Lawmakers Take Up GMO Labeling Bill
Nearly half of the states in the U.S. are considering laws requiring food containing genetically modified organisms to be labeled.Hundreds of people showed up in Augusta Tuesday to support a similar bill in front of Maine lawmakers.The measure, sponsored by Farmington Republican Lance Harvell, would require all foods that have been made with genetically modified organisms, known as GMO’s, to be labeled. “Where as the FDA is not willing to step up and actually do testing on this and treat it differently, then it is the responsibility of the states to start to give the population the right to know what is in their food,” Harvell told a fired up crowd.The rally supporting GMO labeling moved outside as one of the biggest crowds to gather at the state house this session made it clear what they wanted. Chants of “no, no GMO” erupted outside the building housing the committee who would hear the bill for the first time.Outside the room where the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry would begin hearing public testimony, there were a few opponents to the legislation. Among them, Bob Tardy, who served ten years in the Maine Legislature, at one time chairing the very same committee hearing the GMO bill. Tardy said he actually co-sponsored a similar bill years ago when the committee he chaired voted 11-2 “ought not to pass.” One of the two votes in support of GMO labeling back then was State Senator Chellie Pingree, who now serves in the U.S. Congress. Tardy says mandated labeling on food should be done at the federal level and, if the Maine people want it done, he says Pingree should lead the charge. Tardy also argues the proposal is much ado about nothing, saying it’s a solution in search of a problem. “We’ve been eating genetically engineered food for 20 years since that first bill was here,” Tardy said. “There has not been one illness ever, anywhere, that’s been traced back to be caused by a genetically engineered ingredient. End of story.”This is the sixth time the Maine Legislature has taken up the topic of GMO labeling and with legislatures all around the country considering similar proposals, many of the folks gathered here hope Maine is the first state to actually pass it. They say that will put the power back in the hands of the people.