Promises To Sign Bill In January
The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) applauds Governor Paul LePage’s announcement that he supports LD 718 – An Act To Protect Maine Food Consumers’ Right To Know about Genetically Engineered Food.
The bill was recently enacted in the Maine Legislature, with overwhelming support in both the House and Senate. Although the Legislature officially adjourned on July 10th, Governor LePage has promised to sign the bill in January, when the Legislature convenes for the second session.
In a letter sent on the afternoon of July 10th to Representative Lance Harvell (R-Farmington) and Senator Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln County), lead sponsors of the bill, Governor LePage stated, “I deeply appreciate the strong public sentiment behind the bill and agree that consumers should have the right to know what is in their food. Additionally, my support for the bill is based in large part on the requirement in the bill that similar legislation be enacted and passed in other contiguous states.”
Representative Harvell touted the bipartisan support for the bill. “The right to know what is in your food is a right that everyone can support,” said Harvell. “The Legislature showed earlier this year, with near unanimous support, and now the Governor agrees, GMO labeling is for everyone.” (The terms "genetically engineered foods" and "genetically modified organisms" - GMOs - are often used interchangeably.)
When Governor LePage signs the bill in January, Maine will become the second state in the country to adopt labeling requirements for foods derived from genetically modified crops and animals. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed the nation’s first comprehensive GMO food labeling law on June 25th. Connecticut and Maine’s legislation both require four neighboring states to pass similar legislation before the laws take effect. LePage asserted that it was in Maine’s best interests to let Connecticut go first.
It is no secret that MOFGA opposes the use of GMOs in agriculture and advocates significant changes in the regulatory framework governing this revolutionary technology.
“Organic farmers cannot and will not use seeds, plants or animal feeds that have been genetically engineered to incorporate foreign genetic material from other species,” said Heather Spalding, MOFGA’s interim executive director. “MOFGA maintains that the health and environmental risks of such foods have not been assessed adequately, and the system of federal regulation is in shambles.”
However, MOFGA also asserts that Maine’s labeling bill offers no disparagement of GMOs in the marketplace.
“This bill is all about choice and the public’s right to know what’s in the food supply,” said Jim Gerritsen, organic farmer from Bridgewater. “An omnibus poll conducted in Maine this spring indicated that 95 percent of the Maine populace feels people should have the ability to know if their food contains GMOs.”
LD 718 marks the fifth attempt in Maine to pass legislation requiring labeling of GMO foods. In 1993, MOFGA proposed the first state legislation for mandatory labeling and campaigned vigorously in three subsequent state labeling initiatives.
“After losing these efforts repeatedly, it is extremely gratifying to see such widespread, bipartisan support for labeling,” said Spalding. “The promise of Governor LePage’s signature is exciting and encouraging. We are hopeful and will remain vigilant. This truly was a collaborative effort and could not have happened without the groundswell of support from a very diverse base of constituents, all of whom are counting on Governor LePage to sign this bill in January.”
Governor LePage's letter is posted on www.mofga.org.