Trade associations still seeking injunction against Vermont’s GMO-labeling law

Reuters / Eduard Korniyenko
A group of food trade associations opposing Vermont’s food-labeling law for genetically modified ingredients will ask an appeals court for an injunction against the legislation. A federal judge already denied the group’s motion to block the law.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Snack Food Association (SFA), the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) are seeking a preliminary injunction against a Vermont law that requires companies to label foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). US District Court Judge Christina Reiss denied the group’s request for a preliminary injunction at the end of April.

READ MORE: Vermont governor signs first in US GMO-labeling law to go into effect

On Wednesday, the group filed a notice of appeal in Burlington’s US District Court and is working on a legal brief outlining their grounds for appeal in the coming weeks, GMA said in a statement.

“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. “If this law is allowed to go into effect, it will disrupt food supply chains, confuse consumers and lead to higher food costs.”

But legal experts told FoodNavigator-USA, a food and beverage development newsletter, that an appeal is not likely to help the trade associations in the short term.

“An appeal would likely take upwards of two years,” Richard Samp, chief counsel at the Washington Legal Foundation, said. “Although the appeals court has the power to grant an injunction against enforcement of a statute pending completion of the appeal, that power is rarely exercised."

“Thus, I expect that the Vermont law will be allowed to take effect in 2016 while the appeal continues,” he concluded.

GMA is leading the joint lawsuit to prevent Vermont from implementing its first-in-the-nation food-labeling legislation, which Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law last May. It is not scheduled to go into effect until July 2016.

The four trade associations filed suit in June 2014, claiming the food-labeling requirement is unconstitutional and “a costly and misguided measure that will set the nation on a path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies that do nothing to advance the health and safety of consumers,” GMA said in a statement.

Reiss’ ruling was the first in the case. It allows Vermont to continue hammering out the law’s rules and regulations while the suit proceeds. However, Reiss did not dismiss the case or the group’s First Amendment challenge against the law.

The Vermont law created a $1.5 million legal defense fund to be paid for with settlements won by the state. Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, which is located in Vermont, teamed up with the state to help raise additional money to defend the law.