State News

Federal ruling paves the way for GMO trial

Staff report

A federal judge Monday, April 27, dismissed an attempt to block the implementation of Vermont’s law requiring the labeling of food containing genetically engineered ingredients.

U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss dismissed a preliminary injunction brought by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which contends that Vermont’s GMO labeling law is unconstitutional.

Possibly the most important aspect of the ruling is that the law’s requirement that GMOs be labeled is indeed constitutional under the First Amendment.

The court declared: “Because the State has established that Act 120’s GE disclosure requirement is reasonably related to the State’s substantial interests, under Zauderer, Act 120’s GE disclosure requirement is constitutional.”

The ruling also denies the state’s motion to dismiss the case, which clears the way for a trial.

Reiss rejected the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s request for an injunction that would prevent the Vermont law from going into effect while the case is litigated. She ruled Monday that Act 120 can be implemented July 1, 2016, despite the ongoing lawsuit.

Laura Murphy of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Vermont Law School (ENRLC) commented on the case, saying “We believe in this law. Vermont had really good reasons for passing it, and putting factual information on labels is a great way to convey information to consumers.”

“The GMO food giants aren’t used to losing, but they were just knocked on their collective keister by the State of Vermont,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG).

The multibillion dollar trade group representing food, beverage and pesticide companies sued the state last year after the nation’s first GMO labeling legislation was signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin.

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office finalized the regulations to implement the law this month.

No trial date has yet been set.

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