By Heather Spalding, Interim Executive Director
“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” This observation, widely attributed to Charles Darwin, rings true when considering the last session of the Maine Legislature. After five campaigns since 1993, we are inches, though months, away from a Maine law mandating labeling of genetically engineered foods. Come January, when the Legislature returns for its short session and Governor LePage signs our bill into law (as he has promised), we will celebrate a victory built on diversity, passion, creativity, respect, really hard work and, above all, collaboration.
So many people have come together from so many vantage points to hit home the message that people should have the right to know what’s in the food they’re eating and feeding their families. We could never have come this far without the engagement of scientists, constitutional law experts, medical professionals, farmers, restaurateurs, natural foods retailers and other business owners, students, ecologists, people of faith, parents and members of all political parties. Everyone worked tirelessly and in good faith. Now we’re in overtime in the labeling championships, and we need to stay limber, focused, communicative and ready for action.
LD 718 - An Act To Protect Maine Food Consumers' Right To Know About Genetically Engineered Food was one of the most widely known and supported pieces of legislation from the beginning of the session. (Genetically engineered foods are often referred to as GMOs – genetically modified organisms.) The bill had unanimous support for labeling in both the House* and Senate of the Maine Legislature, public opinion was 95 percent in support of a consumer’s right to know about genetically engineered foods, and all the daily newspapers in Maine endorsed the labeling bill. So why is it not yet law, and what can we do about it?
Technically, time just ran out on the legislative session. The ticking clock, though disappointing to the many thousands of Mainers seeking labeling, provided some comfort to Governor LePage and Attorney General Janet Mills, who worry about Maine’s exposure to Monsanto and the biotech industry. They bought a little time to see first what lawsuits Connecticut might face with its newly adopted labeling law.
Whatever befalls Connecticut, we in Maine need to keep our minds and hearts on the prize – mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. You can do three things to help us cross the finish line:
• Call your state representative and senator and thank them for supporting the GMO labeling bill. Their contact information appears at www.maine.gov/legis.
• Call Governor LePage at 207-287-3531 and thank him for promising to sign the GMO labeling bill in January.
• Encourage your family members, friends and colleagues to do the same.
Also, if you haven’t already, please join MOFGA so that we can send campaign updates to you.
We must remain vigilant. The biotech industry is working hard to kill this effort. We hope for a big win for consumers’ right to know, but we’re also aware of the vast financial and political resources that companies such as Monsanto unleash when campaigns get close. I think of the Spotted Wind Drosophila (SWD), a fly threatening Maine’s soft fruit harvest like nothing before. Overnight, the SWD can turn a luscious, bountiful harvest of blueberries or raspberries into larvae-infested slurry. We can’t let biotech be the SWD of our labeling campaign. Stay tuned, stay alert, stay collaborative.
Contact our campaign by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
* LD 718 passed unanimously in the Maine Senate. Four House members voted against it; they supported labeling but did not want our bill to hinge on having New Hampshire pass a similar bill.