[JURIST] Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin [official website] on Thursday signed [press release] a bill [HB 112 materials], requiring the labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) [FDA backgrounder]. This is the first legislation in the US to require food producers to disclose GMO material. Food labels must reveal GMO ingredients, such as genetically engineered corn or soy, by July 1, 2016 ,or face penalties enforced by State Attorney General Willaim Sorrell [official website]. In preparation for anticipated litigation over the bill, the legislature built in a donation-based fundraising drive [donation website] to help cover litigation costs. At the signing ceremony Sorrell said:
The constitutionality of the GMO labelling law will undoubtedly be challenged. … I can promise that my office will mount a vigorous and zealous defense of the law that has so much support from Vermont consumers. I thank the Governor and the Legislature for ensuring we have the resources we need to get the job done.
The bill was also heavily supported by Ben and Jerry’s CEO Jostein Solheim, who indicated that, pursuant to longstanding corporate values [press release], the ice cream mogul’s labels will meet the code specifications before the end of this calendar year.
In February US President Barack Obama [official profile] signed into law [press release] a $956 billion farm bill [text, PDF] providing expanded crop insurance and other benefits for the agricultural sector and also requiring changes in food labeling. The recent prevalence of GMO crops has been a point of contention in courts around the world. In May 2013 the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously [JURIST report] in Bowman v. Monsanto [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that a farmer who buys patented seeds may not reproduce them through planting and harvesting without the patent holder’s permission, even though the seeds are altered to self-replicate. In March 2011 the European Court of Justice declared [JURIST report] that a ban on cultivating GMO crops is illegal after France attempted to prohibit the production of a strain of genetically modified maize developed by Monsanto in 2008. In December 2010 a US federal judge ordered the destruction [JURIST report] of a crop of genetically engineered sugar beets due to its potential harmful effect on surrounding flora. Also in 2010 Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court [official website, in German] upheld restrictions [judgment, in German; press release] on the use of GMO crops.