Written by Christina Sarich, Natural Society, August 21, 2014
When biotech told Vermont they would sue the state in order to reverse the voters’ wish to have GMO foods labeled, the state decided to prepare for the worst-case scenario. They started a fund to help them fight Monsanto and the biotech bullies in court.
This past week, the Vermont Attorney General filed a request with the U.S. District Court asking them to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and other industry groups challenging the state’s new GMO labeling law.
Due to the hard work of activists around the country, Vermont now has Act 120, which requires the labeling of food made with genetically modified organisms. Five different plaintiffs that want to see the Act overturned are now challenging it for its constitutionality. Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said in his court filing that the Act should stand.
The state of Vermont attests that the law is covered under the First Amendment and upholds state interests. Vermont argues that the plaintiffs cannot prove that the law is too vague, as they claim, nor does it violate a federal Commerce Clause. There is not an ounce of proof that the Act causes a significant burden on interstate commerce. If manufacturers really want us to buy their products, all they have to do is replace GMOs with organic crops. Plenty of companies already do just that.
The state’s motion for dismissal also says the GMO labeling law is not preempted by other statutes and is part of a state’s regulatory power.
Assistant Attorney General Megan Shafritz warns that the plaintiffs have a strong case to have the act dismissed based on evidence put before the court:
“We have great confidence in those legal arguments. Each one is sort-of it’s own separate body of law and it’s going to require the court to do some good analysis in each of these legal areas. But we feel very confident in the brief that we’ve filed and that the court, after hearing from the other side, and perhaps hearing arguments from the parties, will see that our arguments are correct.”
Among other grass-roots groups, the NOFA Vermont, VPIRG, and Cedar Circle Farm partnered up to create what’s called the Vermont Right to Know GMO Coalition, which worked diligently to get the GMO labeling law passed.
Executive Director Andrea Stander of Rural Vermont praises the way the attorney general has rebutted the lawsuit being brought against Vermont by the GMA:
“It reflects everything that we’ve been saying all along about this law, which is that it passes all the legal tests. So I’m glad to see it and I hope the judge dismisses it. I think we demonstrated in the three legislative sessions that we worked to pass this law that there is an overwhelming number of Vermonters who feel very strongly that knowing whether or not the food they’re buying has been genetically engineered is an important piece of information to them. It’s at least as important as all of the other things that are already provided for on food labels.”
Others are working to block the efforts of a money-bloated and monopolizing GM industry. The Vermont Public Interest Research Group has filed documents with the court seeking to become an intervenor in the case. Falko Schilling, a Consumer Protection Advocate, believes that the plaintiff’s claims that GMO foods are similar to non-GMO foods is ridiculous:
“One of the things you can look to is the fact that they’re patented because they are different. They act differently than other foods in nature such as the fact that you can put large amounts of herbicides on them. Where other plants would die, these plants can resist that. They’re unique and they’re something that needs to be tested and need to be adequately regulated.”
Verbiage from the federal lawsuit filed in June states that Vermont’s labeling measure is “a misguided measure that will set the nation on a path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies.” More like – Vermont’s law sets a precedence which the GMA, Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, and others are afraid will take hold of the nation and ruin their multi-billion dollar businesses.
Even though the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association is not a party in the lawsuit, President Jim Harrison has similar concerns about the state’s new law.
“Until the courts intervene we have a responsibility to work with the attorney general’s office to figure out what the rules, how the rules should be written in a way that makes the law work. Our druthers would have been to have a national, federal uniform labeling law. It gets very complicated when you go state-to-state and have different types of labeling laws. It gets very expensive to do that. But having said that, the Legislature passed it. We have a responsibility to work with the attorney general’s office to help them develop rules that actually work when it’s implemented in two years.”
The plaintiffs have 30 days to respond to the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The state will then have an opportunity to reply before the court makes a decision. Let’s hope that biotech doesn’t sway courts with hush money once again.