Vermont’s Attorney General recently asked the state’s federal district court to dismiss a lawsuit attempting to strike down Vermont’s new GMO-labeling law. Vermont Act 120, which was signed by the governor in May, will require retailers to identify food that contains genetically engineered ingredients as “produced with genetic engineering.” It also prohibits labeling GMO foods as “natural,” “naturally grown,” “all natural,” or other similar phrases. A consortium of food industry associations brought the lawsuit asserting that the law was unconstitutional on several grounds.
The Plaintiffs—the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers—filed the complaint in June and argued that the law imposes on their First Amendment rights without advancing a government interest. Plaintiffs also assert that the law violates the Commerce Clause and that it is preempted by existing federal statutes.
“Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law . . . 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,” the Grocery Manufacturers Association said in a statement about the lawsuit.
The motion to dismiss, filed on August 8, argues that the law’s essential requirements are appropriate under the First Amendment and serve a legitimate state interest. It also contends that there will not be a significant burden on interstate commerce, especially not one that would outweigh the local benefits. Finally, the motion asserts that the law is not preempted by any of the statutes identified by Plaintiffs but rather is a valid exercise of state regulatory power.
“While the Plaintiffs prefer not to disclose that their products are made with genetic engineering, over 90% of the general public supports labeling genetically engineered foods,” said Attorney General William Sorrell.
Vermont has asked the Court to schedule oral argument, so it will likely be several months before the Court issues a decision. The law is currently scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2016.