July 19, 2017

PLF submits letter on GMO labeling rule

By Wen Fa Attorney

The government shouldn’t be able to force you to say things you don’t want to say. When the State compels speech for no good reason, Americans may call on the First Amendment for help. First, call PLF. Three weeks ago, we filed a comment pointing out the First Amendment problems with the FDA’s menu labeling rule. This week, we submitted this letter on the Department of Agriculture’s plans to mandate GMO labeling.

The First Amendment protects your right to stay silent just as much as it protects your right to speak. When the government wants to force you to carry its message, it must demonstrate that doing so directly advances a substantial interest (e.g. protecting public health). That’s why the government could require Mars to disclose the presence of peanuts in its Snickers bars. Peanuts, shellfish, and other allergens could make consumers ill or worse.

But that’s also why the First Amendment doesn’t allow the government to enforce its GMO labeling law. The World Health Organization, American Medical Association, and many other organizations agree that GMOs pose no distinct risk to human health. On the contrary, genetically engineered foods, like Golden Rice, can fight disease in impoverished parts of the world, where nutritional deficiency is a serious issue. GMO products are also more affordable, thanks to benefits like increased crop yields and resistance to disease, pests, and drought.

What’s more, an unconstitutional GMO labeling requirement will hit small businesses the hardest. Large companies can afford to pay quite a bit for labels. Many already have. General Mills proudly displays “not made with genetically modified ingredients” on boxes of Cheerios. Campbell recently decided to disclose the presence of GMOs in its soup. At the same time, both companies acknowledge that there is broad scientific consensus that genetically modified foods are safe. Yet small businesses are less able to pay these costs, which serve no good purpose. Fortunately, PLF is accustomed to representing small businesses and fighting for their constitutional rights.

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Minerva Dairy v. Brancel

Minerva Dairy, and its President, Adam Mueller, are challenging a Wisconsin law that prevents butter makers from outside the state from selling their products in Wisconsin unless they go through an arduous and costly process of getting their butter “graded.” Grading has nothing to do with quality or safety; it is graded by taste, as determined by government bureaucrats. Only Wisconsin has this type of law; neither the federal government nor any other state requires grading. Because Minerva Dairy makes artisanal butter that has its own unique taste, it does not want to submit to Wisconsin grading. Representing Minerva, PLF filed a lawsuit challenging the law as an unconstitutional violation of the Commerce Clause, Due Process, and Equal Protection.

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