GMO-labeling law in Vermont draws donations to help fight expected legal battle

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(NaturalNews) The state of Vermont has received more than $14,000 in donations aimed at helping officials there battle coming legal challenges from the food industry and Big BioAg over a recently passed law requiring the labeling of GMO foods.

The new law is not supposed to go into effect until 2016, but if it stands, it will become the first such GMO labeling law in the country.

As part of that legislation, the state legislature created the Vermont Food Fight Fund, because lawmakers anticipated that the statute would be challenged.

As reported by The Associated Press:

Attorney General William Sorrell says he expects legal costs if the law is challenged to be about $1 million if the state wins, and up to $8 million if the state loses.

Challenges are coming

Deputy Finance Commissioner Sarah Clark told The Barre Montpelier Times Argus that the state had collected $13,600 by late May from donors around the country.

Most of the donations have come from online contributors, though some have been mailed directly, said Clark. They have ranged from, typically, $25 to $50, she added, noting that her office has not set an actual fundraising goal

"We haven't talked about a specific monetary target," she said. "I think (we're) just hoping to cover whatever costs may or may not come."

As of late May, the law had yet to be challenged, she said.

"I think we would expect that if somebody does file suit and it moves through the legal system, that we would anticipate more donations," Clark said.

In recent days, Monsanto -- global developer of GMO seeds and foods -- has hinted that it might enjoin a lawsuit. Shortly after the measure was signed by Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, the Grocery Manufacturers Association announced that it would challenge the law, stating that the government has no compelling interest in warning consumers about GMO foods. Also, in Washington, Republicans in the House are working on a measure that would forbid states from passing and enforcing GMO labeling laws; that legislation calls for voluntary labeling.

"We are asking people all across America, and all across the great state of Vermont, to go to (the website) and make a donation, so that we can win the Vermont Food Fight Fund fight not only for Vermont, but for America," Shumlin said when he signed the bill, kicking off the fundraising effort.

The law calls for labeling of all processed GMO foods and for retailers to post signs on displays of unpackaged GM foods. Further, the law exempts restaurants from the requirements.

The law also sets a civil penalty of $1,000 per day per product for "false certification." The entire product, not just each individual item or package, would be subject to the penalty.

Push for GMO labeling increasing

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) was also quick to launch a criticism of the law. In a statement, the group said scientists and regulators worldwide understand that foods made from GMO crops are safe.

"And these same GM crops have enabled farmers to produce more on less land with fewer pesticide applications, less water and reduced on-farm fuel use," BIO Vice President Cathleen Enright said.

Maine and Connecticut have passed similar labeling laws, but those measures don't take effect until or unless neighboring states do the same.

As Natural News has reported, the movement to label GMO foods is growing around the country.

"Awareness about the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is clearly on the rise nationwide, and in the midst of this knowledge boon comes the admission by some in the mainstream media that mandatory GMO labeling is no longer a question of if, but of when," we reported here:

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