Maine citizens lobby at State House for GMO labeling

BY MORGAN ROGERS

June 1st, 2013 

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Chris Hamilton the Associate Director of MOFGA discussing the GMO labeling bill at the Capitol. photo by Morgan Rogers

Maine may become the first state to pass legislation that would require the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMO plants are grown from seeds that are altered to resist insecticides and herbicides.

Over 30 citizens gathered at the State House the morning of May 30th to tell their representatives that they want GMOs in food labeled. A poll conducted by Pan Atlantic SMS Group has shown that 91.1 percent of Mainers support labeling of food that contains GMOs.

“When there is scientific uncertainty associated with something, our position is that consumers deserve a label so they can make their own choices and manage their own risks,” said Logan Perkins of Maine Organic Farmers Growers Association, (MOFGA), who coordinated the citizen’s lobby day.

LD 718, “An Act to Protect Maine Food Consumers’ Right to Know about Genetically Engineered Food and Seed Stock,” sponsored by Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, was voted in favor 8-5 in the Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, and is now being sent to the full legislature for vote. If the bill passes in Maine it also must pass in four other Northeastern states to enact the labeling law. Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New York are currently considering legislation that would require the labeling of GMO food products.

According to Perkins, all pre-market safety testing of GMO seeds are done by the company that creates the seeds, such as Monsanto who claims there are no negative effects after doing 90 day laboratory animal feeding studies with the technologies.

“The FDA and the U.S. government does no independent safety testing, no independent laboratory analysis or feeding studies, and the few feeding studies we have seen done independently, outside of Monsanto’s own labs, have come back with different results,” said Perkins.

Opponents of LD 718 say that genetically engineered organisms can be beneficial due to their ability to grow at a faster rate and be drought resistant and that consumers can buy products labeled organic.

“This bill is a step, it is not the end. It is not the end of the fight for the consumers right to know and it is also not the end of the fight for a healthy and sustainable agricultural system,” said Perkins.

Over 600 people rallied on May 25 in Portland and around the world for GMO labeling and against Monsanto.

Currently 62 countries around the world label foods that contain GMOs, including the countries that make up the European Union.

The Maine Conservation Organization wants people to sign a petition to encourage Legislators to sign on to Maine’s GMO labeling bill.

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The rally against GMO’s and Monsanto in Portland, Maine on May 25th.The event was one of hundreds around the world. Natasha Mayers and Suzanne Lasker made the banner with Artists Rapid Response Team (AART!) which was taken to the Capitol for MOFGA lobby day. They were at the Capitol to promote a Maine GMO labeling bill. photo by Morgan Rogers