An Associated Press article this week reported that a federal judge will allow to stand for now a Vermont law that could make the state the first in the country to require labeling of genetically modified food, despite opposition by corporate food groups. These groups, representing the likes of Monsanto corporation and other mega food companies, claim the law violated their First Amendment constitutional rights – specifically their claimed right to have broad discretion about what to include (or not include) on their labels. This is not simply the right TO speak, but also the right NOT to speak. Consumer and environmental groups claim the state should have the right to protect their citizens.
The corporate food groups tried to throw out the law before a trial could even start. The decision means there will at least now be a trial.
If history is any guide, Vermont faces an uphill battle since never intended corporate “personhood” constitutional rights have been granted and expanded by activist federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. The 2nd federal circuit court concluded in International Dairy Food v Amestoy in 1996 that a 1994 Vermont las requiring mandatory labeling of milk laced with artificial growth hormones was unconstitutional, as it compelled food corporations to choose speech instead of silence.
Chalk this up as another example of corporate rights trumping the rights of human beings to define laws and regulations protecting human health.