Judge Rules that Really Stupid Vermont Law May Be Able to Force GMO-Labels on Food Companies

Legislators and judge fall for anti-biotech disinformation campaign


Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

In 2013, the idiots, uh, distinguished solons of the Vermont legislature passed a law requiring food companies to label their products containing ingredients derived from modern biotech crops. The "findings" used to justify the legislation is simply the litany of scientific disinformation that has been peddled by anti-biotechnology extremists for years now. Amusingly, the legislative findings note:

As indicated by the testimony of Dr. Robert Merker, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Supervisory Consumer Safety Officer, the FDA has statutory authority to require labeling of food products, but does not consider genetically engineered foods to be materially different from their traditional counterparts to justify such labeling (emphasis added). 

When a regulatory agency affirmatively declines to regulate something that it can regulate whenever it wants to do so that should, at least, suggest to legislators that there is no substantial issue. Never mind.

The food manufacturers oppose the legislation arguing, among other things, that it violates their First Amendment rights by forcing them to engage in speech. In point of fact, the anti-biotech activists are not consumer advocates at all. What they are really aiming at is to confuse consumers so that they will misunderstand and treat labels identifying products as containing ingredients from biotech crops as warning labels. They are explicit in their true goals.

For example, Internet quack Joseph Mercola asserted: "I believe GM foods must be banned entirely, but labeling is the most efficient way to achieve this. Since 85% of the public will refuse to buy foods they know to be genetically modified, this will effectively eliminate them from the market just the way it was done in Europe."

Andrew Kimbrell from the Center for Food Safety has said, "We are going to force them to label this food. If we have it labeled, then we can organize people not to buy it." Kimbrell also said: "Once supermarkets begin doing this [eliminating GE ingredients from their store brands], that's the end of genetically modified foods in the United States!"

Jeffrey Smith from the Institute for Responsible Technology, has stated, "By avoiding GMOs, you contribute to the tipping point of consumer rejection, forcing them out of our food supply."

And the Organic Consumers Association's Ronnie Cummins argued,"The burning question for all of us then becomes how – and how quickly – can we move healthy, organic products from a 4.2 percent market niche to the dominant force in American food and farming? The first step is to change our labeling laws."

So what is the alleged purpose of the Vermont GMO-labeling law? The legislative boilerplate:

§ 3041. PURPOSE

It is the purpose of this chapter to:(1) Public health and food safety. Promote food safety and protect public health by enabling consumers to avoid the potential risks associated with genetically engineered foods, and serve as a risk management tool enabling consumers, physicians, and scientists to identify unintended health effects resulting from the consumption of genetically engineered foods.

(2) Environmental impacts. Assist consumers who are concerned about the potential effects of genetic engineering on the environment to make informed purchasing decisions.

(3) Consumer confusion and deception. Reduce and prevent consumer confusion and deception and promote the disclosure of factual information on food labels to allow consumers to make informed decisions.

(4) Promoting economic development. Create additional market opportunities for those producers who are not certified organic and whose products are not produced using genetic engineering and to enable consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.

(5) Protecting religious and cultural practice. Provide consumers with data from which they may make informed decisions for personal, religious, moral, cultural, or ethical reasons.

As I pointed out in my article, The Top 5 Lies About Biotech Crops, every independent scientific body that has evaluated biotech crops has found them safe for people and the environment. So, there go PURPOSES 1 & 2. As I have already shown above, the real purpose of GMO-labels is to deceive consumers. No PURPOSE 3. Is picking and choosing between producers really what you want your government to do? Bye-bye PURPOSE 4. Finally, folks seeking kosher and halal foods are already well accomodated in the market, but I suppose some folks treat organic foods as a kind of sacrament. Of course, consumers who are bamboozled by the activist disinformation campaign against biotech crops have the perfect way to avoid foods of which they disapprove: Buy anything labeled organic. So much for PURPOSE 5, then.

In any case, the judge ruled:

Because the State has established that Act 120's GE [GMO] disclosure requirement is reasonably related to the State's substantial interests… Act 120's GE disclosure requirement is constitutional.

However, the fight is not over. The case will now go to trial, where, let us hope, scientific evidence not activist lies will prevail. Or better yet, as the Washington Post editorial board has suggested, why not adopt the bill introduced in the House of Representatives that would establish a voluntary labeling system and prevent states and localities from going any further to indulge the GM labeling crowd.