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Maine House Gives First Nod to GMO Labeling Bill in Landslide Vote

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our Politics and Democracy page.

AUGUSTA - Maine is on track to join several other states attempting to require food producers to label food containing genetically modified ingredients, following a landslide vote in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The House voted to support L.D. 718, a bill sponsored by Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, sets the stage for a legal entanglement between the state and agribusiness and biotech industry giant Monsanto, which has already threatened to sue states that pass similar labeling laws. The political battle between industry interests and the well-organized supporters of L.D. 718 has raged behind the scenes for several months at the State House, as the biotech industry fights to blunt a popular movement that has taken the GMO fight to at least 18 other state legislatures following failed attempts to pass labeling legislation in Congress.

The House voted 141-4 in favor of a amendment that would trigger the labeling requirement once four other contiguous states, including Maine, pass similar labeling legislation.

Supporters of L.D. 718, a bill co-sponsored by 120 lawmakers, including Democrats, independents and Republicans, relished the looming fight with Monsanto, the litigious international company widely vilified by supporters of the organic food movement. Harvell blasted the company, saying lawmakers should not give the industry "veto power" over a bill that tells people what's in their food.

"In this body alone we have routinely taken on the federal government, which is supposedly the most powerful government in the world," Harvell said. "And yet, if a corporation threatens us, we fear them more? Are we going to give these people veto power over this body and the people of the state of Maine? Do we really live in a world where they have more power than our federal government? It's a question that we should ask."

A lawsuit likely may await Maine if the labeling bill goes into effect.

Attorney General Janet Mills, who was asked to review the constitutionality of the bill, told lawmakers on the Agriculture Committee that it is "almost certain" to face a legal challenge from the industry. Mills did not guarantee that her office would be able to defend its constitutionality.