Claiming “enormous challenges” and fines of up to “$250,000 per day,” the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) yesterday 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.

“Indicative of increasing desperation, the GMA’s 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. A district court judge recently 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.”