U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss decided Monday to let Vermont go ahead with its plans to become the first state to require labeling of food containing genetically modified ingredients on July 1, 2016, and to let the Grocery Manufacturers of America-led litigation to stop it from happening proceed.
Both sides were left going through the trial judge’s 84-page decision to see where she agrees and disagrees with both sides. Reiss, who was appointed to the federal bench in 2009 by President Barack Obama, has definitely left both sides with plenty to chew on.
Although the state wanted the lawsuit dismissed, Attorney General William Sorrell told local media there is much in the judge’s decision that goes the state’s way for the “heart and soul” of the labeling law. But the Vermont AG acknowledged it may be a reach for the state in other areas, including its desire to ban food companies using genetically modified ingredients from using the word “natural.”
Like Sorrell, the grocery industry is going through the decision looking for where its case was helped or hurt.
“While we are pleased that the District Court found us likely to succeed on several of our claims, we are nevertheless disappointed by the court’s ultimate decision to deny our Motion for Preliminary Injunction to block the implementation of the Vermont GMO labeling law — Act 120 — on grounds that the manufacturers had not yet shown a sufficient degree of harm. We are reviewing this decision and considering our legal options,” GMA said in a post-decision statement.
“Manufacturers are being harmed, and they are being harmed now,” GMA added. “Act 120 is unconstitutional and imposes burdensome new speech requirements on food manufacturers and retailers. It will also set the nation on a path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies that will be costly and confusing for consumers.”
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) applauded the court’s decision, suggesting that it has positive implications for other states looking to pass GMO-labeling legislation.
“This landmark ruling not only paves the way for Vermont’s GMO labeling law to take effect on schedule, July 1, 2016, but more importantly it signals that the courts agree that states have a constitutional right to pass GMO labeling laws,” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s international director.
“This ruling also bodes well for GMO labeling bills that are moving through other state legislatures, including Maine, where a public hearing on Maine’s LD 991 is scheduled for April 30,” Cummins added.
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed Act 120 into a law a year ago, and rules to implement it next year were released earlier this month.© Food Safety News