Business & Economy

GMO lawsuit lays out industry strategy to fight Vermont law

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin on Thursday signed Vermont’s first-in-the-nation GMO labeling bill into law on the Statehouse steps in Montpelier. Joining him was Brigid Armbrust, 11, of West Hartford (in black), who launched a letter-writing campaign in support of GMO labeling. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin on Thursday signed Vermont’s GMO labeling bill into law last month. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger
A multimillion dollar food fight has begun.

Vermont’s law requiring food producers to put a one-line label on their products containing genetically modified ingredients is unconstitutional, according to industry trade groups now challenging the state’s law in federal court.

Four national trade groups representing companies that produce cereals, yogurt, snacks and other products likely to contain genetically engineered ingredients filed a lawsuit Thursday against the state over its first-in-the-nation GMO labeling law.

Vermont’s law requires food products containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled starting July 1, 2016. Proponents say the law gives consumers more information to make informed decisions about the food they purchase.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents cereal-maker General Mills, among others, is leading the charge against Vermont. The other groups are the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers.

“Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law – Act 120 – is 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.

Legal claims

Labeling opponents say the law requires companies to place a “de facto warning” label on their products when there is little scientific evidence that consuming GMO products is harmful for human consumption.

GMA said the Vermont’s law is unconstitutional because it violates First Amendment free speech protections – including the right to not speak at all. They say Vermont has not proven that consuming GMO products is harmful enough to compel this sort of speech.

“Act 120 imposes burdensome new speech requirements – and restrictions – that will affect, by Vermont’s count, eight out of every 10 foods at the grocery store. Yet Vermont has effectively conceded this law has no basis in health, safety, or science,” the group said.

The group also says the law violates interstate commerce protections because it favors Vermont companies over others.

The lawsuit says that there “are no major food manufacturers based in Vermont” and that “the cost of implementing the regulation falls largely, if not entirely, on out-of-state companies.” This cost is especially burdensome for companies that will have to segregate labeled products sold into regional distribution chains, the lawsuit says.

GMA says Vermont’s law preempted by existing federal regulation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does require manufacturers to label genetically engineered ingredients.

“The Constitution prohibits Vermont from regulating nationwide distribution and labeling practices that facilitate interstate commerce. That is the sole province of the federal government,” the group said.

The group is asking the state to repeal the law and pay for legal and attorney fees.

Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell, on election night 2012. Photo by Anne Galloway
Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell, on election night 2012. Photo by Anne Galloway
Attorney General Bill Sorrell was attending a forum in New York on Friday and was unable to read the lawsuit. However, the said it was expected and the Attorney General’s Office is prepared to defend the law.

He said the law requires manufacturers to provide consumers with basic information about their products just as they do with existing nutritional information.

“The food industry has to label their calories and their salt content and their sugar content, and any number of other things, which are not, in and of themselves, harmful,” Sorrell said. “And this is just, in our view, another consumer warning – information for consumers to make informed choices on what products they want to buy.”

He said the law does not violate interstate commerce because more than 60 countries have enacted similar laws. And other states have labeling laws that would take effect when neighboring states pass similar policies, he said.

“It’s not like Vermont is this one marketplace in the whole world that’s going to require this labeling. There are many around the world. And we’ll see how other states go,” Sorrell said.

He estimates defending the law could cost $1 million to win and $5 million or more to lose. The state is stockpiling $1.5 million through state appropriations and settlement surpluses to defend the law. The state also taking private donations through a defense-fund website,

Costs of labeling

The lawsuit says it is impossible to substitute non-GE ingredients in products sold in the state because there is not enough supply to serve current demand.

“The prices are prohibitively high because of that low supply, and any increased demand resulting from the Act would send prices higher. Even if the supply of such ingredients were to increase in the future, or prices were to drop dramatically, manufacturers would face significant challenges changing their product formulations just for Vermont,” the lawsuit says.

Biotechnology Industry Organization, the world’s largest biotechnology trade group, said the law will increase food costs by about $400 dollars per year for the average household. These costs include both the higher price of non-GMO products and food distribution challenges.

Sorrell said these costs are overestimated. He said automakers made the same claims when they challenged Vermont (and nearly a dozen other states) for adopting California’s greenhouse gas emissions limits on cars and trucks.

“To the extent that there is a cost increase, I think it will be really minimal” he said.

The challengers

The Snack Food Association is a Virginia trade group representing 400 companies worldwide, including manufacturers of potato chips, tortilla chips, cereal snacks, pretzels, popcorn, cheese snacks, meat snacks, pork rinds, snack nuts, party mix and corn snacks, along with other product categories, according the lawsuit.

The International Dairy Foods Association, is a Washington, D.C.-based group representing 550 of the nation’s milk, cheese and ice-cream companies. The group represents the $2 billion New England dairy giant, Hood.

The National Association of Manufacturers is the nation’s largest manufacturing association.

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  • Nancy Gardner

    Please provide a link to the lawsuit.

  • Donald Kreis

    Act 120 refers to genetically ENGINEERED organisms, not genetically modified organisms. The distinction is important because Vermont and its food shelves is awash in things that have been genetically modified through hybridization and other processes that have nothing to do with Monsanto or any other giant corporation the Vermont Legislature dislikes.

    It would be helpful if vtdigger published the actual complaint filed by the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association. Among its salient allegations:

    “81. Article VI, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution provides that the laws of the
    United States are “the supreme law of the land.” When a state law is expressly or implicitly preempted by federal law, or when it would be impossible to comply with both the state and federal law, the state law must yield.

    “82. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) provides that a food shall be deemed misbranded when its labeling “is false or misleading in any particular.” 21 U.S.C.
    § 343(a)(l). The FDCA also directly regulates claims about the nutritional content or
    composition of foods sold for human consumption, see 21 U.S.C. § 343, et seq., and the FDCA does not require special labeling for [genetically engineered] ingredients as a class.

    “83. The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, 21 U.S.C. § 343-1(a), et seq., provides
    that any state law imposing any labeling requirement that is not identical to those prescribed in certain provisions of the FDCA is expressly preempted and null and void.”

    The complaint puts the First Amendment claim front and center, but to my way of thinking the preemption issue is the most important. After all, there are memorials all over Vermont honoring the thousands of people who fought and died for the proposition that states cannot flout the lawful exercise of federal authority.

    Another interesting document is Act 120 itself. The findings basically state that the Legislature acted because public opinion was behind such legislation. I’m guessing that’s a true statement but, of course, public opinion need not be fettered by such constraining influences as scientific fact. The proponents of labelling genetically engineered foods should explain why they insist on science-based public policy when it comes to climate change but not when it comes to food. They have some thoughtful arguments but one seldom sees them in print!

    • Janice Prindle

      There is no comparison between the overwhelming body of scientific evidence supporting climate change and the almost total lack of scientific STUDY, let alone evidence, about the alleged safety of GMO food products. The only studies done were plant studies conducted by the industry in their labs, and were not long-term studies of real people eating these products. Industry executives shuffle back and forth between Monsanto and the USDA — see the career of Monsanto attorney and federal food policy director Michael Taylor for an example — and as a result, lo and behold, the FDA says no testing is needed, we can take the industry’s word for it that the GMO plant is “substantially” the same as a real one.

      The industry further seeks to limit real independent study of safety by prohibiting farmers from supplying their GMO seeds to researchers. And I encourage you to read the Food & Water Watch report, “Public Research, Private Gain,” on how Monsanto and the other firms behind these trade groups effectively ban research at our public land grant colleges and universities into the alleged safety of GMOs.

      By the way, normal hybridization does not genetically modify an organism, any more than interracial marriage results in a new species of human being. The industry preference for the term “genetic engineered” over the term “genetically modified organism” is a way of glossing over what it is doing, seeking to suggest it is just a harmless mechanical procedure, rather than playing with life forms.

      It is my understanding that in Europe there have been conflicting studies over GMO safety, but enough cause for concern that the European Union and many, many other countries require labeling of GMO food products. It is a fact that the companies fighting labels here actually already put them on their products for the European market. I don’t see how they can support a claim of preemption given this reality.

      • Donald Kreis

        Dear Janice Prindle:

        Your post here, and your post below, illustrate why I would almost certainly have voted for this bill had I been in the Legislature. I don’t like Monsanto, or agribusiness, and I share your concern about control of our food supply by profit-maximizing corporate giants that care only about enriching shareholders rather than serving the people and the planet. It is part and parcel of our ever-strengthening plutocracy, and I would have a hard time opposing any reasonable effort to resist this trend, particularly in so important a realm as food and food policy. That’s why I eschew investor-owned supermarkets for their community-owned competitors.

        But the lack of scientific evidence about how harmful GMOs are still bugs me — and your comments here make clear that the key question is: Who has the burden of proof? You would assign it to Monsanto, but it is awfully hard to prove a negative (here, that GMOs are not harmful). The FDA has a super-elaborate process for approving new drugs. Do you think it’s necessary to subject new foods to the same process? It seems to me that this would preclude a lot of innovation. That might be fine in parts of the world like ours, where food is plentiful.

        • Janice Prindle

          Normally the burden of proof for safety in introducing a new drug for example rests with the manufacturer. If a product or substance is regulated, the regulatory agency sets the standard for that burden of proof. That is why having the FDA so compromised by its revolving door policy is so dangerous. But I think before we get to the issue of whose burden of proof, we have to deal with the roadblocks Monsanto and its allied firms have put up to prevent ANY research– whether public or private. They have explicit clauses in their contract with farmers–who buy but don’t own the GMO seeds–prohibiting them from making the seeds available for research. They use their major funding of and connections with our major agricultural institutions (which typically study nutrition as well) to block research. An analogy here for me is the gun industry which has used its enormous economic and political influence to ban the CDC from studying gun violence, its roots and risk factors– lest this lend support for tougher gun legislation. We can collect the evidence that Americans have growing amounts of nutritional disorders, since the early 90s when GMO foods were introduced, but neither our government, or our relevant universities are looking into this because of industry influence, which influence extends to letting the industry itself off the hook. I would like to see an FDA free from any direct ties to the industry revoke its official ruling that GMOs are “substantially the same” and require the industry to undertake or underwrite long term studies, but failing that, at least to undertake its own, independent studies.

          • walter judge

            Whoa. You’re joking, right? Thousands of studies, including by the European Academy of Science and the AMA just to name two recent high profile groups, and you call that “blocking” studies?

        • Janice Prindle

          I realize I did not fully address your thoughtful remarks, Mr. Kreis. I would like to add to my response. Using the drug analogy, because the same agency is meant to set safety standards for food and for drugs, it seems to me that the burden of proof for drugs doesn’t seem to have thwarted innovation — and also, that in the past, lacking such a burden of proof brought us thalidomide, from the very same company that now has set our food policy requiring no burden of proof whatsoever. You are correct that one can’t prove a negative if it doesn’t exist — but the only way we can know if it exists or not is to conduct longitudinal studies. Many other posters here have pointed to evidence to support my contention that it is premature to go from point A (FDA accepts Monsanto’s claim that GMO seeds and plants are substantially the same as the ones that occur in nature) to point B (therefore there is no reason to even question their safety as food, let alone study it). Mr. Judge notwithstanding, there is no single overwhelming definitive study or consensus on the long- term safety of GMOs. There have been smaller studies with mixed results. Scientists do not agree. But it is a fact (even acknowledged by the industry, in the Kashi example I gave) that there are many instances of Roundup turning up in our foods; how much exposure to “traces” of one of our deadliest pesticides will prove to be deadly for a generation that grows up eating such traces in just about every processed food, from infancy on? It’s way too soon for us to tell, perhaps, but surely we should be looking at that issue, and until we have the answer, surely people should be able to opt out of being guinea pigs (I’m glad we agree on that at least). I’m not worried about myself — it’s my grandchildren, and their children, that I worry about.

          • walter judge

            Your thalidomide example is totally wrongheaded if your thesis is that the FDA cannot be trusted. The FDA did not allow thalidomide in the US.

      • walter judge

        Ms. Prindle, you are simply wrong. Just as there is overwhelming science that climate change is real, there is overwhelming science that GMOs are safe.

        And you say, “it is my understanding” that there are “conflicting studies” in Europe. False.

        • Janice Prindle

          By all means enlighten us with details. I have not seen any serious source of information that claims overwhelming evidence for the safety of GMOs. I have to question your standards of evidence as I read through your many posts below including your dismissal of one study cited that is contrary to your position. It isn’t the first time Roundup has been found in our foods. Just ask the Kellogg folks. So where are all those studies you refer to?

          • walter judge

            You do not consider the American Medical Association to be a serious source???

      • Mark Moore

        Check it out Janice- you and Vermont are behind the curve on this. Anti GMO folk need to stop acting like religious extremists – just buy stuff that says no GMOs and be done with it- maybe check out current studies/info – science is cool!

    • Walter Judge

      “The proponents of labelling genetically engineered foods should explain why they insist on science-based public policy when it comes to climate change but not when it comes to food.”

      Agreed. Or they might also want to explain why they would oppose teaching creationism in science class.

      The anti-GMO movement is essentially religious in nature. It is impervious to science.

  • This is funny…. any ingredient that is a GMO product has to be identified in the ingredients lists. How difficult is that today with all printing being done digitally?
    Second, if the public demands “non GMO” ingredients and there aren’t enough so the price goes up… then more non-GMO ingredients will be produced. That is called a “free market” economy, and once again puts the consumer, the citizen, in the decisionmaking position, and not the corporation. This is great.
    Let them sue…. cause when Vermont wins, they will pay the costs of the suit as well.

  • Janice Prindle

    The industry’s argument that the label is “burdensome” because Vermont isn’t a big enough market to warrant the label is specious. These food companies already label their GMO products for the European market.And of course nothing stops them from labeling for the entire U.S. market. Adding a label to a package design amounts to a few keystrokes on a computer — it is not a big expensive undertaking. They do it all the time. For example, Kashi, owned by Kellogg, relabeled its cereal boxes “organic” and “non GMO” when it made the switch, after getting bad press and consumer backlash for using GMO grains containing traces of pesticides.

    I hope the attorney general is ready to point this out aggressively in court, and I hope all Vermonters will contribute to the defense fund. This is about far more than our unquestionable right to know what we are eating. It’s about far more than our right as Vermonters to set the rules in our own state.

    The industry we are up against poses a real threat to democracy, through its control of the FDA and our agricultural research universities and colleges, effectively prohibiting research into the safety of GMOs, while setting forth regulations that jeopardize small-scale, family and organic farms and local meat processing firms that the industry doesn’t control.

    The industry we are up against isn’t a food industry as much as it is a chemical industry that requires, for its ongoing profit, a type of industrialized “farming” that is a major threat to our environment. And it exists at our expense, also, receiving more corporate “welfare” in our annual Food Bill than we spend on nutritional assistance; not to mention the heath care costs. There is ample evidence in nutritional studies that the type of food it delivers is linked to the obesity epidemic and the rise in eating disorders (gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, etc.). In other words, quite apart from the industry’s GMO ingredients with their traces of inbred pesticides or synthetic hormones, their products aren’t good for us because they contain so much corn syrup and high-gluten wheat bred for commercial baking.

    The industry that we are up against also seeks to control through monopoly the world’s supply of seeds, as GMO crops globally drive out native varieties through uncontrollable wind propagation.

    Our food fight in Vermont has the potential for worldwide impact, and they know it.

    • Michael Matukonis

      Bravo! Well said!

  • Ken McPherson

    Why are we stopping with demanding labels for products containing GMOs. I have heard very disturbing reports that some “food stores” are actually selling water in plastic containers. There is no lack of scientific investigation with regard to water. We know it can kill and that it poisons about 16% of runners in long distance runs.

    “A few years ago Heinz Valtin, a kidney specialist from Dartmouth Medical School, decided to determine if the common advice to drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water per day could hold up to scientific scrutiny. After scouring the peer-reviewed literature, Valtin concluded that no scientific studies support the “eight x eight” dictum (for healthy adults living in temperate climates and doing mild exercise). In fact, drinking this much or more “could be harmful, both in precipitating potentially dangerous hyponatremia and exposure to pollutants, and also in making many people feel guilty for not drinking enough,” he wrote in his 2002 review for the American Journal of Physiology—Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology,” Scientific American, Jun 21, 2007 |By Coco Ballantyne
    Shouldn’t the Precautionary Principle mandate that we remove a chemical (H2O) that causes significant damage, and that is often a vector for infectious diseases and contamination?

    And what about other things on the shelves of many cooperatives that claim to carry safe products? We know that lettuces and other greens, including so-called organic greens, are frequent carriers of salmonella and similar dangerous diseases. Shouldn’t we demand that these products be removed from shelves until scientific research can prove that they are absolutely safe? And don’t get me started on red meat, melons, wine, and other products that have never been proven absolutely safe – and often have been proven dangerous to humans.

    • Janice Prindle

      So to follow your logic, perhaps meant to entertain rather than to reason: some people hyperventilate, therefore we should not legislate against air pollution or label oxygen tanks as explosive.

      • walter judge

        No, we should legislate water as potentially toxic.

      • Rick Battistoni

        Oxygen tanks are not explosive.

    • Steve Comeau


      All the foods and the water that you listed are sold without hiding what they are. To use your bottled water example, it is sold and labeled as “water”. So that is the point: labeling that accurately describes the product sold.

  • Jed Guertin

    I’m not a lawyer, but it seems that the U Supreme Courts decision against Coca Cola in the POM Wonderful case might be a real benefit to VT’s labeling case.

  • Sen. David Zuckerman

    The GMA and others claim that the average family will see a $400 annual food bill increase….but they fail to include the whole finding from their own study. The average bill will only go up if people choose to buy organic or non-GMO once they have the information. So the reality is that many families bills will not change because they will keep buying the same food. As noted above, it is a free market decision. For some, the decision will be easier than for others (unfortunately), but the increased food bill scare tactic is just that. The actual food costs for the foods that contain GMO will change a miniscule amount (as per their own study), and therefore the consumer has a choice as to whether their food bill will go up. They use tremendous scare tactics to try to change public opinion.

    I am sure some will say that those of us concerned about GMO’s are using scare tactics. However, there are far more questions about GMO digestive impacts than there are about climate change. So it is ridiculous to compare the two. The long term study of climate change is far more concrete, whereas there really are not independent long term studies of the impacts of GMO’s. In fact many are needed. Right now, everything is in early stage research, valid questions are being raised, and most research is still controlled by companies and people with a financial interest in the outcomes of the studies.

    • Patrick Cashman

      Just to put the previous comment and the commenter in context; ““Every day I claim the mileage, and I probably shouldn’t,” says Zuckerman, a ponytailed Progressive who runs an organic vegetable farm in Hinesburg. Beyond that, though, Zuckerman isn’t apologizing for his behavior. How does he get away with what could be described as fraud?”
      From 7Days Vt

      • Janice Prindle

        Ad hominem argument. You can’t argue with the reasoning or the facts, so go after the person who said it. This is why public discourse in America is so ugly.

        Zuckerman is correct about the exaggerated impact on consumers. If facts matter to you, I will mention that one of these GMA giants, Kellogg, voluntarily switched out its GMO ingedients from Kashi GoLean cereal and relabelled its product as organic, after a study revealing pesticides in Kashi (found in routine checks by the USDA) led to a consumer backlash.
        This suggests that if enough consumers choose not to buy GMO products, the industry will find ways to keep that market by giving them what they really want. I fail to understand why free market advocates are so afraid of letting consumers know what is being sold, and choose what to buy.

        • walter judge

          It is perfectly fair to question the credibility of a proponent. It is also fair to point out that as an organic farmer, Mr Zuckerman has a personal financial interest in stigmatizing non-organic food. It would also be fair to point out that Mr. Zuckerman’s bill exempts his meat operation from his own law.

          • John Greenberg

            Fair enough. What is YOUR interest in all of this?

          • Michelle Robbins

            I just had to investigate, after Mr. Greenberg inquired to no avail, just who is this Walter Judge? Is he, indeed, the “Tenacious litigator focused on defending businesses” as listed at: ?
            Therefore, may I assume consumer health is not on the priority list, as evidenced by the voracious defensiveness of inconclusive science shown here?
            If we are expecting transparency in discourse and each participant here to be without flaw… well, then I imagine there would be zero comments!
            As for my part – I am a wild advocate of 1. human health over corporate profit, and 2. that ever-elusive dream of a free-market economy where demand and supply meet each other without government interference, except in the case of #1.

        • Patrick Cashman

          Zuckerman has a demonstrable ethical deficiency.
          Such flexible truth individuals are who you have aligned yourself with. Pointing that fact out is not “ab hominem”, mudslinging, or name calling. It is merely called “paying attention”.

    • Mark Moore

      Conflict of interest?

  • Walter Judge

    “However, there are far more questions about GMO digestive impacts than there are about climate change.”

    That is simply not a true statement, so it is NOT ridiculous to compare climate change to GMO safety. There have been 2,000 studies on GMOs since the 1990s, including hundreds by independent organizations. That’s far more studies, over a longer period of time, than exist to prove that climate change is mad-made.

    Your statement is only “true” if you refuse to believe the science on GMOs, in which case your statement is simply a circular, self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, “I don’t believe the science that GMOs are safe, therefore there are questions about their safety.” That constitutes neither logic nor reason.

    You are certainly entitled to your fear-based resistance to GMOs, but don’t try to cloak it as based on science.

    • Janice Prindle

      So can we accept that the USDA itself has found pesticides in many, many cereals with GMO ingredients? See my link in a post above. Is it fear-based non-science to note that some of these pesticides have been ruled unsafe by the CDC?
      You are entitled to your own position, but don’t insist that all science is on your side. GMOs haven’t even been around long enough for any longitudinal study (which has not been undertaken so far as I know) to definitively take a position — making any comparison to global warming irrelevant. And no, this is not my religion.

      • walter judge

        Those very same pesticides are also found in non GMO foods. If you want to legislate the non use of pesticides, go for it. Or just buy organic. There’s no need for a GMO label if the presence of pesticides is your issue.

        • Michael Matukonis

          The very same pesticides are also found in non GMO foods. Why is that?? Could it be that the creation of the GMO plants were to be able to survive the application of the herbicide pesticide applications and now that over a billion pounds of it is applied in the US alone, maybe it’s all over the place. They have found it on the North Pole. Yeah! That’s my issue with the GMO stuff.

          Oh, by the way. Here’s a link to 40 scientific articles of the dangers of GMO’s, but I doubt you will delve into it, since it conflicts “with what you know.”

          • Michael Matukonis
          • walter judge

            No, it’s because pesticides and herbicides were in use in conventional farming long before GMOs came into use. If you are concerned about pesticide use, that’s a separate issue from GMOs and you are free to advocate for organic farming. But labeling GMOs will not change the use of pesticides in commercial farming.

    • It seems like this is really quite simple. If manufacturers do not want to label the foods they are selling as having GMO’s or not, they can just not sell them in VT.

      What I find amusing in this debate, is the very same people who confidently declare cannabis and psilocybin dangers to society, a statement that flies in the face of available science, are saying we must accept GMOs because the available science does not conclusively demonstrate these crops are harmful.

      Currently, we have no clue what the long-term impact of GMO’s will be, there is just not enough information.

      In all of this, no one has actually explained why it is unreasonable for consumers to be informed about the ingredients in the food they are eating. Perhaps the fears around GMO’s are unfounded, but, at the end of the day, this is not about the dangers of the GMO’s, it is about consumer choice. If this industry has nothing to hide and GMO’s are perfectly safe, why the desire to avoid disclosing the inclusion or not of GMO ingredients?

      At a time when corporate profits have never been higher, it seems like this is really a pretty small thing.

  • Glenn Thompson

    David Zuckerman!

    “I am sure some will say that those of us concerned about GMO’s are using scare tactics.”

    Since you are a vegetable farmer…please answer this question? How dangerous is it to spray and/or powder vegetables with chemicals during the growing process of a plant?

    It is easy to understand if pest and disease control chemicals are applied to a plant, the entire plant including the ‘developing fruit’ absorbs those chemicals. From my perspective from growing up on a farm and growing my own gardens….it would be much safer to develop seeds that are resistant to disease and pests instead of constantly applying chemicals to them? Perhaps we need a label for that also?

    And yes….I’m one of those of the belief that indeed the anti-GMO crowd is using scare tactics. As for the lawsuit, WHY NOT! It’s only taxpayer’s money…therefore lets go to court spend $millions and have a Zero chance of winning.

    And for anyone interested, here is a comprehensive list of products with GMO ingredients. For some, this is a great excuse to lose weight and spend extra time at the supermarket reading labels.

  • Carl Marcinkowski

    the opponents to the GMO labeling law refer to the European Union as if it is the only place that has such laws or concerns. The fact is most of the industrialized countries have enacted these laws, sixty four countries from around the world including the European Union, Japan, India, Mexico, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia… When I last posted the complete list my comment was edited so I’ll leave it at that. It appears that the US is in the back pocket of big agriculture and big money. Surprise!

    • walter judge

      Mr. Marcinkowski, should we do everything that Japan does, like slaughter whales? Should we do everything that Russia does, like militarily take over neighboring countries? When you were a kid, didn’t your mother ask you, “If your friends wanted to jump off a bridge would you do it, too? Listing other countries that have GMO regulations is not really an argument.

      And by the way, in case you haven’t noticed, Vermont is not a country. Which is what the lawsuit against the state is all about, as Professor Kreis points out a above.

    • Jamie Carter

      Interestingly the EU has also spent nearly billions of dollars researching the safety of GMO’s and have found no evidence that they are unsafe.

      There has never been anything rational about politics and government…

      • So you are suggesting that in the future no GMOs will prove to be “unsafe”. How do you get to this conclusion?

  • Jamie Carter

    “He said the law does not violate interstate commerce because more than 60 countries have enacted similar laws. And other states have labeling laws that would take effect when neighboring states pass similar policies, he said.”

    Um… Bill, the interstate commerce law has nothing to do with “60 other countries”… it’s interSTATE commerce. And other states passing policies is irrelevant because those polices have yet to be enacted.

    I really dislike Shumlin, but if there is one man that deserves to be booted from office more then Slick Shummy its the ever incompetent Sorrell.

    This will cost tax payers and the state WILL lose.

  • Kathy Leonard

    Here’s some useful research which Mr. Judge will surely find fault with. I wonder if he would claim that these researchers ignore science.

    “A new study led by scientists from the Arctic University of Norway has detected “extreme levels” of Roundup, the agricultural herbicide manufactured by Monsanto, in genetically engineered (GE) soy.”

    A study led by German researchers found high concentrations of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, in the urine of dairy cows and humans. This study, published in January in the journal Environmental & Analytical Toxicology, concluded that “the presence of glyphosate residues in both humans and animals could haul the entire population towards numerous health hazards.”

    • walter judge

      Ms. Leonard, I can find you WAY more than two studies of extremely dubious scientific validity questioning global warming. Would you then cite those studies and say we shouldn’t worry about global warming?

      No, I didn’t think so.

  • John Greenberg

    Three comments:

    1) Statements by Walter Judge and Don Kreis that ALL “the science” is on the side of GMOs are simply false, as I have pointed out before. Scientific studies that suggest problems are easily found by Googling, as is a website of European scientists with their statement and footnotes to more such studies. I have pointed all this out before in comments when this bill was passing, but I’m too lazy (and insufficiently interested) to go looking for all the links again, but I know Judge has seen them, and I assume Don has as well.

    2) As I pointed out previously as well, I choose as many organic foods as possible NOT because I believe the food is better for me (actually, I do NOT think it’s significantly better), but because organic foods are clearly better for the environment. The same applies to GMOs, whose impact on the environment to date has been quite negative (promoting the use of MORE “Roundup,” etc.) Consumers have MANY reasons for buying what they buy and in a society claiming to base itself on free markets, should have the option to make their own choices, even if they are the “wrong” ones. Isn’t that what freedom means?

    3) The analogy between climate science and GMOs is misleading even if the science – the consensus of the science DOES appear to suggest, so far at least, that genetically modified foods are safe for human consumption – is overwhelming. In the case of climate science, we are called upon to act in ways which have significant economic and environmental impact for our society, impacting virtually every sector of our economy. The GMO law does not BAN GMOS, and requires NO action beyond labeling, which various folks here have already pointed out is a VERY low cost proposition since the companies which would be impacted by the law are already labeling their products. The law makes NO demands of consumers at all, but simply gives them the right to read on a label one more piece of information about the food in the package. (No one is forced to read a food label either). Any action taken on the basis of the scientific information about climate change will go well beyond a simple right to know.

  • Donald Kreis


    I never said that “all the science” in on the side of GMOs. However, while I have done the googling you suggest, I have never found anything on the web that has convinced me that GMOs are harmful to health. There are certainly scientists out there who are endeavoring to make the case, but in all instances I have seen their findings don’t seem to hold up to skeptical scrutiny. I could be missing something, however. Please enlighten me — I am eager to make a persuasive case to my friends in other states that Vermont has done the right thing.

    When I have asked people I respect to defend public policy that disfavors GMOs, they tend to cite the Precautionary Principle. It does seem like the post above by Ken McPherson, wondering whether water would survive review under the Precautionary Principle, raises some important issues.

    • John Greenberg
      • John Greenberg


        Here’s the comment I mean to post:


        “I never said that “all the science” in on the side of GMOs.” Here’s what you did say, back on May 19 @1:46, is “It seems to me that invoking the Precautionary Principle here would require the existence of at least SOME scientific data that would lead to a reasonable hypothesis that GMOs are harmful.” And as I responded the next day – you’ve made me go hunting – “If I understand your argument correctly, you’re suggesting that there is NO scientific evidence that there is any reason to question the safety of GMOs and therefore even the precautionary principle should not be invoked.
        But, in fact, there IS at least SOME scientific evidence, and a considerable amount of doubt, which you would find by simply googling for adverse health impacts of GMOs. I have spent very little time on this issue, so I’m sure there are far better informed sources than I.
        The best source I’ve seen so far is this:
        It is a statement by the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility, and it argues, in essence: “As scientists, physicians, academics, and experts from disciplines relevant to the scientific, legal, social and safety assessment aspects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs),[1] we strongly reject claims by GM seed developers and some scientists, commentators, and journalists that there is a “scientific consensus” on GMO safety[2] [3] [4] and that the debate on this topic is “over”.[5]
        We feel compelled to issue this statement because the claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist. The claim that it does exist is misleading and misrepresents the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of opinion among scientists on this issue.”
        It is heavily footnoted with references to the scientific literature for those who wish to go further.”
        Comments I wrote later in the same comment stream in response to Walter Judge cited two other sources, so I’ll include the links here, now that you’ve made me dig them up: and Those comments also provide some of the arguments you seem to be looking for.
        The earlier discussion is at:

        • Donald Kreis


          As best I can tell, the authorities you cite all state, in one fashion or another, that there is no scientific consensus that GMOs are safe. But that begs a key question, which is whether there is a scientific consensus that they are NOT safe. I am willing to stipulate to lack of knowledge about how safe GMOs are.

          • John Greenberg


            I’m no expert in any of this, but it seems quite clear to me that there is NO scientific consensus that GMOs are NOT safe. Indeed, as I thought I said earlier, the preponderance of the evidence accumulated so far suggests that, at least in terms of health impacts on those consuming GMO products, they ARE safe.

            Still, GMO technology dates only from the 1970s. Our knowledge of the health impacts of radiation, for example, is very largely derived from Japanese bomb survivors, and is still being modified 70 years later. Incubation periods on cancers can be VERY long.

            Again, my guess would be that virtually ANY environmental impacts would resemble this model: you’re looking for very small numbers, after all, so you need a very large population and a VERY long time to find them. My point is simple: it’s likely to be WAY too early to declare that this technology is “safe.”

            In any case, there are a number of problems which any declaration of safety would fail to address, including but not limited to:

            1) The general suspicion caused by the behavior of the corporations behind this technology. If GMOS are as great as they say they are, you’d think they’d be TOUTING their inclusion on the label, not running away from it.
            2) Non-health impacts, such as environmental impacts.
            3) Increased dependence on pesticides from SOME GMOs designed for that purpose (e.g. “Roundup ready”)
            4) Substitution of government or corporate interpretation of scientific evidence for consumer decision-making. As I’ve pointed out before, consumers make decisions for all kinds of reasons.

  • Kathy Leonard

    I’m reading the label on a can of Progresso Tomato Basil soup, and it lists Soy Lecithin as an ingredient. The research I linked to above tells me that this is likely to be a genetically engineered ingredient, and that I can expect to consume a small amount of Roundup with my lunch today.* A person can either dismiss this or take heed of it — if they have informative labelling. Children and pregnant women (and everyone else) should be able to determine this on the label.

    I don’t recall your background including this branch of science, so your sense that scientists such as those above don’t hold up to skeptical scrutiny bothers me little.

    *”GM-soybeans contain high residue levels of glyphosate and AMPA due to repeated spraying of the plants with glyphosate-based herbicides throughout the production season. Other pesticides may also be present according to use.

    [AMPA (α-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid) is a compound that is a specific agonist for the AMPA receptor, where it mimics the effects of the neurotransmitter glutamate].

    • Jim Christiansen

      “Likely” and “expect to” are as clear as mud.

      How does a manufacturer, particularly a small VT firm, guarantee their product is GMO free as their label suggests?

      Who will regularly conduct quality tests to ensure GMO compliance, and why should Vermonters trust them more than the FDA (which appears to have few fans here)?

      What happens when a manufacturer produces a product by mistake that contains GMO from an unknown or trusted second source?

  • rosemarie jackowski
  • rosemarie jackowski

    Just for the record, I have been opposed to GMOs for years. Sometimes Mother Nature knows best.

    BUT, a question. Years ago VT had a battle with Monsanto about BGH. Now the milk in my refrigerator is labeled ‘BGH free’.

    Would it have been better to write a law that would have allowed labeling of ‘GMO free’ foods? Would that have saved taxpayer money by minimizing the risk of a suit?

    Does this new law ‘compel speech’ for the benefit of consumers. If so, does it follow that ‘compelled speech’ and the right to information is also the right of voters?

    Voters, and all citizens, are ‘consumers’ of the political system. Does this GMO law now make it possible for newspapers and sites such as VT Digger to be compelled to list ALL candidates on the ballot when they publish a list of candidates. (Some newspapers have the policy of listing only D/R candidates. That gives voters the false impression that there are no other candidates who have qualified to be on the ballot.)

    Voters rights to information might be even more important than consumers rights to information.

  • walter judge

    Ms. Jackowski, just a few quick responses to your points:

    “Just for the record, I have been opposed to GMOs for years. Sometimes Mother Nature knows best.”

    Leaving GMOs completely aside, do you know that virtually none of the fruits and
    vegetables you eat were designed by mother nature? They’ve been tinkered with (hybridized) for centuries by man so that they bear little resemblance to their original form.

    “Years ago VT had a battle with Monsanto about BGH. Now the milk in my refrigerator is labeled ‘BGH free’.”

    It is labeled as such not because of the lawsuit. Vermont lost that lawsuit. The courts found that Vermont had no health-related basis for mandating the labeling of milk from BGH-injected cows. The “BGH-free” labels that you see on mile are purely voluntary.

    “Would it have been better to write a law that would have allowed labeling of ‘GMO free’ foods? Would that have saved taxpayer money by minimizing the risk of a suit?”

    Yes, and you don’t need a law for that. Manufacturers are already free to label their products as GMO free, and many do.

  • John Greenberg

    There’s an interesting article on GMOs and pesticides in Hawaii in the Progressive:

  • John;

    OMG – what an infuriating, depressing article that aptly showcases why our dislike and distrust of these amoral scientists is well founded. Who in their right mind would knowingly ingest any food remotely linked to their toxic products.

    Clearly the EPA is a toothless doormat kowtowing to industry, so it’s fantastic to see a class action suit unfolding.

    In case you missed it, check this out from the New Yorker:

    Rachel Aviv: The Scientist Who Took on a Leading Herbicide Manufacturer : The New Yorker