GMO labeling bill rally, public hearing Tuesday
AUGUSTA - A bill targeting genetically-modified food labeling, sponsored by a local legislator, will be reviewed by a legislative committee tomorrow, as proponents rally outside the statehouse.
Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, is proposing LD 718, An Act to Protect Maine Food Consumers’ Right to Know About Genetically Engineered Food and Seed Stock, which would require genetically modified foods to be labeled in Maine if five other states join in or if one state, such as California or New York, with a total population of 20 million or more joins the interstate compact.
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association has announced plans to hold a rally and press conference in support of the bill at noon at the State House. Supporters are urge to bring positive signs and banners.
At 1 p.m., the Agricultural, Conservation and Forestry Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposed bill.
Biotech food companies, such as Monsanto, produce seeds that are genetically modified to be resistant to various plant diseases or certain types of herbicides used on weeds. In Maine, some farmers are planting corn, soybeans and sugar beet seeds that have been genetically altered. They do so because it's believed transgenic seeds can boost production rates and lower pesticide use and costs. Those concerned about GMO seed use say that the long-term effects of eating foods derived from those seeds isn't known.
Harvell decided last summer to propose the mandatory labeling law after he heard concerns of increasing GMO seed use from local farmers, including Will Bonsall of Industry who founded The Scatterseed Project, an heirloom seed preservation organization.
One of the worries, Harvell has said, among farmers and small seed companies he's talked with is that the new, genetically-engineered crops will cross pollinate by insect or wind, for instance, and wipe out heirloom varieties.
As it stands now, 123 legislators have signed on as co-sponsors to Harvell's proposed bill.