Saturday, June 20, 2015

Grocery group fighting Vermont GMO labelling law

MONTPELIER, Vt.— Claiming "enormous challenges" and fines of up to "$250,000 per day," the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has sent a letter to Vermont Gov. Shumlin, in which the multi-billion dollar Washington D.C.-based lobbying group suggested the burden on food manufacturers of complying with Vermont's GMO labeling law by July 1, 2016, might be so onerous as to prevent food companies from selling their food in Vermont.

This is the latest effort of the giant lobbying group to prevent the law going forward. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and several other trade organizations filed a lawsuit against the state one month after the labeling law passed in May 2014. The association contends, among other arguments, that the law violates the U.S. Constitution by compelling manufacturers to "convey messages they do not want to convey."

 But Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law still stands after U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss ruled against the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association (GMA) and other interested food groups’ request for a preliminary injunction that would stop the GMO labeling law from going into effect in Vermont next summer. The ruling brings Vermont one huge step closer to being the first state in the Union to mandate that foods containing genetically modified organisms disclose that information on product labels.

 The GMA was disappointed that the judge ruled against the preliminary injunction against Vermont’s GMO labeling law, according to U.S. News. “Manufacturers are being harmed, and they are being harmed now,” the GMA said. “Act 120 is unconstitutional and imposes burdensome new speech requirements on food manufacturers and retailers.”

 The GMA was joined in the lawsuit by the Snack Foods Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers, according to U.S. News. Together the plaintiffs allege that Vermont’s GMO labeling law is unconstitutional and violates the industry’s First Amendment rights. Because the judge partially granted some requests by the industry against the Vermont labeling law and Vermont’s Attorney General William Sorrel finalized rules regarding the GMO law this month, the case will likely go to trial, according to North Country Public Radio.

Though an automatic win would be preferred by many anti-GMO advocates, some are saying that a trial would bring a lot of facts about GMOs further into the public spotlight.

Connecticut and Maine have also passed GMO labeling laws, but these states’ laws require a neighboring state to go first. The GMA’s lawsuit was expected and planned for. GMO labeling supporters came together last year and raised funds to support “Vermont’s Food Fight,” and even big names in the industry like Ben & Jerry’s teamed up to raise funds to support the State of Vermont’s legal battle.

“The safety of food products, the protection of the environment, and the accommodation of religious beliefs and practices are all quintessential governmental interests, as is the State’s desire ‘to promote informed consumer decision-making,'” the judge wrote, dismissing the industry groups’ claims that Vermont’s GMO labeling law violates First Amendment rights and dismissing additional claims that Vermont’s law violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

"Indicative of increasing desperation, the GMA's recent letter takes hyperbole to a new height of ridiculousness, said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA).

"That's why the OCA has called on consumers across the country to thank Gov. Shumlin for having the courage to stand up to Monsanto, and to challenge the junk food industry to go ahead, stop selling your toxic Twinkies in Vermont! We also call on lawmakers in other states, especially Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, to stop stalling on GMO labeling laws, and to have the courage to stand in solidarity with Gov. Shumlin and Vermont lawmakers," Cummins said.

 The GMA's letter was signed by GMA President and CEO Pamela Bailey. So far, Vermont is the only state that has passed a strong, stand-alone GMO labeling law.

Maine and Connecticut have passed laws, but they are ineffective, as they require four or five additional (and in the case of Maine, contiguous) New England states to pass similar laws in order for theirs to take effect.

The OCA supported a bill (LD 991) in Maine this year that would have removed the "trigger" clause so that Maine's original bill (LD 718) could be enacted without waiting for other states.

Unfortunately, Maine lawmakers chickened out, claiming they need to "wait and see" what happens in Vermont.

 The GMA promptly sued the state of Vermont, a week after Gov. Shumlin signed the state's GMO labeling bill into law. District court judge Reiss's ruling rejected the GMA's request for an injunction in order to keep the law from taking effect on July 1, 2016. The judge's 84-page decision affirmed the constitutionality of Vermont's law.

Meanwhile, H.R. 1599, a federal bill introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo, is making its way through Congress. H.R. 1599, dubbed the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act would not only preempt Vermont's GMO labeling law, but would prevent any state or local government from passing GMO labeling laws or GMO crop bans. The bill would also weaken the system for approving new GMO crops.

 "Sixty-seven countries that represent 65 percent of the world's population have already embraced transparency through GMO labelling," said Cummins. This latest ploy by the GMA to intimidate Gov. Shumlin and Vermont lawmakers is, frankly, pathetic."

See DAVE GRAM.  (April 28, 2015). Industry seeks to block GMO food labeling. Burlington Free Press.

Fixing Health Care After King v. Burwell 

Six Reforms To Improve Obamacare for Patients and Taxpayers: NCPA

Dallas, TX  – In light of the Supreme Court's pending ruling on King v. Burwell, Congress must prepare reforms to the Affordable Care Act that will pass the president's desk, says NCPA Senior Fellow John R. Graham in a  new report.

"Victory in King v. Burwell will not allow Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare. Nevertheless, it opens the door to some reform. Congress will succeed if it proposes changes that win President Obama signature, and remove at least one of Obamacare's harmful effects," says Graham. "Falling for the defeatist notion that President Obama will veto any reform proposed by this Congress is unworthy of a Congress that has promised to fix health care."

Graham's report suggests six reforms that could remove some of the Affordable Care Act's most harmful features:

  • Reforming premium tax credits so that beneficiaries are not penalized if they work more hours and increase their incomes.
  • Combine Obamacare's tax credits and cost sharing subsidies so beneficiaries can decide themselves how much to pay directly for health goods and services versus how much to pay in premiums to health insurers.
  • Allow beneficiaries to buy health insurance from brokers or agents and claim tax credits without having to go through the broken government exchanges.
  • Remove federal mandates on health insurance, such as age bands and mandated benefits, which increase costs, especially for young adults.
  • Remove the mandates on individuals and employers to purchase government-compliant health insurance.

"Even if the Supreme Court rules in favor the government and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, these reforms would solve some of the problems created by the Affordable Care Act, while helping fulfill the goals of increasing health insurance coverage and reducing costs to consumers, employers and taxpayers," says Graham.

Reforming Obamacare: How Congress, and the President, Can Win after King v. Burwell: 

The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization, established in 1983. We bring together the best and brightest minds to tackle the country's most difficult public policy problems — in health care, taxes, retirement, education, energy and the environment. Visit our website today for more information.

Supporters of the Medical Device Tax Repeal Contributed 21 Times More Money Than Opponents

This week the House of Representatives passed H.R. 160, the Protect Medical Innovation Act, which would repeal a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices. Congress included the tax in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. The tax is expected to raise $26 billion over the next 10 years.

Repealing the tax has been a major legislative goal of the medical device industry. Supporters of the tax, including organizations like the National Physicians Alliance and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, have argued the tax does not hurt device manufacturers.

MapLight analysis of campaign contributions to members of the House of Representatives from the political action committees (PACs) and employees of industries supporting and opposing H.R. 160 from October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2014. Contributions data source:
ndustries supporting the medical device tax repeal gave 21 times more ($19.5M) to current members of the House of Representatives compared to industries opposing the bill ($942K).

Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN), the sponsor of the medical device tax repeal, received $109,049 from the medical supplies manufacturing and sales industry, more than any other member of the House.

Top 10 Recipients of Contributions from the Medical Supplies Manufacturing & Sales Industry

In addition to campaign contributions, the medical device industry has spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress and federal agencies.

To see how much each company has spent on lobbying since 2008, please click here to view our comprehensive federal lobbying database. 

No comments: