Full list: GMO News

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.”


Center for Food Safety: Vermont Public Interest Research Group and Center for Food Safety Move to Defend Vermont GE Labeling Law

Experts join forces to protect state from aggressive legal challenge by the food industry
July 21st, 2014
Full Press Release

Today, Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and Center for Food Safety (CFS) formally moved to defend Vermont’s genetically engineered (GE) food labeling law, Act 120. The groups filed legal papers to intervene on behalf of the State of Vermont in order to assist in defending Act 120 from a legal challenge brought by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and other food industry trade associations. They are represented jointly by counsel from CFS and Vermont Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic (ENRLC). Act 120 was signed into law on May 8, 2014. GMA, which represents the country’s largest food manufacturers and has poured tens of millions of dollars into anti-labeling campaigns in other states, sued Vermont just over a month after the law was signed.

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

“Vermonters take their food seriously, and this law gives them the information they need to make informed purchasing choices,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “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.”

“With this filing, we’re very proud to be taking our first step in defending Vermont’s law. We’ve seen Act 120 this far and aren’t going to give up now – it’s a strong law that deserves protection,” said Laura Murphy, associate director of the ENRLC, which represented VPIRG throughout Act 120’s legislative process.

The Vermont law is scheduled to take effect in July 2016. Two other states, Connecticut and Maine, passed GE food labeling laws with effective dates contingent on other states passing similar legislation. Oregon also has a ballot initiative on GE labeling in November 2014.  There are currently 64 countries with labeling laws and 70 state bills were introduced in 2013-2014, in 30 different states.

Act 120 was carefully considered by several committees before the Vermont legislature passed it and the governor signed it into law. The GE food labeling law received the support of a strong coalition of citizens groups such as VPIRG and the Vermont Right to Know GMOs coalition, which includes Rural Vermont, NOFA-Vermont, and Cedar Circle Farm. VPIRG and The Vermont Right to Know coalition were essential, spearheading statewide policy and grassroots campaign efforts for several years.

GMA represents the country’s largest food manufacturers, which already label GE foods all over the world, but have forcefully fought efforts to label here in the U.S. For example, GMA spent over 13 million dollars to oppose 2012 and 2013 GE labeling ballot initiatives in California and Washington. GMA has also supported a bill in Congress that would preempt states from pursuing labeling laws, even in the absence of a federal standard. To help implement and defend its law, Vermont included in Act 120 a voluntary “food fight fund” provision to solicit public donations.


Huffington Post: Americans Are Too Stupid For GMO Labeling, Congressional Panel Says

By Michael McAuliff
07/10/2014
Full Article & video

WASHINGTON — It’s pretty rare that members of Congress and all the witnesses they’ve called will declare out loud that Americans are just too ignorant to be given a piece of information, but that was a key conclusion of a session of the House Agriculture Committee this week.

The issue was genetically modified organisms, or GMOs as they’re often known in the food industry. And members of the subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture, as well as their four experts, agreed that the genetic engineering of food crops has been a thorough success responsible for feeding the hungry, improving nutrition and reducing the use of pesticides.

People who oppose GMOs or want them labeled so that consumers can know what they’re eating are alarmists who thrive on fear and ignorance, the panel agreed. Labeling GMO foods would only stoke those fears, and harm a beneficial thing, so it should not be allowed, the lawmakers and witnesses agreed.

“I really worry that labeling does more harm than good, that it leads too many people away from it and it diminishes the market for GMOs that are the solution to a lot of the problems we face,” said David Just, a professor at Cornell University and co-director of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs.

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) agreed with another witness, Calestous Juma, an international development professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School, that political leaders had been cowed by misinformed populaces into bending on GMOs, especially in the European Union, where Juma said hundreds of millions of euros have been spent on studies that have found GMOs safe.

“It’s obvious that while the science in the EU in incontrovertible about the health and safety benefits of genetically modified hybrid crops, that because of politics, people are afraid to lead, and inform consumers,” Schrader said.

Juma cited an extensive report by the European Commission. (There is at least one controversial group that disagrees with him.)

Certainly, there is misinformation about GMOs, as highlighted in a New York Times feature on a Hawaiian ban of most GMOs. But entirely missing from the hearing was any suggestion that there are real concerns about the impact of genetically engineered food, such as the growth of pesticide-resistant “super weeds,” over-reliance on single-crop factory farming, decreased biodiversity, and a lack of a consistent approval process. (Read more pros and cons here.)

The issue may soon gain fresh relevance on Capitol Hill, where a measure backed by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) to stop states from requiring GMO labeling could get marked up as early as September. The bill also would allow genetically engineered food to be labeled “100 percent natural.”

The idea of the bill brought Ben and Jerry’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield to Capitol Hill Thursday to push back, along with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who backs labeling.

Greenfield told HuffPost that labeling is a simple, inexpensive matter of letting people know what’s in their food, and letting them decide what they want to support and eat.

“This idea that consumers will be scared away — the label will be a very simple thing, a few words on a container saying something like ‘may be produced with genetic engineering.’ It’s not scary,” Greenfield said.


National Family Farm Coalition: Vermont’s GMO Labeling and Raw Milk Access Gain Legal Status

By Andrea Stander
Summer 2014 Newsletter
Full Article
On May 8, Governor Peter Shumlin signed Vermont’s “no-strings-attached” GMO Food Labeling bill into law (Act 120), which is also first in the nation. This is a huge victory for everyone who eats and wouldn’t have been possible without the enormous support of not only Vermont citizens and dedicated activists but many from around the country these past three legislative sessions. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to achieve this important step in protecting our right to choose the food that supports our values. You can see a slide show of photos from the GMO Labeling Bill Signing Ceremony here.
The VT Right to Know Coalition, of which Rural Vermont is a founding member, will continue its work in several areas: We are assembling all the lessons we learned and resources we gathered during the campaign to share with other states working GMO labeling bills and ballot initiatives.
We will develop materials to help Vermont citizens participate in the Attorney General’s rule-making process to implement the GMO Labeling law.
We are supporting the effort to raise money to support implementation and
defense of the new law through the Vermont Food Fight Fund that Governor
Shumlin announced when he signed the bill. If you or your organization can
help spread the word about the fund it will be greatly appreciated. We need to show the corporate bullies that  there is broad and deep support for the right to know what is in our food.
Grocery Manufacturers’ Association, et. al., file suit
Late in the afternoon of Thursday, June 12, the Grocery Manufacturers’
Association and industrial food allies the Snack Food Association, International
Dairy Foods Association and National Association of Manufacturers, filed a law-
suit in federal district court to strike down Vermont’s law.
Although the lawsuit does not raise any unexpected issues, it does mark the
beginning of what will likely be a landmark legal battle over the people’s right to
know vs. corporate right to hide.
This summer Rural Vermont’s Board and staff will be developing plans for our
next steps in addressing the broader concerns related to genetically engineered
food and corporate control of our food system. For more information, write andrea@ruralvermont.org or call 802-522-3284.
Raw Milk Bill Becomes Law: Farmers’ Markets Delivery Began July 1!
On Tuesday, May 27, Governor Peter Shumlin signed S.70, now Act 149, into
law. The new law makes modest improvements to the statute governing the
production and sale of raw milk in Vermont.
After hearing testimony on opposing sides from state and national experts, the
Legislature made improvements to the current raw milk law, including authorizing the delivery of raw milk to farmers’ markets for Tier 2 producers. Although
Act 149 makes only modest improvements in providing greater access to raw
milk, taking testimony and debating the bill significantly raised the profile of raw
milk among legislators and increased the level of respect for the farmers who
provide this esteemed product.
Act 149 will provide the following improvements in access to raw milk:
As of July 1, 2014, Tier 2 raw milk producers are able to deliver raw milk to existing customers at farmers’ markets where they sell. (Existing customer means someone who previously made a visit to the farm to make their initial purchase of raw milk.) Act 149 changes the daily sales limit to an aggregate weekly limit for both Tier 1 and Tier 2 producers, providing greater flexibility for farmers and convenience for customers. There are some additional requirements regarding cold storage capacity and protection of shelf life. Act 149 also clarifies that raw milk producers need only provide the “opportunity” for customers to take a tour of their farm.
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For more details about these changes to the law, please read Rural Vermont’s Fact Sheet on Act 149. You may also read our updated “cheat sheet” on the requirements for Tier 1 and Tier 2 producers. Rural Vermont will reach out to raw milk producers and customers about opportunities offered by the new law. We will also continue our campaign for commonsense, scale-appropriate regulation of raw dairy and all other farm fresh food. For more information, write shelby@ruralvermont.org or call the office at 802-223-7222.

RT: Ben & Jerry’s joins Vermont’s fight for GMO labeling

June 17, 2014
Full Article

As Vermont gears up to defend its first-in-the-nation labeling law concerning food that contains genetically modified organisms, ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s is teaming up with the state to help raise money for the cause.

According to the Burlington Free Press, the company is changing the name of one of its most popular ice cream flavors in order to promote donations to the Food Fight Fund set up to defend the state’s new GMO labeling law. For the month of July, Ben & Jerry’s fudge brownie ice cream will be known as “Food Fight! Fudge Brownie.”

Additionally, the company announced it will donate $1 from every ice cream purchase at its Burlington and Waterbury shops to Vermont’s legal fund.

In order to promote the fund, co-founder Jerry Greenfield appeared with Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin on Monday outside an ice cream store in Burlington.

“This is a pretty simple issue,” Greenfield said in a statement. “Vermonter’s want the right to know what’s in their food, and apparently a bunch of out of state companies don’t want to tell us.

“We’re used to putting dough in ice cream, but renaming Chocolate Fudge Brownie to Food Fight Fudge Brownie will help put some dough in the Food Fight Fund,” he added.

As RT reported previously, Vermont’s GMO labeling law is under legal attack from food companies such as Monsanto and Kraft Foods, as well as groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) – an organization that includes Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s parent company.

Earlier this month, the GMA was one of four national trade organizations to file a lawsuit against the new requirements, arguing that GMO foods are safe and that labeling is not only costly, but also unnecessary. If states decide to come up with their own labeling requirements with no national guidelines, food makers say it would result in confusion and increased prices.

In a statement, the GMA called the 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 National Association of Manufacturers, meanwhile, said, “With zero justification in health, safety or science, the State of Vermont has imposed a burdensome mandate on manufacturers that unconstitutionally compels speech and interferes with interstate commerce.”

To defend its legislation, Vermont itself has allocated about $1.5 million towards a legal fund, but that is unlikely to be enough. According to the Associated Press, state officials believe about $8 million is needed, and so far only $18,000 has been raised.

Still, Gov. Shumlin said that while the fund is there to raise whatever it can, it’s not the only option the state has.

“We want to raise as much as we can,” he said in a separate Free Press article. “The rest we’ll do the old-fashioned way. We don’t expect to raise the whole amount.”

As for Ben & Jerry’s, the company has been transitioning its entire portfolio of ice cream flavors into non-GMO products. Despite being owned by Unilever – which spent more than $450,000 to try and defeat California’s own labeling proposals – the company has decided to forge ahead on a GMO-free path and support Vermont’s law.


Portland Press Herald: GMO crop mapping plan hard to swallow

Farmers worry that it could lead to crop sabotage, while others say it’s needed for purity.
By GOSIA WOZNIACKA
6/15/14
Full Article

PORTLAND, Ore. — Before residents in southern Oregon overwhelmingly voted to ban genetically modified crops last month, farmers negotiated for months with a biotech company that grows engineered sugar beets near their fields.

Their goal was to set up a system to peacefully coexist, an online mapping database of fields to help growers minimize cross-pollination between engineered and non-engineered crops.

But the effort between farmers and Swiss company Syngenta failed, leading to the ban.

Last October, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber directed the state’s Department of Agriculture to undertake something far more ambitious than that failed mapping effort – map GMO field locations across the entire state and establish buffer zones and exclusion areas for GE crops.

The move was spurred by several instances of genetic contamination in the region that rendered non-engineered crops unsellable on the export market.

If the mapping goes ahead, Oregon would be the first state to map fields and mandate preventive measures for modified crops. Advocates say Oregon could become a model for the rest of the nation.

The failed mapping effort in southern Oregon illustrates the challenges in reaching a consensus on GMO mapping amid mutual mistrust, a dearth of regulations and intense consumer attention.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture committee has recommended informal neighbor farmer agreements and an insurance system to pay for damages resulting from GMO contamination. But organic farmers are pushing for more disclosure, formal prevention measures and a system to hold GE growers liable for cross-pollination.

Cross-pollination can occur when two crops within the same species flower simultaneously in nearby fields and pollen is carried from one to another via wind, insects, machines or human activity. Genetic engineering is prohibited in U.S. organic crops and many countries restrict imports of engineered products.

“There’s this need, a perceived need and real need in some markets, that they need zero contamination. And that is very difficult to achieve,” said Carol Mallory-Smith, professor of weed science at Oregon State University.

Already, dozens of seed associations across the nation – organizations for farmers who grow crops for seed – do mapping, also called pinning, and set isolation distances among crops to limit cross-pollination.

Some biotech companies participate in such mapping. But the efforts are voluntary and spotty, with locations and dates of planting available only to fellow growers, not officials or the general public.

Monsanto and other biotech outfits that hold patents to GE seeds resist publicly disclosing GMO field locations for competitive reasons. They claim farmers already coexist throughout the U.S. and more monitoring isn’t needed.

They are backed by farmers who plant GMO crops and worry that mapping could lead to crop sabotage and an outright ban on all GMO cultivation, regardless of the likelihood of contamination.

“More mapping would be redundant; we’re already doing it internally, we all work together with other farmers,” said Robert Purdy, who grows GE sugar beets for seed in the Willamette Valley. “If mapping were made public, nothing could stop people from pulling out those sugar beet plants.”

The company that contracts with Purdy for the seeds is a member of the Willamette Valley Specialty Seed Association, which maps more than 1,200 fields as part of a pinning system in northwestern Oregon – meaning Purdy can coordinate what to grow and where with his neighbors.

But organic farmers and other advocates say a mandatory mapping and monitoring system that covers all regions of the state and the nation is badly needed to retain crop and seed purity.


Burlington Free Press: Shumlin, Ben & Jerry’s team up in GMO fight

Terri Hallenbeck
June 16, 2014
Full Article

James Posig of Burlington was walking his dog down Church Street in Burlington on Monday afternoon when he stopped to watch a rally in front of the Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop.

Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Jerry Greenfield and Gov. Peter Shumlin were rallying interest in the state’s Food Fight Fund in defense of its new law requiring labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms. Food manufacturers filed a lawsuit last week challenging the law, which is slated to go into effect in July 2016.

“We now need your help to beat the food manufacturers,” Shumlin said. He later said he planned to contribute to the fund but declined to say how much.

Ben & Jerry’s, which is in the process of transforming all its flavors to non-genetically modified ingredients, renamed its fudge brownie ice cream Food Fight! Fudge Brownie for the month of July. The South Burlington-based ice-cream maker will contribute $1 from each purchase at the Burlington and Waterbury scoop shops to the state’s Food Fight Fund, Greenfield announced.

Scoop shop crews then came out of the shop with trays of Food Fight! Fudge Brownie samples.

Greenfield, who sold the company to Unilever in 2000, said he had no say in the company’s decision to go non-GMO, but “I was thrilled.”

He noted that two years ago he testified on his own behalf before the Legislature in favor of GMO labeling when the company had yet to take a stand on the issue. “Now it’s all in,” he said. “I feel much happier about it.”

A few feet away on Church Street, Posig was enjoying a sample of Food Fight! Fudge Brownie.

“I support it,” he said of the labeling law. “Everything should be disclosed.”

The fund, which was unveiled at the May 8 bill signing, had raised about $18,000 by the end of last week. Attorney General Bill Sorrell has estimated a lawsuit could cost up to $8 million.

“We want to raise as much as we can,” Shumlin said of the fund. “The rest we’ll do the old-fashioned way. We don’t expect to raise the whole amount.”


Vermont Attorney General’s GE Food Labeling Rule Questionnaire

The Attorney General has begun the process of drafting rules that will facilitate implementation of the newly signed VT GMO labeling law. Until the end of June, the Attorney General will begin soliciting input from the public and those who will be affected by the rules, including food processors, grocers and other retailers, the agricultural community, and consumers.

For more information, and to submit your input, visit this page.


Burlington Free Press: Trade groups sue VT over GMO labeling law

NANCY REMSEN
June 13, 2014
Full Article

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.

“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.”

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

Lawmakers, the governor and the attorney general expected the law to be challenged in court. Trade groups had promised to fight the law in court.

READ THE LAWSUIT: PDF: Lawsuit vs. Vermont GMO law

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 when reached Thursday afternoon in New York City. 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.

Real progress, big questions after GMO law

“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 First Amendment dictates that when speech is involved, Vermont policymakers cannot merely act as a pass-through for the fads and controversies of the day,” the association continued. “It must point to a truly ‘governmental’ interest, not just a political one.”

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

“The U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture 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 association said.

The Vermont Right to Know GMOs Coalition, which lobbied for the law, argued that labeling would bring transparency to the information consumers would have about their food.

“The people of Vermont have said loud and clear they have a right to know what is in their food,” said Falko Schilling, consumer protection advocate with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

Schilling said lawmakers determined there was a lack of consensus about the safety of genetically engineered foods “so putting labels on is a reasonable and prudent thing so people can decide for themselves.”

The lawsuit, filed at U.S. District Court in Burlington, contends the Food and Drug Administration has “confirmed the safety of more than 100 genetically engineered crops for human consumption” since 1994.

The court complaint suggests the motivation for the new mandate is to respond to public-opinion polling “showing a consumer desire for labeling,” but notes the law exempts dairy and restaurants, creating big gaps on the information consumers will have if they are concerned about genetically modified foods.

The lawsuit argues the state needs a compelling interest to restrict information that food manufacturers provide about their products. But at the same time, the complaint states that the law indicates private dollars should be tapped first for any legal battles. The measure caps state funding at $1.5 million.

The lawsuit has drawn attention from national organization on the other side of the issue from the four plaintiffs.

Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, defended the Vermont law, saying 60 other countries either have banned GMOs or require mandatory labeling of foods that contain them.

Cummins added, “Every U.S. citizen should be concerned when a multi-billion dollar corporate lobbying group sues in federal court to overturn a state’s right to govern for the health and safety of its citizens.” He called the lawsuit was a way to intimidate other states considering labeling laws.