Food and Grocery Groups File Suit to Overturn Vermont GMO Labeling Law

Groups say new GMO labeling law is unconstitutional, and could lead to a 'patchwork' of regulations in other states

Published on: Jun 13, 2014

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, along with the Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers on Thursday filed a complaint in federal district court in Vermont challenging the state's mandatory GMO labeling law.

The labeling law, which was approved earlier this year, requires labeling of GM foods sold in Vermont retail outlets as "produced with genetic engineering." The bill also stipulates that GM foods may not be labeled as "natural," "naturally grown," "all natural" or other similar phrases.

Food and grocery groups say new GMO labeling law is unconstitutional, and could lead to a patchwork of regulations in other states
Food and grocery groups say new GMO labeling law is unconstitutional, and could lead to a 'patchwork' of regulations in other states

"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," GMA said in a press statement following its legal filing. "Act 120 exceeds the state's authority under the United States Constitution."

Related: Vermont GMO Labeling Bill Goes to Governor's Desk

GMA supports a bill introduced in the U.S. House in April that would establish federal labeling standards and bar states from enacting mandatory labeling laws for genetically modified foods.

According to the group, Act 120, however, imposes "burdensome new speech requirements and restrictions" that will impact approximately eight out of 10 foods at the grocery store.

GMA argues that the First Amendment stipulates that mandatory speech much point to a government interest. The Constitution also prohibits Vermont from regulating nationwide distribution and labeling practices that facilitate interstate commerce, GMA said.

Related: National GMO Labeling Bill Draws Favorable Reaction

"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 statement said, again signaling support for a federal standard.

Several farm groups also said they supported the federal labeling standard legislation when it was announced this spring; Opponents of the bill, however, said it denies consumers the right to know what's in their food.

The bill's largest opponents were also concerned that it could bars states from creating laws that would prohibit "natural" products to include GM ingredients.