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Federal Court Ruling Lends Support to Vermont’s GE Labeling Law

Montpelier, VT – The GMO food industry suffered a defeat late yesterday when a federal court ruled that Vermont’s genetically engineered food labeling law – Act 120 – was constitutional. The decision came from Christina Reiss, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, and was celebrated by consumer advocates in Vermont and across the country.

Judge Reiss fully denied the preliminary injunction motion brought by the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, the Snack Food Association and other plaintiffs in an effort to block the law’s implementation. She also granted the State of Vermont’s motion to dismiss on several key claims.

“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,’” wrote Judge Reiss. “Because the State has established that Act 120’s GE disclosure requirement is reasonably related to the State’s substantial interests, under Zauderer, Act 120’s GE disclosure requirement is constitutional.”

“It may only be Round One, but Vermont consumers nearly scored a knock out,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “This ruling lends powerful support to the idea that Vermonters have a legitimate and substantial interest in knowing whether their food has been genetically engineered.”

VPIRG and the Center for Food Safety are Amici in the case, represented by legal counsel from CFS and Vermont Law School’s Environmental & Natural Resources Law Clinic, and have litigated in support of the State and defending Act 120 since June 2014.

“Judge Reiss’ 84-page ruling affirms that Vermont’s law to require labeling of GE foods is on firm legal ground.  We’ve been working to support this law for years, and we believe in it.  Vermont had really good reasons for passing Act 120, and putting factual information on labels is a great way to convey information to consumers,” said Laura Murphy, Associate Director of the Law Clinic and Assistant Professor at Vermont Law School.

Act 120 is scheduled to take effect in July 2016. Final rules for the implementation of the law were recently issued by Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell.

“The GMO food giants aren’t used to losing, but they were just knocked on their collective keister by the State of Vermont,” said VPIRG’s Burns. “Consumer across the country will no doubt take notice.”

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