Organic Consumers Association

Tell Your State Legislators: Don’t Let Big Food Scare You. GMO Labeling Laws Are Constitutional!

If your state has introduced a GMO labeling bill, or is even thinking about it, you can bet that food industry lobbyists are out in full force, bending your lawmakers’ ears.

Among the many lies lobbyists are spreading, is the one that state GMO labeling laws are unconstitutional. And any state that passes one will be sued.

Tell Your State Legislators: Don’t Let Big Food Scare You. GMO Labeling Laws Are Constitutional.

The Organic Consumers Association has obtained the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s (GMA) “One-Pager” of talking points about GMOs and labeling laws. The document is intended for use by food industry lobbyists whose job it is to convince state lawmakers to reject GMO labeling bills in their states.

The talking points include the usual misinformation about GMO safety testing and the so-called benefits of GMOs. But they also include claims that GMO labeling laws are unconstitutional—claims that legal experts say are baseless.

The GMA may not have a legal leg to stand on. Still, the threats to sue states are clearly intended to strike fear in the hearts of those lawmakers genuinely concerned about spending tax dollars on costly court battles.

But GMO labeling activists are also concerned that some lawmakers will use the GMA’s threats as a convenient excuse to reject the majority opinion of their voters, in favor of siding with industry instead. Or as a means to convince their colleagues to add trigger clauses, similar to those in the Maine and Connecticut bills, in an attempt to stall or permanently sabotage GMO laws.

According to GMA propaganda, state GMO labeling laws violate the First Amendment, which protects commercial speech by prohibiting the government from compelling “certain statements.” 

But after extensive research and analysis, both a Washington D.C.-based law firm, Emord & Associates, and the Vermont Law School independently concluded that H.112, Vermont’s GMO labeling bill, would withstand a legal challenge from industry. (The same arguments about the constitutionality of Vermont’s GMO labeling law could be applied to other state GMO labeling laws accused of violating the First Amendment).

According to the Vermont Law School’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, “We have researched and analyzed challenges that may be made in opposition to such legislation and have concluded that Vermont can pass GE labeling legislation that will meet all constitutional requirements.”

Attorneys at Emord & Associates drew the same conclusion

Because the Second Circuit applies the Zauderer exemption for compelled speech broadly, and the Bill protects consumer health and safety, the law is likely constitutional under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Furthermore, H.112 does not impede or conflict with the federal Food and Drug Administration’s labeling regime for foods and dietary supplements. The federal system does not preempt H.112, which was enacted constitutionally under the State’s general powers. Finally, H.112 does not discriminate against interstate commerce, or impose a burden that outweighs Vermont’s legitimate interest in protecting the consuming public. Thus, H.112 does not violate the Dormant Commerce Clause.

Threatening to sue states that pass GMO labeling laws is just a scare tactic intended to thwart state GMO labeling laws. Tell your state legislators to stand up to industry, and do what’s right for the people they were elected to represent.