Maine Lawmakers Push Hard for GMO Food Labels

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No GMO Wheaties Photo: via faul/Flickr

Connecticut made an official vow to enact legislation requiring GMO labels last week, but with the stipulation that it wouldn't become law until four other states — including one that shares a border — passed similar laws. New York may be down for the count, but now Maine has stepped up to the plate with a bill of its own, and owing to strong bipartisan support, it went through the House Tuesday with a 141–4 vote. Now LD 718, which would require the words "Produced with Genetic Engineering" to appear on packaging, seems like it may happen. But there's a catch, of course.

In order to become law, "five contiguous states, including Maine" must now enact the same packaging rule, the Associated Press reports. That's just how it is. But because Vermont has been working on a GMO bill of its own for ten years now, there's a good chance New England will change the way the U.S. perceives transgenic foods.

Maine is no stranger to deploying unusual solutions to broader food politics. Two years ago, several towns and municipalities started declaring food sovereignty, a move that meant a free flow of formerly outlawed raw milk and locally slaughtered meats was able to return to regional markets, along with the caveat that the consumer understood any potential health risks of consuming such products.

And while the debate on the safety of genetically modified foods continues and since federal regulators will ultimately have the broadest say over labels and use, state lawmakers realized long ago they could just introduce their own GMO warnings within their borders, expressly because they steer the argument away from explicit issues of food safety and more toward one of consumer protection. ‘This bill would be a risk management strategy to uncertainty,’’ is how Maine state representative Lance Harvell said yesterday. ‘‘It would allow the people of the country and the people of the state to decide if they want to continue to be lab rats in this experiment.’’

Maine House supports genetically modified food labels [Bangor Daily News]
Maine advances genetically modified food labels [AP]
Earlier: Connecticut Approves First Broad GMO Labeling Bill; New York Rejects Another