Joined by farmers, environmental groups, businesses – including Ben & Jerry’s CEO Jostein Solheim -- and others from across the country, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a first-in-the-nation law requiring the labeling of food produced from genetic engineering on May 8.
Under the new law, food for human consumption offered for retail sale in Vermont that is entirely or partially produced with genetic engineering must be labeled to indicate this fact, as of July 1, 2016. Violators face penalties and further action by the Attorney General’s Office.
Shumlin said he believes the bill “is the right thing to do and will gain momentum elsewhere.”
“The constitutionality of the GMO labelling law will undoubtedly be challenged,” said Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell. “I can make no predictions or promises about how the courts will ultimately rule but I can promise that my office will mount a vigorous and zealous defense of the law that has so much support from Vermont consumers.”
The bill creates a special fund to support the implementation and administration of the state labeling law, including costs and fees associated with expected challenge in court. Information about the fund can be found at www.foodfightfundvt.org.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association confirmed in the coming weeks it will be filing a suit in federal court against the state of Vermont to overturn the law.
GMA said consumers who prefer to avoid GM ingredients have the option to choose from an array of products already in the marketplace labeled certified organic. “The government therefore has no compelling interest in warning consumers about foods containing GM ingredients, making this law’s legality suspect at best,” GMA said.
The Governor signed the bill into law as a local band played, the crowd enjoyed the sunshine on the State House lawn, and the Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Truck dished out free ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s CEO Solheim, who spoke at the bill-signing, said all his company’s products will carry a label indicating they source only non-GMO by the end of 2014.
GMA’s statement noted that Vermont’s bill is “critically flawed and not in the best interests of consumers.” Rather it sets the nation on a “costly and misguided path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies that will do nothing to advance the safety of consumers.”
GMA again urged support for bipartisan federal legislation that would require a label on foods containing GM ingredients if the FDA determines there is a health or safety risk.
“Any labeling of GM ingredients would therefore be based on science, not fear or the varying politics of the 50 states,” GMA said.