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Boston, MA Today, a coalition of consumer, community, farming and public health organizations working to pass a GMO food labeling law cheered a decision by the United States District Court for the District of Vermont upholding the nation’s first GMO labeling law.
“This is an incredible day for American consumers,” said Martin Dagoberto, of MA Right to Know GMOs. “The court ruled that it’s in the general interest of state governments to require disclosure and labeling of genetically modified ingredients. We couldn’t agree more, and we believe this will be a turning point in the right to know movement.”
“The courts have agreed with our basic message, which is that consumers deserve transparency around something as fundamental as the food they eat and feed their families,” said Deirdre Cummings of MASSPIRG. “Now that the public interest of the right to know has been affirmed, it’s time for Massachusetts to pass its own GMO labeling law and give consumers the opportunity to make informed decisions.”
The ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont found that there is compelling interest to provide consumers the ability to make informed choice based on health, environmental or religious concerns, and struck down an attempt by the Grocery Manufacturers Association to delay implementation of the law. The Vermont law is scheduled to take effect in July 2016.
Of particular interest in the ruling was the argument from Judge Christine Reiss that, “Plaintiffs lose both traction and credibility in their further contention that any State interest in "catering to personal, political, and religious views that reject science is neither legitimate nor governmental" and that, because the State allegedly "has no monetary skin in the game, there is not even a financial interest in the enforcement of [Act 120]." 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."
Foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients are commonly known as GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Vermont passed the nation’s first GMO labeling law in May 2014 and was immediately sued by the Grocery Manufacturers Association. This is the first ruling on GMO labeling by the U.S. court system. Maine and Connecticut have also passed labeling laws, and many other states, including Massachusetts, are considering their own bills.
The Massachusetts bill, H. 3242 - An Act establishing the genetic engineering transparency food and seed labeling act –would ensure that all foods sold in Massachusetts that contain genetically engineered ingredients be clearly labeled. The bill is sponsored by 154 of 200 legislators in Massachusetts, and will hopefully come up for a vote in 2015.
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