State News

State receives over $300,000 for GMO defense fund (a.k.a. “the food fight”)

By John Herrick,

Vermont has raised more than $300,000 in private donations since May to help it defend its GMO labeling law, Act 120, in federal court.

SumOfUs, a nonprofit issue advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., made the largest donation—$78,000—to a defense fund to help the state pay its legal bills.

National trade groups this summer sued the state, saying that the law, which requires food manufacturers and retailers to label certain products containing genetically engineered ingredients starting in 2016, is unconstitutional. State officials estimate it could cost as much as $8 million to defend the law.

The state has received more than 1,000 private donations to defend its labeling law, according to the state Department of Finance and Management.

The Colorado-based Mexican restaurant chain, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., donated $50,000 last week. The Vermont ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s also donated $5,000 through the sale of “Food Fight Fudge Brownie” ice cream.

Other high-profile donors include liberal advocacy group and the private foundation Ceres Trust—each donated about $50,000. Vermonters have donated about $16,000 to date, approximately 5 percent of the total amount.

Two consumer advocacy groups, the Center for Food Safety and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, have asked for permission to join the state in its defense of the law in federal court. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other trade groups in the case asked the court to reject this motion. Vermont does not oppose the advocacy groups’ motion to intervene in the case.

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