As the state of Vermont gears up to defend its first-in-the-nation labeling law concerning food that contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs), ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s is teaming up with the state to help raise money for the cause. According to the Burlington Free Press, For the month of July Ben & Jerry’s is changing the name of its fudge brownie ice cream to “Food Fight! Fudge Brownie.” The change is being made to encourage donations to the Food Fight Fund set up to defend the state’s new GMO labeling law. The company announced it will donate $1 from every ice cream purchase at its Burlington and Waterbury, VT shops to Vermont’s legal fund.
“This is a pretty simple issue,” Jerry Greenfield said in a statement. “Vermonter’s want the right to know what’s in their food, and apparently a bunch of out of state companies don’t want to tell us. We're used to putting dough in ice cream, but renaming Chocolate Fudge Brownie to Food Fight Fudge Brownie will help put some dough in the Food Fight Fund," he added.
Earlier this month, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) was one of four national trade organizations to file a lawsuit against the new labeling requirements, arguing that GMO foods are safe and that labeling is not only costly, but also unnecessary. If states decide to come up with their own labeling requirements with no national guidelines, food makers say it would result in confusion and increased prices.
In a statement, the GMA called the law is “a costly and misguided measure that will set the nation on a path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies that do nothing to advance the health and safety of consumers.”
The National Association of Manufacturers, meanwhile, said, “With zero justification in health, safety or science, the State of Vermont has imposed a burdensome mandate on manufacturers that unconstitutionally compels speech and interferes with interstate commerce.”
To defend its legislation, Vermont itself has allocated about $1.5 million towards a legal fund, but that is unlikely to be enough. According to the Associated Press, state officials believe about $8 million is needed, and so far only $18,000 has been raised.
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said that while the fund is there to raise whatever it can, it’s not the only option the state has. "We want to raise as much as we can," he said in a recent Free Press article. "The rest we'll do the old-fashioned way. We don't expect to raise the whole amount."
As for Ben & Jerry’s, the company has been transitioning its entire portfolio of ice cream flavors into non-GMO products. Despite being owned by Unilever – which spent more than $450,000 to try and defeat California’s own labeling proposals – the company has decided to forge ahead on a GMO-free path and support Vermont’s law.
As noted by the AP, Greenfield himself testified to Congress as a supporter of GMO labeling. Although he did so on his own behalf during that time, he said he’s glad the entire company is behind the effort now. "Now it's all-in," he said. "I feel much happier about it."