About a year ago, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a law requiring the labeling of all genetically modified (GMO) ingredients in food products. We at Ben & Jerry’s were thrilled with the decision, and believe that everyone deserves the right to know what is in their food. It’s that simple.
The law, set to take effect on July 1, 2016, was recently challenged by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups. The association claimed that the law would be an unfair burden on food manufacturers and retailers.
As of Monday, however, a US District Court Judge has ruled against the Grocery Manufacturers Association, allowing the law to stand. “The safety of food products, the protection of the environment, and the accommodation of religious beliefs and practices are all quintessential governmental interests, as is the State's desire ‘to promote informed consumer decision-making’,” Judge Christina Reiss wrote, quoting the state’s court filings.
Vermont Leads the Way
Connecticut and Maine have also passed their own GMO labeling laws. These are similar to the one set to take effect in Vermont, but they include certain ‘trigger clauses’ which stipulate that the laws would not take effect until a critical mass of neighboring states follow suit with similar labeling legislation. Vermont’s law is the first in the country to be implemented with no trigger clause.
Who Loves It, Who Doesn’t?
Throughout the debate about GMO labeling, food industry groups have argued that the law would infringe on their First Amendment rights to choose what information to disclose on their labels. Supporters have included a diverse spread of consumer advocacy, environmental, and religious groups, all of whom simply believe people have a right to know what is in the food they eat.
While the law still may face hurdles in the next year, this decision is a big win for GMO labeling advocates, and for Vermonters’ right to know.