Vermont Attorney General Releases Draft Rule to GE Labeling Law

Vermont Attorney General Releases Draft Rule to GE Labeling Law

Meetings This Week Will Focus on Introduction of the Rule

Last week, Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell released a preliminary draft of the rule to implement Act 120, Labeling Foods Produced with Genetic Engineering.

The draft rule, which can be found on the Attorney General’s website, focuses on clarifying definitions to key words, such as “food” and “genetic engineering,” and specifically cites that “food does not include dietary supplements.” Articles of food with a clear statement of identity as a “dietary supplement” or similar name where the word “dietary” is replaced by the name of the dietary ingredients in the product or an appropriately descriptive term indicating the type of dietary ingredients in the product, and nutrition information listed in a box using the title “Supplement Facts,” will not be subject to this rule.

The rule also clarifies certain labeling requirements. Language in the Proposed Consumer Protection Rule 121, states that the manufacturer of a food produced either entirely or partially with GE and offered for sale in Vermont shall not make statements about the food that contains the word natural or any words of similar import in advertising on signs at the point of display in the retail premises or on the label of the food. The ban on use of the term “natural” does not apply to a food’s trade, brand, or product name or any information in the nutrition facts label or ingredient listing.

The Natural Products Association (NPA) does not know how the ban on “natural” for conventional foods (including chewing gum and articles used for components) will apply to use of the word “natural” in a truthful and not misleading structure/function statement about a particular naturally sourced ingredient.

In addition to the release of Proposed Consumer Protection Rule 121, the Attorney General announced that three public meetings have been scheduled to take place this week in cities across the state to discuss Act 120. The proposed meetings will begin with a 30-minute presentation, followed by a period of Q&A and commentary intended to garner feedback from interested stakeholders, primarily producers, retailers and consumers. The public is encouraged to review the rule and submit comments via email or by attending the meetings.

The preliminary draft of the rules released last week and the announcement of this week’s meetings are the latest developments in the ongoing fight over the state’s new law which “requires manufacturers to label genetically engineered (‘GE’) foods as such, and prohibits manufacturers from describing GE products as ‘natural.’”

Supporters of the law, including the Attorney General, maintain consumers have the right to know whether foods they are purchasing contain genetically modified ingredients. Those opposed argue that the law is over-reaching, causes an unnecessary burden on interstate commerce, will lead to a state-by-state piecemeal approach to addressing GMO labeling, and implies that foods containing GMOs are somehow unsafe or unhealthy without providing significant evidence to back the claim.

Opponents of the law filed a lawsuit in June, claiming that the First Amendment rights of producers are being violated, in that they are forced to label their products in a way that they find to be misleading and inaccurate.

In response, Attorney General Sorrell filed a request in August that the lawsuit be dismissed, and defended the law with a 51-page court filing. The meetings scheduled for this week are intended to clarify specifics on the law and provide accurate information to the public, while obtaining important feedback from attendees.

The meetings have been scheduled as follows:

Tuesday, October 21
12:00–2:00 PM
Contois Auditorium, City Hall
149 Church Street, Burlington, VT 05401

Wednesday, October 22
5:00–7:00 PM
Room 11, Vermont State House
115 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05633

Friday, October 24
3:30-5:30 PM
Room 2E, Marlboro College Graduate Campus
28 Vernon Street, Brattleboro, VT 05301

NPA has been actively monitoring all developments surrounding this GE labeling legislation, and we will continue to keep you updated with new developments.

Additionally, NPA will soon provide a list of all states that have passed GM labeling, their labeling requirements, the “trigger” provisions to prompt neighboring states to act, and updates on Prop 105 in Colorado and Measure 92 in Oregon.

For additional information, please visit the following:
Attorney General Releases Draft GE Food Labeling Rule for Public Input
Attorney General Announces Public Meetings To Introduce Draft Rules For Act 120 GE Food Labeling