Tag Archives GMO

The Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health have filed a lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) failed to comply with mandatory deadlines established by the 2016 Federal Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standards Act, which would require labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Ctr. for Food Safety v. Perdue, No. 18-4633 (N.D. Cal., filed August 1, 2018). The act's statutory deadline for the completion of final regulations implementing the statute and establishing the national disclosure standard was July 29, 2018. The complaint alleges that “[t]he statute preempted state laws requiring [genetic engineering (GE)] labeling, but until USDA issues the regulations, the statute is an empty vessel: there can be no federally required disclosures.” “Due to the lack of mandatory labeling, many American consumers are under an incorrect assumption as to whether the food they purchase is produced with GE,” the plaintiffs allege.…

The U.S. Department of the Interior has reportedly withdrawn a 2014 memorandum prohibiting the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in National Wildlife Refuge areas. "There may be situations [] where use of GMO crop seeds is essential to best fulfill the purposes of the refuge and the needs of birds and other wildlife as described above. A blanket denial of GMOs does not provide on-the-ground latitude for refuge managers to work adaptively and make field level decisions about the best manner to fulfill the purposes of the refuge," a memorandum from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan states. "Therefore, by this memorandum, I am withdrawing the July 17, 2014 memorandum in full, thereby reversing the decision to universally ban the use of genetically modified crops on refuges."

The Court of Justice for the European Union has held that techniques to edit an organism’s genes without inserting foreign DNA—such as CRISPR/Cas9—result in the creation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) subject to the EU GMO Directive. Confédération paysanne v. Premier ministre, No. C-528/16 (CJEU, entered July 25, 2018). The plaintiff, a French agricultural union, argued that French legislation exempting organisms produced with mutagenesis techniques such as CRISPR from GMO regulation conflicts with EU legislation governing GMOs. The court found that the mutagenesis techniques “alter the genetic material of an organism in a way that does not occur naturally, within the meaning of that provision. It follows that organisms obtained by means of techniques/methods of mutagenesis must be considered to be GMOs within the meaning of [the GMO Directive].”

Researchers at the University of Vermont have published the results of a study comparing consumer attitudes towards genetically modified organisms (GMOs) before and after implementation of the state's labeling mandate. Jane Kolodinsky et al., "Mandatory labels can improve attitudes toward genetically engineered food," Science Advances, June 27, 2018. Funded in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the study reported that opposition to GMO food in Vermont dropped by 19 percent after the label law took effect. "Our findings put to bed the idea that GMO labels will be seen as a warning label,” one researcher was quoted as saying in a press release. “What we’re seeing is that simple disclosures, like the ones implemented in Vermont, are not going to scare people away from these products.”

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released the proposed National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, which would establish "a mandatory uniform national standard for disclosure of information to consumers." The proposal defines “bioengineered food” as food “that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques" "for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.” AMS seeks comments on "how to interpret the statutory definition of 'bioengineering,' and thus the scope of the regulatory definition of 'bioengineered food,'" according to the announcement. "In particular, AMS is interested in any additional studies conducted on this issue, the cost of implementation under each policy, and whether certain policies describing the scope of foods subject to the disclosure standard would lower costs to affected entities." Comments on the proposed rule must be received by July…

As gene-edited foods advance and move “closer to supermarket shelves,” agricultural and biotechnology groups are looking to avoid a dispute over public perception of the technology, according to the Wall Street Journal. Gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9, TALEN and zinc-finger nucleases are different from techniques that create genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which involve the insertion of genes from external species to create plants with new characteristics. In contrast, gene-editing technology allows researchers to alter the plant’s DNA; the industry reportedly describes the process as “an extension of plant breeding, the centuries-old practice of crossing plant strains to create improved offspring." Industry regulators, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have indicated that they will not regulate gene-edited plants as strictly as those engineered with external DNA. However, the Non-GMO Project has barred gene-edited plants and animals from bearing its verification label, and opponents reportedly refer to the new technique as “GMO 2.0.”…

A New York federal court has issued a decision seemingly aiming to spur action from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has purportedly exhibited “no discernible activity” to establish a definition of “natural.” In re Kind LLC “Healthy and All Natural" Litig., No. 15-2645 (S.D.N.Y., entered March 2, 2018). Kind LLC previously filed motions to dismiss or stay claims in multidistrict litigation alleging that its labeling was false and misleading. After allowing stays, the court has indicated that it might proceed with the case without waiting for input from FDA or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the definitions of "healthy" and "natural." The court first found that the consumers' challenge to Kind's claim that its products are made without genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was not preempted by the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, holding that the relevant state consumer-protection statutes “do not impose a GMO standard or requirement.…

A Florida magistrate has recommended that a district court deny Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.’s motion for $1.5 million in attorney’s fees and costs after the company was granted summary judgment against claims that its advertising misled consumers into believing its food products only contained ingredients free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Reilly v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., No. 15-23425 (S.D. Fla., report and recommendation filed January 26, 2018). Although Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUPTA) permits prevailing parties to recover costs and fees, the magistrate noted that the trial court has broad discretion to consider various factors, including: (i) the scope and history of the litigation; (ii) the ability of the non-prevailing party to satisfy an award; (iii) whether an award of fees would deter similar litigants; (iv) the merits of the respective positions; and (v) whether the claim was brought to resolve a significant legal issue. The…

Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University and former Indiana governor, argues in a Washington Post op-ed that the anti-GMO campaign is “cruel,” “heartless,” “inhumane” and “immoral.” With no credible scientific evidence and no record of adverse effects on human health or the environment to support it, Daniels asserts, the anti-GMO lobby is blocking “lifesaving” advances made by modern science that could help developing countries feed the globe’s rapidly expanding population. “[A] concerted, deep-pockets campaign, as relentless as it is baseless, has persuaded a high percentage of Americans and Europeans to avoid GMO products, and to pay premium prices for ‘non-GMO’ or ‘organic’ foods that may in some cases be less safe and less nutritious,” Daniels writes. “This is the kind of foolishness that rich societies can afford to indulge. But when they attempt to inflict their superstitions on the poor and hungry peoples of the planet, the cost shifts from affordable to dangerous…

The Eleventh Circuit has denied a petition for rehearing in a putative class action against Chipotle Mexican Grill alleging false advertising related to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Reilly v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., No, 16-17461 (11th Cir., entered November 14, 2017). The appeals court previously denied the plaintiff’s appeal from the trial court’s entry of summary judgment. The plaintiff alleged that she stopped eating Chipotle's chicken burritos after learning from the company website that although the meat and dairy products it uses are not genetically modified, “most animal feed in the U.S. is genetically modified, which means that the meat and dairy served at Chipotle are likely to come from animals given at least some GMO feed.” She began eating at a different Mexican restaurant, where she paid more for a similar chicken burrito despite the restaurant not claiming its food was non-GMO. The district court ruled that the plaintiff…

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