Vermont is yet another step closer to becoming the first state to implement a law to label genetically modified organisms in food as a district court judge this week partially denied a claim from the Grocery Manufacturers Association and others that sought to block implementation of the labeling law.
Judge Christina Reiss of the U.S. District Court in Vermont said the allowances of the GMO labeling rule, filed by Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell on April 17, are within the state's purview, according to a report from the AP.
GMA and others sought a preliminary injunction to block the rule, which goes into effect July 1, 2016, but isn't likely to be enforced until Jan. 1, 2017. The groups said the rule is not constitutional because it mandates speech in the form of labeling.
Reiss did not grant the injunction because opposing groups failed to show how it may cause irreparable harm, a Food Navigator report said. She also disagreed that Vermont's GMO labeling law violates the commerce clause of the U.S. constitution, but also suggested that GMA's claims regarding the law's restrictions on the term "natural" could have legal merit.
According to GMA, Vermont's law could put the U.S. on a path to broader GMO labeling policies that are different in every state.
Other states already have passed laws requiring GMO labeling, but Vermont is the first to do so without any "trigger clauses" or requirements that surrounding states also pass similar laws.
In a statement, GMA said it was disappointed by the court's ultimate decision to not grant the injunction but was pleased that other claims may still defeat the law. GMA also disagreed with the judge's assertion that manufacturers are not being harmed.
"Manufacturers are being harmed, and they are being harmed now. Act 120 is unconstitutional and imposes burdensome new speech requirements on food manufacturers and retailers," a statement said.
In a hearing last month, farmers and consumers testified in front of the House Ag Committee with concern that mandatory GMO labeling in the state will affect a broad range of producers and require segregation at planting, harvesting, marketing, transport, storage and manufacturing.
Thomas Dempsey, CEO of the Snack Food Association, a plaintiff in the GMA case, said each of these steps would add to business owners' costs in terms of labor, creation and monitoring of more stock keeping units (SKUs) and manufacture of alternate packaging.
Under the law, products intended for immediate consumption, for example doughnuts at a pastry shop, will be exempt, as will taxable meals.
Dairy products derived from animals fed genetically engineered food are also exempt. But dairy products containing additives such as chocolate aren't exempt.