The recently launched, four-pronged suit against the state of Vermont’s genetically modified organism (GMO)-labeling law comes as no surprise. Last week, a group of the country’s largest grocery organizations filed suit against Vermont for its passage of a law (Act 120) requiring all manufacturers to label those products that contain GMO ingredients.
The plaintiffs defend their suit based on four counts relating to labeling mandates, alleged marketing restrictions and violations of the commerce clause. They have argued that Act 120 imposes unreasonable requirements on food manufacturing companies, which would be required to amend the labels on thousands of products before the act goes into effect on July 1, 2016.
“The Act appears not to recognize that the USDA has established the very system that the Act suggests is missing. Under the USDA’s “certified organic” program, food that qualifies for the certified organic label cannot be produced using GE plants or GE derived ingredients,” says the suit. It also suggests that voluntary labeling through programs like the Non-GMO Project already provides a voluntary method for consumers to select foods that don’t contain GMOs.
In both situations, the power of the consumer to decide what is sold within his or her state has been placed at odds with federal agencies which many states say are failing to step up to the demands of their constituents – despite voters’ efforts to get federal laws enacted, first. In the case of GMA et al vs. Vermont, the plaintiffs allege that consumer desires and voting bloc expectations aren’t enough reason to provide manufacturing transparency.
The suit also doesn't mention the fact that a fair number of states have their own organic certification programs and regulations in force, which the USDA points out, "may also add more restrictive requirements due to specific environmental conditions or the necessity of production and handling practices in that State."
While advocacy organizations have worked hard over the past few years to link Monsanto to the GMA, the association has worked just as hard – particularly recently – to limit information about its membership, or whether Monsanto is in fact a voting member.
The list of plaintiffs on a court document such as this speaks volumes about the strength that a suit may have, but it also says a lot about just what those who fund its launch is expecting from the public, and what they may feel could be most vulnerable if consumers really don’t agree with their principles. The fact that the four associations are fighting the good fight for Monsanto’s interest but haven’t mentioned Monsanto’s membership unfortunately may not make it any easier for consumers to swallow the concept of GMO engineering.
And, as the suit has boldly pointed out, American consumers are quite adept at finding ways of moving away from products they don’t trust. With a rising number of countries rejecting or restricting GMO food manufacture and/or imports, clear labeling laws may turn out to be the easiest and least expensive compromise for all sides.
Image courtesy of GreggAvedon.com
Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.