Clarification: The Vermont-GMA GE labeling skirmishes are not over

Written by: Michaela Oldfield

Primary Source: Institute for Food Laws and Regulation Blog, February 1, 2016

As a follow-up post to my discussion of state law and federal preemption, I need to provide some clarification on the status of the Vermont case.

In that post, I discussed a decision in Grocery Mfr. Ass’n v. Sorrell, No. 5:14-cv-117 (D. Vt. Apr. 27, 2015), where the district court dismissed several of the plaintiff’s preemption claims.

This was done because Vermont filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to rule 12(b) of the federal rules of civil procedure. There’s a number of reasons a case can be dismissed, such as if the parties settle and want the case dismissed. In this instance, Vermont was requesting that GMA’s claim be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Grossly over simplified, this is basically asking the court to get rid of the case because the law does not actually prohibit or govern the conduct the plaintiff is filing suit over.

The previous post focused on the concept of preemption – one of several reasons a state law could be invalid.

Importantly, GMA made a number of other claims about violations of free speech protections, due process, and the dormant commerce clause. The court DENIED many of Vermont’s motion to dismiss these claims. These claims will be litigated at trial and could ultimately restrict Vermont’s ability to regulate the labeling of GE foods.

Further, The plaintiffs are appealing the decision. This means the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will review the district court’s decision. They may conclude that the claims are potentially preempted and require the district court to reinstate the claims and allow the litigation to move forward.

So lest anyone take away from my last post that the GMO labelling issues are resolved, they are not!

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Michaela Oldfield
My name is Michaela Oldfield, and I am the Global Food Law research fellow with the Michigan State University Institute for Food Laws and Regulations and the Global Food Law Program. I have a J.D. from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. from Michigan State in the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies. My dissertation research was on the Food Safety Modernization Act, but my interests cover a range of regulatory issues from field to fork to waste. I like spending my time thinking about how to design, adopt and implement regulations that balance the diversity of interests affected by food and agriculture policy (without being captured too much by special interests) and are flexible and dynamic to the constantly changing world around us (but without being dysfunctionally unpredictable). Luckily, that is much of what I will be doing here! Being the Global Food Law Research Fellow means I get to interact with food professionals, lawyers, academics and government officials to identify, understand and help educate people on the numerous ways food law and policy is evolving and impacting globalized agri-food systems.