Industry group appeals ruling on Vermont GMO labeling law

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The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is appealing a federal court ruling last week that allows Vermont to move forward with new rules requiring labels for genetically modified foods.

In a joint lawsuit, GMA, the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers sought a preliminary injunction from the federal district court in Vermont to stop the state from implementing its labeling law, which is set to take effect July 1, 2016.

The law requires manufacturers and retailers to identify whether raw and processed food sold in Vermont was produced in whole or in part through genetic engineering and prohibits manufacturers from labeling or advertising GE foods as “natural,” “naturally made,” “naturally grown” or “all natural.”

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In her opinion, Judge Christina Reiss said irreparable harm is the “single most important prerequisite for the issuance of a preliminary injunction,” but the industry groups had “only identified the possibility of harm.”

“Issuing a preliminary injunction based only on a possibility of irreparable harm is inconsistent with the court’s characterization of injunctive relief as an extraordinary remedy that may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief,” she wrote.

GMA said it filed a notice of appeal in Vermont federal district court Wednesday and will file a legal brief outlining the association’s grounds for the appeal in the coming weeks.

“The court’s opinion in denying our request to block the Vermont law opens the door to states creating mandatory labeling requirements based on pseudo-science and web-fed hysteria,” GMA President Pamela Bailey said in the release. “If this law is allowed to go into effect, it will disrupt food supply chains, confuse consumers and lead to higher food costs.” 

After hearing of GMA’s appeal, the Center for Food Safety said it plans to continue to fight for states’ rights to issue labeling laws.

“Americans are demanding the truth in labeling that citizens in 64 other countries already have,” George Krimbrell, the groups senior attorney, said in a statement. “This decision is a crucial step in protecting those rights.”

Despite the lobbying efforts of food safety advocates, there is no federal labeling law for genetically modified foods. The Food and Drug Administration only provides guidance on voluntary genetically modified food labeling.