Augusta, ME — A GMO-labeling bill passed by a landslide in the Maine legislature yesterday, but the it will not go into effect unless several nearby states also adopt the legislation.
After the Maine House of Representatives voted 141 to 4 to approve the bill on Tuesday, the Senate unanimously voted 'yes' to a similar version Wednesday. The bill now sits on Governor Paul LePage's desk awaiting final approval.
“All consumers nationwide deserve to have clear, consistent, and accurate facts about the food they purchase. I hope our state can yet again serve as a model for common sense bipartisan action, and that Connecticut’s law will act as a catalyst for strong federal action,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in a statement.
Blumenthal and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) sponsored a nationwide GMO-labeling bill introduced in April. The U.S. Senate recently defeated an amendment to the Farm Bill that would require a national initiative. Nationwide, more than 25 states have proposed GMO labeling, including New Hampshire neighbors Connecticut and Vermont.
In Maine, there was little debate among the legislature about enacting the proposal, however concerned industry players voiced their disapproval.
Curtis Picard, executive director of the Retail Association of Maine said in a testimony before the Maine’s Agriculture Committee: “If Maine were to require labeling, it would add cost to Maine businesses and consumers. In some cases, Maine consumers would be unable to purchase certain products as distributors would rather not ship the product to Maine. Mandatory state labeling of products is unnecessary public policy and costly for Maine farmers, processors and manufacturers, grocers and retailers, and the State to implement and enforce.”
The NCA concurs: “NCA is monitoring the state level initiatives and is working with members to engage when necessary,” says NCA Executive Vice-President Alison Bodor. “We don't want a patchwork of state laws that our members would have to comply with. That situation would be bad for business and bad for consumers.”
The NCA recently signed onto a letter with other trade associations opposing the federal bill.
Picard’s and the NCA’s concerns echo those of General Mills Chairman and CEO Kendall Powell, who told an audience at the Brainstorm Green Conference: “We worry if we start to have one rule here and another elsewhere, the industry will have to chop up its supply chain and do different things in different places, and that's simply going to add cost for consumer products that we believe are completely safe.”
He noted in his testimony that the FDA, World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the American Medical Association have all found that GMO foods are safe.
Genetically engineered seed giant Monsanto Co. is perhaps the law’s greatest opponent, stating on its website: “We oppose current initiatives to mandate labeling of ingredients developed from GM [genetically modified] seeds in the absence of any demonstrated risks. Such mandatory labeling could imply that food products containing these ingredients are somehow inferior to their conventional or organic counterparts.”