce “open-source” foods—foods that would be labeled as such when they appear for sale in grocery stores.

As Vermont prepares to square off with the food industry in court, Ben and Jerry’s is skimming a part of the proceeds from its recently renamed Food Fight Fudge Brownie ice cream to donate to the legal defense fund; the Organic Consumers Association is harvesting money for the fund; and the state has mounted an attractive website (http://www.foodfightfundvt.org) to lure donations. Meanwhile, the Open Source Seed Initiative is fighting the same battle on another front.

“The Open Source Seed Initiative is the first definitive step towards reclaiming our access to plant genetic material, which has largely been privatized by the same corporations that develop GMOs,” says Stearns. “GMO agriculture is already losing ground as consumers begin speaking out against GMOs and in favor of labeling, but we also need a positive alternative. Unpatented organic and open source seeds are our most powerful tools for rebuilding a healthy, sustainable food supply.”•


Times Argus: GMO labeling law lands allies

July 23,2014
By Neal Goswami
Full Article

MONTPELIER — Two advocacy groups are looking to help defend the state against an industry group lawsuit against Vermont’s GMO labeling law.

The Vermont Public Interest Research Group and the Center for Food Safety say they have filed papers to formally move for party status in the lawsuit against Act 120, which was signed into law in May by Gov. Peter Shumlin. It requires the labeling of food with genetically engineered ingredients.

The two groups want to intervene on behalf of the state to assist in defending the law. Both groups are being represented jointly by lawyers from CFS and the Vermont Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the largest group of food manufacturers in the country, as well as the Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association and National Association of Manufacturers, filed suit against the law about a month after it was signed. The state’s response to the suit is due Aug. 8.

The food industry has poured tens of millions of dollars into anti-labeling campaigns in other states, according to the groups.

“Corporations don’t get a veto in the state of Vermont,” said George Kimbrell, a senior attorney for CFS who will serve as the lead attorney for VPIRG and CFS. “We will vigorously defend this legally sound and important law, which is critical to our members and our mission.”

Paul Burns, executive director of VPIRG, said his group is prepared to contribute resources to help the state defend the law.

“Vermonters take their food seriously, and this law gives them the information they need to make informed purchasing choices,” Burns said. “VPIRG will do whatever we can to defend the GMO labeling law from corporate bullies who would rather keep consumers in the dark about what’s in their food.”

Falko Schilling, VPIRG’s leading advocate for GMO labeling, said it is unclear exactly how much the legal effort will cost.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell has said Assistant Attorney General Megan J. Shafritz, chief of the attorney general’s civil division, will serve as the lead attorney for the state. The litigation team defending the law will include in-house attorneys Jon Alexander, Kyle Landis-Marinello and Naomi Sheffield. It will also employ attorneys from the Washington, D.C., firm Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber LLP, which struck a $1.465 million contract with Sorrell’s office.

Sorrell told lawmakers the legal effort could cost the state as much as $8 million if it loses the case.

Vermont’s law, set to take effect in July 2016, is seen as a key battle in whether or not food companies will be required to label products with genetically modified ingredients. Two other states, Connecticut and Maine, have passed food labeling laws that are contingent on other states passing similar legislation. And Oregon has a ballot initiative on the November ballot.

Mary-Kay Swanson, executive assistant to Sorrell, who was out of state Tuesday, said the state is not opposing intervention by VPIRG and CFS, but the court will decide if they meet the legal standard for party status. She said the state is planning to mount a strong defense regardless.

“There’s no question that the state will vigorously defend this law and that we have the resources and expertise at our disposal,” she said. “In no way will this case be hindered by us having to pinch pennies.”

Schilling said both VPIRG and CFS can help boost the state’s defense of the law if they are granted party status.

“This is an issue that we have been involved with … and we have a long history of working on and we feel we can bring a lot of things to the table,” Schilling said. “That’s why we’re pushing to intervene. We believe the law is constitutional and believe it will be upheld.”