GMO bill considered after rally

Posted Wednesday, April 24, 2013 in News

GMO bill considered after rally

Nearly 200 organic farmers and other concerned parties attended a rally at hearing on LD 718, sponsored by Republican Lance Harvell of Farmington, which would require labeling of foods with genetically modified organisms.

by Gina Hamilton

AUGUSTA -- An energetic rally was held at the Statehouse prior to the public hearing for LD 718, which would require food producers to label foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) once five other states also passed the legislation.

The bill was sponsored by Lance Harvell (R-Farmington), and was strongly supported by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA).  About 90 percent of the public who rose to speak were in favor of the legislation.

However, the bill does have its detractors.  Food manufacturers believe that labeling a product GMO will make consumers unduly fearful and refuse to buy the products. As one Monsanto executive recently put it, "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it."

Grocers fear yet another product that needs special handling, the way organic produce must be separated from traditionally grown produce.

It is estimated that 70 percent of all foods sold in the US are grown from GMO seeds.

Despite the insistance that GMOs are safe, there have been studies that show that an insecticide from GMO corn produced by Monsanto is now showing up in the bloodstreams of pregnant women and their fetuses. Supporters say consumers have a right to know if they're buying genetically-engineered food, especially in the absence of more definitive research on the potential health risks.

 "We're all guinea pigs and were consuming this food and many people don't know this technology is being foisted upon them," said Heather Spalding, Interim Director for the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association.

If this bill passes it wouldn't change anything right away. It requires five other states, or enough states with a combined population of 20 million, to pass similar legislation.  Only then would Maine's law go into effect. 

The Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee will now consider the public testimony and begin work sessions on the bill in the coming weeks.

In the interests of full disclosure, Hamilton is a member of MOFGA and operates a small organic farm in Bath.

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