Vermont GM Guide (Part Deux) re: Food Labeling Law
As food manufacturers are well aware, Vermont’s GM labeling requirements remain on track to take effect on July 1, 2016. Although the requirements are being challenged in the Second Circuit and some still hope for a federal legislative fix, neither avenue is guaranteed to provide relief to the industry before the effective date.
Recently, the Vermont Attorney General’s Office issued a series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to assist stakeholders with understanding the labeling requirements and the timeline for implementation. The FAQs are intended to complement the formal guidance document issued last September. Among other issues, the FAQs clarify the existence of a “safe harbor” for foods distributed in Vermont prior to July 1, 2016 and offered for retail sale until January 1, 2017. After the latter date, manufacturers of products that do not comply with the GM labeling requirements may be liable for penalties, regardless of the date the product was produced or distributed.
Although many food manufacturers may have adopted a “wait-and-see” approach to their compliance strategies in 2015, there is no concrete legal basis to justify further delay at this stage. In fact, these FAQs are further evidence that Vermont has no intention of providing any further delay or relief in enforcing the law. On the federal front, Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) has just introduced legislation to establish a national voluntary labeling standard for GM foods. The bill is similar to the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 (which the House of Representatives passed in July 2015) and would preempt state requirements in this area, including Vermont’s. As before, we will track the progress of this bill and continue to report on GM labeling developments as the clock ticks down to July 1.