LePage Signs Bill to Label Genetically Modified Food

Maine becomes the second state to pass a law requiring food producers to label GMO food, but other states must follow before it goes into effect.

January 9, 2013 | Source: Kennebec Journal | by Steve Mistle

Gov. Paul LePage has signed a bill that would require food producers to label foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. The law makes Maine the second state in the country to pass such a measure. However, other states must adopt similar legislation before Maine’s labeling provision goes into effect.

The governor promised last year to sign the bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington. His signature is symbolic because legislative rules don’t allow the law to go into effect until the Legislature adjourns later this year. However, supporters of the bill hailed the law’s eventual passage as a victory for advocates of laws mandating the labeling of genetically modified foods. Such proposals have been introduced in nearly 30 states as part of a national effort to compel Congress to enact a comprehensive labeling law.

Previous GMO labeling efforts have been staunchly opposed by agribusiness and the biotech food products industry, which have also spent millions to defeat ballot measures and state legislation. Industry argues that labeling genetically engineered products unfairly stigmatizes modified foods despite a dearth of scientific research proving that they are any less healthful than those that are grown conventionally.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 70 percent of the products sold in American supermarkets contain genetically modified ingredients. The Food and Drug Administration regulates genetically modified foods, but regulators have left testing to the industry that is producing them.

Maine Conservation Voters’ Executive Director Maureen Drouin said in a news statement that the new law “will give Maine people the information they need to make informed decisions about the food they and their families eat.”