May 8, 2014 – the day that Vermont passed statewide GMO labeling law, Act 120 – was a momentous milestone for all Americans who support food label transparency. Through this victory, Vermont became the first state in the US to mandate GMO labeling independent of surrounding states passing similar laws.
However, as expected, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which includes many processed food giants, as well as the biotech conglomerate Monsanto, have joined with the National Association of Manufacturers, the Snack Food Association and the International Dairy Foods Association and filed a lawsuit in an attempt to overthrow the new law.
The above-mentioned plaintiffs have based their lawsuit on claims that Vermont’s mandatory labeling law is unconstitutional, and (among other stipulations) violates the manufacturers’ right to free speech on their product labels. They are demanding that the new law be deemed invalid.
Part of the complaint reads: “Act 120 compels manufacturers to use their labels to convey an opinion with which they disagree, namely, that consumers should assign significance to the fact that a product contains an ingredient derived from a genetically engineered plant.”
While these manufacturers may not feel that adding a GMO to a food is significant, a huge percentage of the population begs to differ. Before being signed into law, the bill was passed by a whopping 28-2 Senate majority. When several senators were interviewed following the vote, some stated that although they were not supporters of GMO labeling, they had to follow the demands of the voting public.
The plaintiffs in this case, on the other hand, seem to wish to do just the opposite, and put their interests over what Vermont citizens want, and have fought so hard to obtain.
Later in the complaint, the plaintiffs state: “The operative provisions of Act 120 take effect July 1, 2016. That is a difficult, if not impossible, deadline for Plaintiffs’ members to meet. They must revise hundreds of thousands of product packages… To comply by the deadline, some companies may have no choice but to revise the labels for all of their products…”
This appears to be an issue of convenience and finances. These processed food giants and biotech firms are quite unwilling to disrupt their agendas and allocate resources toward being open with consumers, but are perfectly willing to spend millions of dollars fighting in court instead.
Although it may become an expensive and drawn-out struggle, supporters of Vermont’s new law are confident that they will prevail. Ronnie Cummins, the founder and director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), states, “this battle is about the rights of states to pass laws to protect their citizens.”
Andrew Kimbrell, the executive director for the Center for Food Safety, agrees. He states, “transparency in a sector that is integral to our lives every single day is absolutely essential.” We will be sure to keep you updated on this important issue.
-The Alternative Daily