Tag Archives GMO

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…

A putative class action filed in New York has alleged that although the marketing for Simply Potatoes Mashed Potatoes features claims such as “Made with REAL Butter,” the product contains margarine made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Berger v. MFI Holdings Corp., 17-6728 (E.D.N.Y., filed November 17, 2017). “Despite the centrality of butter to [the product's] marketing and labeling,” the complaint asserts, “it also contains margarine as indicated on the ingredient list.” The plaintiff also alleges the product is sold at a premium price compared to similar refrigerated potato products. Claiming violations of New York consumer-protection laws and breach of implied warranty of merchantability, the plaintiff seeks class certification, damages, injunctive relief and attorney’s fees.

A federal court in New York has given final approval to the settlement of multidistrict litigation that alleged Frito-Lay North America, Inc. deceptively labeled and marketed its chip and dip products as “Made with All Natural Ingredients” when the products contained genetically modified ingredients. Frito-Lay N. Am., Inc., “All Natural” Litig., No. 12-MD-2413 (E.D.N.Y., entered November 14, 2017). Frito-Lay has agreed to modify its product labeling. While the class will not receive damages apart from $17,500 to class representatives, plaintiff's counsel will receive $1.9 million plus reimbursement of expenses up to $200,000.

Several Democratic senators, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging Secretary Sonny Perdue to prioritize “consumer-friendly solutions” as the Agricultural Marketing Service undertakes a rulemaking process on the labeling of food made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). “All Americans have the right to know what is in their food and how their food is produced,” the group argues. The letter asks Perdue to “consider, and work to address, the obstacles Americans would face while attempting to access GE ingredient information through digital or electronic disclosures,” noting that about one-quarter of American adults do not own a smartphone, which would allow them to scan QR codes on packaging to access ingredient information.

Aaron Carroll, a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, argues in a New York Times editorial that “panic-du-jour” about unhealthy foods encourages people to unnecessarily live “in terror or struggling to avoid certain foods altogether." Carroll asserts that the repeated condemnation of various food ingredients—including fat, cholesterol, meat, monosodium glutamate, genetically modified organisms and gluten—“shows how susceptible we are to misinterpreting scientific research and how slow we are to update our thinking when better research becomes available.” For example, fewer than one percent of Americans have a wheat allergy or celiac disease, Carroll states, but at least one in five regularly chooses gluten-free foods. “Gluten-free diets can lead to deficiencies in nutrients such as vitamin B, folate and iron. Compared with regular bagels, gluten-free ones can have a quarter more calories, two and a half times the fat, half the fiber and twice the sugar. They also cost more,” he…

Researchers have reportedly found that consumers are unsure what "natural," “organic” and “Non-GMO Project Verified” mean when the phrases appear on food labels. Konstantinos G. Syrengelas et al., "Is the Natural Label Misleading? Examining Consumer Preferences for Natural Beef," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, October 2017; Brandon R. McFadden, et al., “Effects of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard: Willingness to Pay for Labels that Communicate the Presence or Absence of Genetic Modification,” Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, October 2017. To investigate a petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture asserting that "natural" labeling misleads consumers, researchers conducted an online choice experiment to determine whether including a definition of "natural" on a label deterred or encouraged study participants to pay a premium for steak. The researchers apparently found that the participants were unwilling to pay a premium if they either identified themselves as familiar with the definition of "natural" or if they…

Chinese scientists have reported that they successfully created 12 genetically modified pigs with about 24 percent less body fat than average pigs. Qiantao Zheng, et al., “Reconstitution of UCP1 using CRISPR/Cas9 in the white adipose tissue of pigs decreases fat deposition and improves thermogenic capacity,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 17, 2017. According to the researchers, pigs lack a gene called UCP1 that allows animals to regulate body temperature in cold weather. Using gene-editing technique CRISPR-Cas9, the scientists created and implanted modified pig embryos into female pigs. Tests on the piglets reportedly showed they were much better at regulating their body temperatures, which could potentially reduce farmers' heating and feeding costs and prevent pig deaths in cold weather. NPR further explored the use of gene editing in food production, discussing the Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture's campaign to dispel fears associated with food products created using…

A Massachusetts federal court has dismissed a putative class action against Conagra Brands that alleged the company’s Wesson cooking oil was not “100% natural” because it is extracted from grains grown from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), ruling the plaintiff had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Lee v. Conagra Brands, Inc., No. 17-11042 (D. Mass., entered October 25, 2017). Taking judicial notice of U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidance, the court noted that the agency has “not attempted to restrict the use of the term 'natural' except for added color, synthetic substances, and flavors." In addition, the court held that according to FDA guidance, Conagra is not required to disclose on its labels the use of GMO plants. The plaintiff alleged a single count for deceptive business practices, but the court ruled that because the label conformed to FDA guidelines, it was not “unfair…

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