Grocery Groups Sue Vermont Over New GMO Food Labeling Requirement

Back in April, Vermont became the first state to require food companies to label their products if they contained genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Now various industry food groups are coming together to fight the rule with a lawsuit claiming the law is a “costly and misguided measure” that in the end, the groups say, won’t help consumers.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and others are challenging the law in federal court in Vermont, and have filed suit to ask a judge to overturn the law. The suit says the rule “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,” reports the Associated Press.

“They must revise hundreds of thousands of product packages, from the small to the super-sized,” the suit said. “Then, they must establish Vermont-only distribution channels to ensure that the speech Vermont is forcing them to say, or not say, is conveyed in that state.”

In addition, the lawsuit claims that foods made with GMOs are perfectly safe and as such, the state is exceeding its authority under the U.S. Constitution.

While the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration agrees, ruling that food from modified plants isn’t materially any different from other food, critics of GMOs have called the resulting products environmentally suspect, saying there’s no way to measure the possible ill health effects that could arise in the future.

Maine and Connecticut both have GMO label laws too, but those laws don’t go into effect unless states that share their borders draw up similar rules.

The lawsuit apparently has some breathing room, as the Vermont law won’t go into effect for two more years. Those who violate it will be fined a civil penalty of $1,000 per day per product for “false certification” if the labels don’t note GMO foods or retailers don’t post signs for unpackaged GMO products.

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell hadn’t seen the lawsuit as of yesterday, but noted that his office is prepared and “we’re ready to fight.”

Grocers sue Vermont over GMO food label law [Associated Press]

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  1. Pacer says:

    Regardless of what anyone thinks of the right/wrong of the labeling law, those food manufacturers really don’t have to sell anything in Vermont if they find the labeling requirement untenable. And I guarantee you they will NEVER leave Vermont, or any state with a labeling law, because a buck is a buck and that’s their only real business.

    No matter what state you live in, if you look at some products that contain certain chemicals you will see a warning about carcinogens on the container as required by a pretty stringent California law. I don’t believe any manufacturer has refused to sell in California because of it.

    The suit says the rule “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.” What a laff.

  2. SuperSpeedBump says:

    Costly? These companies change their packaging multiple times a year. It’s 5 minutes with a graphic designer and done… problem solved. Using cost as an excuse is very thin.

    It doesn’t matter whether or not the ingredients are safe or not, what matters is that the public wants to know what their food is made out of. They voted. It passed. Deal with it.

  3. Snarkapus says:

    Hey manufacturers, here’s a solution: Put GMO content on ALL states’ food, not just Vermont’s. And while you’re at it, how about state/country of origin?

    Thanks!

    • furiousd says:

      That’s probably why they’re fighting to begin with, because it’d be more cost effective to roll out the change on every product they sell and they don’t want to do so

  4. AlaskanPixie says:

    I’ve never really understood the “gmo is bad” thing. Maybe I’m just too apathetic. But, I don’t see how more information could ever be bad or unhelpful.

    • furiousd says:

      I’m in the same boat, I can understand being nervous about something you don’t understand, but grabbing your torch and pitchfork every time you think there might be something to worry about without any evidence to support or contradict is pretty irresponsible. At the same time, it would be nice to know. I assume they track the info somehow

  5. CzarChasm says:

    I don’t really understand why this is a problem. If it’s really going to cost more per item to sell in Vermont, than just charge more for products sold in Vermont. Hell, if they really want to make a point, charge twice what it costs to change the package. You may sell less, but your profit is higher.

    • furiousd says:

      I like this idea, and as long as the label’s being changed might as well note why it’s costing so much more