Panel recommends GMO labeling

Posted Wednesday, May 15, 2013 in News

Panel recommends GMO labeling

AUGUSTA -- On Tuesday, the Agriculture committee endorsed a bill requiring foods that are or contain genetically modified organisms to be labeled in Maine's grocery stores.

If the full Legislature passes LD 718, a bill sponsored by Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, and co-sponsored by 120 lawmakers, including Democrats, independents and libertarian Republicans, large agribusiness concerns may sue the state of Maine, as they have threatened to do in other states that are considering GMO labeling laws, such as Vermont.

Attorney General Janet Mills said that a lawsuit is almost inevitable, and raised questions about whether the law could survive a constitutional challenge on free speech grounds, since the law would require a company to disclose proprietary information about a product that, until recently, had no evidence that it was harmful.

Harvell acknowledged that a lawsuit is likely if the bill passes. “You’re challenging a biotech industry that’s operated on the basis of throwing their weight around,” he said. “Somebody once said that Monsanto isn’t a seed company, it’s a law firm that makes seeds.”

Nevertheless, the bill was advanced by a vote of 8-4. The bill now moves to the full Legislature for consideration.  It is supported by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, and is overwhelmingly favored by Maine voters according to recent polls.

Nevertheless, the bill was advanced by a vote of 8-4.

Lance Dutson, a lobbyist for big agribusiness, said that he was surprised by the vote. He said that given the lack of scientific evidence proving that GMOs cause cancer and other illnesses, requiring companies to label the products would unfairly stigmatize the GMO industry. 

Advocates of new regulations say scientific evidence is emerging that genetically modified foods can increase health risks and food allergies. They say federal regulators have left testing up to the industry that is producing and profiting from genetically modified products.  Some recent studies suggest a cancer link from GMO corn, a particular Monsanto product called Roundup Ready, which contains a bacterium ironically used in organic farming in the soil to kill certain pests.  However, in the Monsanto corn, the study suggest, it causes tumors when eaten by rodents.  Field tests of this corn suggest that the Bt bacterium isn't staving off insects, either, and that the pests are developing immunity to the Bt bacterium.

The House will take up the bill in the coming days.

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