In April 2006, MOFGA articulated a clear position statement on genetically engineered organisms.
What led to MOFGA’s current position statement was many year of cautious, in-depth analysis of the potential environmental and health risks associated with genetic engineering.
In 1993, MOFGA proposed the first state legislation to label genetically engineered (GE) foods. As a result of the debate over that proposal, the governor appointed a Maine Commission to Study Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, with a MOFGA representative serving on the Commission. In 1996, the Commission produced a consensus report that found a need for more effective federal regulation in three areas, including a call for federal labeling of GE foods. MOFGA has advocated for four subsequent labeling bills, the most recent of which passed with near unanimous support in both the House and Senate. In January of 2014, Maine became the second state in the country to pass GMO labeling legislation.
In 1998, MOFGA successfully opposed registration by the Maine Board of Pesticides Control of GE corn that incorporates the pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), leading Maine to be the only state in the nation to prohibit that crop. Tragically, that decision was overturned and genetically engineered sweet and field corn is now widespread in Maine agriculture. In 1999, MOFGA joined Greenpeace in bringing suit against the U.S. EPA. This suit called for a total ban on GE plants incorporating the Bt genes until an environmental impact statement is prepared.
Exceptionally concerned over the lack of objective information available to consumers and growers about genetic engineering, pesticides and irradiation, MOFGA published 50,000 mini-editions of its newspaper on these issues in the summer of 2001, distributed free to consumers and growers throughout Maine and beyond. MOFGA also received a special grant from the Threshold Foundation to produce a puppet play about genetically engineered foods. Prepared by high school students, this fun and informative show was performed at fairs and festivals throughout the state in 2001.
In early January 2014, Maine’s Governor Paul LePage signed into law LD 718 – An Act To Protect Maine Food Consumers’ Right To Know about Genetically Engineered Food. The law was the result of decades of organizing, research, citizen lobbying and all-around collaboration among people from all walks of Maine life. In fact, this was the fifth of MOFGA’s campaigns to require labeling of foods produced from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Maine was the second state in the country to adopt labeling requirements for foods derived from GMO crops and animals. Connecticut adopted the first law in June 2013. Connecticut and Maine’s legislation both required four neighboring states to pass similar legislation before the laws took effect. Tragically, the financial and political might of industrial agriculture preempted the state labeling laws with passage of federal legislation, referred to as the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act.
MOFGA continues to host educational talks and presentations about the potential dangers of foods and crops derived from genetically modified organisms. We are certain that all of these efforts will provide consumers and growers with much “food for thought” about the human health and environmental issues surrounding this new technology.