The Maine Legislature's Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry (ACF) Committee voted this afternoon to support LD 718, An Act To Protect Maine Food Consumers’ Right to Know about Genetically Engineered Food. The vote came three weeks after a public hearing in which almost 100 people submitted testimony in favor of labeling foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Despite overwhelming public support for labeling, and a record 123 legislative co-sponsors of the bill, the ACF Committee waited to hear the opinion of the State's Attorney General Janet Mills. Today she asserted that, if enacted, the law would be certain to face legal challenges on constitutional grounds. However, she did not say unequivocally that the bill was unconstitutional. Rather, she cautioned that the Legislature carefully consider first amendment, commerce clause, and preemption concerns that the biotech industry would use in a lawsuit against the state.
"We are thrilled and inspired by the ACF's vote this afternoon," said Heather Spalding, Interim Executive Director at MOFGA. "We fully expect pushback from the biotech industry and recognize that they are already throwing their weight around in Maine. But we will not be bullied by an industry that hides the truth from the public. If their technology is so safe and has such promise, why don't they let the world know about it with simple labeling?"
The ACF passed the bill by a vote of 8 to 4.
Supporters of the bill included: Senator Troy Jackson (D-Aroostook), Chair of ACF; Senator James Boyle (D-Cumberland); Representative James Dill (D-Old Town), Chair of ACF; Representative Peter Kent (D-Woolwich); Representative Craig Hickman (D-Winthrop); Representative Brian Jones (D-Freedom); Representative William Noon (D-Sanford); and Representative Robert Saucier (D-Presque Isle).
Opponents included: Representative Dean Cray (R-Palmyra); Representative Donald Marean (R-Hollis); Representative Russell Black (R-Wilton); and Representative Jeffrey Timberlake (R-Turner).
Senator Roger Sherman (R-Aroostook) was absent.
The ACF now waits for language review before sending the bill for votes in the House and Senate.
Already 62 countries around the world label foods that contain GM ingredients, including all of Europe, Russia, China, India and South Africa. Maine can be a leader in the United States by passing this important legislation and creating a model for other states.
MOFGA urges supporters to contact their legislators and urge them to vote for LD 718.
Find contact information for legislators.