(Reuters) - Several industry groups representing U.S. food makers on Thursday asked a federal judge in Vermont to block that state's new law that will require labels on food products made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The legal challenge was widely expected and Vermont created a "food fight fund" in anticipation of the move because it was the first state to pass a GMO labeling law that did not require other states to go first.
The fight over GMOs in the United States comes as more than 60 countries around the globe already require labeling of genetically engineered foods. GMOs have fallen out of favor with many U.S. consumers but products made with them are still abundant in the aisles of most U.S. supermarkets.
Connecticut and Maine last year passed GMO labeling legislation similar to that of Vermont, but it is on hold until several other states enact such legislation.
Challengers to the Vermont law, set to take effect on July 1, 2016, are the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers.
Among other things, they claim that Vermont's law is a "costly and misguided measure" that would impose burdensome new speech restrictions on food sellers and set the nation on a path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies that have "no basis in health, safety or science."
Representatives for Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell and Governor Peter Shumlin did not immediately return calls for comment.
BIO, a trade group whose members include Monsanto Co, Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical Co, and other companies that sell seeds that produce GMO crops, have said that costs for an average household would rise as $400 per year due to mandatory labeling.
BIO and the GMA also are backing a proposed federal law that would nullify Vermont's labeling law and any other mandatory labeling of GMOs in the United States.
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The U.N. Human Rights Committee in Geneva on Thursday condemned the United States for criminalizing homelessness, calling it "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" that violates international human rights treaty obligations. It also called upon the U.S. government to take corrective action, following a two-day review of U.S. government compliance with a human rights treaty ratified in 1992.
"I'm just simply baffled by the idea that people can be without shelter in a country, and then be treated as criminals for being without shelter," said Sir Nigel Rodley, chairman of the committee in closing statements on the U.S. review. "The idea of criminalizing people who don't have shelter is something that I think many of my colleagues might find as difficult as I do to even begin to comprehend."
The Committee called on the U.S. to abolish criminalization of homelessness laws and policies at state and local levels, intensify efforts to find solutions for homeless people in accordance with human rights standards and offer incentives for decriminalization, including giving local authorities funding for implementing alternatives and withholding funding for criminalizing the homeless.
Those recommendations run counter to the current trends in the nation. Laws targeting the homeless—loitering laws that ban sleeping or sitting too long in one public spot, or camping in parks overnight—have become increasingly common in communities throughout the country as homelessness has skyrocketed.
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP), a D.C.-based advocacy organization which monitors laws that criminalize homeless people and litigates on behalf of poor people regularly conducts reviews of cities criminalizing homelessness and finds more and more laws banning such activities as sitting or lying in public places with each new survey.
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