In court papers filed Thursday, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers sought to effectively ‘stop the clock’ until it is established whether Act 120 (which comes into force in July 2016) is legal.
They said: “To pacify a vocal segment of the population that opposes genetic engineering, the State of Vermont has waded into a political controversy and enacted Act 120, legislation that is both unconstitutional and preempted by federal law. Plaintiffs seek preliminary relief that enjoins the Defendants from implementing Act 120 until this litigation has run its course.”
They added: “Federal law does not require food labeling to also include [GMO] plant labeling because there is no rational justification for such a regime. Act 120, however, is not concerned with rational justification. It caters to beliefs and biases that a government has no business endorsing.”
Act 120 has some high profile industry supporters including Ben & Jerry’s co-founders Jerry Greenfield and Ben Cohen
The GMA has multiple issues with Act 120, but its main argument - outlined in a lawsuit (5:14-cv-00117 ) filed in June - is that it violates the First Amendment because it compels manufacturers to “convey messages they do not want to convey” and prevents them from “describing their products in terms of their choosing, without anything close to sufficient justification”.
However, in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, state attorney general William H Sorrell said Act 120 does not violate the First Amendment because the disclosures it mandates are “purely factual” and the law “does not require manufacturers to state a particular viewpoint, such as whether GE foods are good or bad”, claims the state attorney general (AG).
Unlike other state GMO labeling laws (eg. bills that have passed in Maine and Connecticut), the Vermont law (Act 120) has no ‘trigger clause’ and will take effect on July 1, 2016 regardless of action from other states.
As a result, opponents of GMO labeling have picked Vermont as the venue for a legal battle that will be watched by stakeholders in a raft of other states currently considering similar legislation.
Click HERE to read Act 120.