Vermont's GMO Labeling Law Gets Go-Ahead from Judge

The state of Vermont can move forward with its plans to require labeling on foods containing genetically modified ingredients, ruled U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss earlier this week.

Judge Reiss’s ruling to dismiss the requested injunction against Act 120 came after the Grocery Manufacturers Association along with the biotech industry, attempted to block the law set to go into effect in 2016, with a lawsuit calling it “unconstitutional.”

"The safety of food products, the protection of the environment, and the accommodation of religious beliefs and practices are all quintessential governmental interests, as is the State's desire 'to promote informed consumer decision-making,'" wrote the judge, quoting from the state's court filings.

The law would make Vermont the first state in the U.S. with an active GMO labeling bill in effect. However, the suit is still likely to go to trial, where the judge says the GMA and biotech industry may be victorious on several claims.

"Manufacturers are being harmed, and they are being harmed now," the association said in a statement. "Act 120 is unconstitutional and imposes burdensome new speech requirements on food manufacturers and retailers."

The GMA alleges that manufacturers will not only incur extra costs in readying product packaging under the law, but will also face undo discrimination and customer confusion over the safety of genetically modified ingredients. U.S. agencies have found no health risks to consuming genetically modified foods, but in more than 60 countries around the world, they’re banned or severely restricted over human health and environmental concerns.

In addition to requiring manufacturers to label foods containing GMOs, Act 120 would also require foods containing GMOs to refrain from using words such as “natural.” This could prove problematic for the state and with the case now going to trial, it may have to be cut from the bill.

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