BURLINGTON -- Ben & Jerry's is helping to promote a fund designed to help the state of Vermont defend its recently enacted GMO labeling law.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other groups filed a lawsuit against the state over the new law last week. State officials expect to spend as much as $8 million defending the state statute in court. The state is accepting contributions to a special defense fund at foodfightfundvt.org.
Jerry Greenfield, the co-founder of the ice cream company, announced at the Ben & Jerry's scoop shop in Burlington, that the company will rename its "iconic" fudge brownie flavor for the month of July. Ben & Jerry's will donate $1 for every scoop of "Food Fight Fudge Brownie" sold at its locations in Burlington and Waterbury.
Greenfield unveiled the new flavor on Church Street in front of a throng of college-aged VPIRG volunteers. Ben & Jerry's helped to support VPIRG's summer fundraising campaign in 2013 that generated funding and grassroots support in Vermont for the GMO labeling bill.
Gov. Peter Shumlin was on hand to pitch support for the legal defense fund.
"I am so honored to be here with Ben & Jerry's today," Shumlin said. "I'm the only governor in America who got to sign a bill that says you know what, it's OK, you want to know what's in your food and we're going to let you know what's in your food. It's the right thing to do, and it's the right thing for consumers to be able to know. Last week as the Grocers Manufacturers Association sued us because they don't want consumers to know what they're eating. Today we're appealing to people across the United States to help. Join us go to www.foodfightfundvt.org."
The state has raised $18,000 in donations so far.
Unilever, the multinational food giant that owns Ben & Jerry's, is a member of the Grocers Manufacturing Association.
Greenfield said he can't speak for Unilever, but "Ben & Jerry's has the right to speak out on issues like this and we are happy to do it and I give Unilever a lot of credit for acknowledging that and supporting Ben & Jerry's independence. I think that's really good."
Ben & Jerry's will also support a ballot initiative on GMO labeling in Oregon this year.
By the end of the year, Ben & Jerry's ice cream is transitioning to "100 percent GMO free" products by the end of the year. The ice cream is 70 percent GMO free by volume now, Greenfield said.
He said the company will keep the same suppliers and without raising prices to consumers.
There is still a cost for the transition, but Greenfield said "it's doable."
Chris Miller, the social activism manager for Ben & Jerry's, said the milk, eggs and sugar used to make the ice cream are not genetically engineered. The transition is about "following the ingredients in the chunks and swirls," the flavors
Miller said Ben & Jerry's is transparent about the fact that its ice cream is not organic. The milk comes from conventional dairy farms that often use genetically engineered corn feed.
The GMO labeling law applies to ingredients that are genetically modified; cows and the milk they produce are not genetically engineered, Miller said.