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New Federal Law Will Require Disclosure of GMO Content in Food

A new federal law will require food makers to disclose when foods contain genetically modified ingredients.

The law, which was recently signed by President Obama, will require such food products to be labeled with text, a symbol, or an electronic code readable by smartphone indicating the presence of GMOs. Small businesses will also have the option to label food products with a telephone number or Internet website directing customers to additional information.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has two years to draft regulations concerning which products require such disclosure, and additional details concerning what food makers must do to comply. After the regulations are finalized, food makers will have at least another year before the law takes effect.

Law preempts state and local GMO labeling laws.

The federal law preempts a similar Vermont law, Act 120, that took effect in July, as well as any other state or local

USDA Approves Genetically Modified Apples, But Will They See The Shelves?

February 22, 2015

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On  February 13, 2015, the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service approved the Arctic apple, a genetically modified strain of apple developed to resist browning.  A Canadian company, Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., first filed its petition for deregulation nearly three years ago.  The technology works by “turning off” the production of a certain enzyme that is produced when an apple is cut or bruised.  The Arctic apple is the one of the first deregulated genetically modified products designed to promote consumer-preferred traits, as opposed to traits like herbicide tolerance that promote certain production practices.

Notwithstanding APHIS’s approval, the question still remains of whether and how widely producers and consumers will adopt the technology in today’s environment surrounding GMOs.  Because it will be at least five to seven years before Arctic apple trees can bear fruit that can be marketed, producers will be required to do some significant

“All Natural” Litigation and Settlements on the Rise

“All Natural” Litigation and Settlements on the Rise

February 11, 2014

Authored by: Sara Ahmed

Litigation surrounding “all natural” claims has been ramping up, and settlements are on the rise.

Naked Juice paid $9 million dollars to settle claims about the “all natural” branding of its juices in 2013.  As of February 6th, Trader Joe’s is following suit and plans to pay out $3.38 million dollars in addition to discontinuing the use of “all natural” and “100% natural” on products that include ascorbic acid, cocoa processed with alkali, sodium acid pyrophosphate, vegetable mono- and diglycerides, and xanthan gum.

The FDA’s failure to define “natural” is contributing to the flurry of “all natural” consumer class actions, and there is no sign that the FDA plans to provide a definition anytime soon.  On January 6, 2014 the FDA declined a request from three federal judges for clarification of the meaning “natural.”

With little guidance from the FDA, companies are trying to find their own ways of avoiding costly lawsuits.  For some, re-branding is the

FDA Declines To Determine Whether GMOs Are “Natural” (But The Debate Is Far From Over)

GMOs have been in the news a lot recently, from General Mills’ announcement that Cheerios will be labeled GMO-free to apples that don’t rust.  One important development that has received less attention is FDA’s decision to decline an invitation by several judges to define whether “natural” and “all natural” claims can be used with respect to products containing GMOs.  The request came from three federal judges district court judges, two in California and one in New Jersey, whose dockets have pending lawsuits alleging consumer fraud by food manufacturers who market (or marketed) products containing GMOs as “natural.”

In its response to the judges, FDA stated that although it does have a policy on what “natural” means with respect to food (“nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be

Washington State Voters Reject Mandatory GMO Labeling

In the first GMO labeling initiative since California voters rejected Prop 37 last November, voters once again rejected the mandatory labeling scheme.  The vote, which will likely end up being about 54% opposed and 46% in favor when certified, appears to have been heavily influenced by late campaigning from opponents.  Opponents spent about $22 million against the initiative while proponents spent about $8 million, although estimates are that only about 6% of the total amount spent came from in-state sources.

The defeat is a significant blow to proponents of mandatory GMO labeling who, with the exception of legislation passed in Connecticut that is largely contingent upon other states adopting similar laws before it is implemented, have had significant difficulty convincing voters and legislatures to adopt such initiatives. Trade groups, such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association, are looking to shift the conversation towards a “federal solution that will protect consumers by

A Motion To Dismiss Victory Regarding “All Natural” Food Labeling Claims

October 30, 2013

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Food labeling class actions continue to plague food manufacturers and retailers, with the Northern District of California being the favored forum for these claims.  Indeed, in The New Lawsuit Ecosystem:  Trends, Targets and Players (Oct. 2013), the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform identified food labeling class actions brought by plaintiffs, public interest groups, and attorneys general as one of the primary emerging liability threats facing American businesses.  One of the favorite allegations of such claims centers on the use of “all natural” or similar words on food labels.  Very often, a plaintiff alleges that a product contains ingredients from genetically modified soybean or corn, so the product allegedly cannot be considered “natural.”  With California’s liberal consumer protection laws, these claims often survive motions to dismiss, with courts reasoning that plaintiffs adequately plead that reasonable consumers will read “all natural” labels and conclude that the product does not contain genetically

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