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Mainers want GMO labeling — LePage should keep promise, sign bill into law

Posted Jan. 08, 2014, at 4:43 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 08, 2014, at 8:12 p.m.
Jim Gerritsen grows organic seed potatoes on his family’s Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater in October 2011.
Jim Gerritsen | Courtesy photo
Jim Gerritsen grows organic seed potatoes on his family’s Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater in October 2011.

North or south, rural or urban, logger or librarian, farmer or fisherman, the one belief that binds all of us together in Maine is that we hold nothing in higher regard than a person’s word. Mainers expect a promise to be kept.

Last July when Gov. Paul LePage offered his written promise to the people of Maine that in January he would sign into law Maine’s GMO labeling bill, LD 718, Mainers took him at his word. Now it’s time for the governor to make good on that promise. The Maine Constitution requires LePage to act on LD 718 within the next few days. Mainers want to believe LePage is a man of his word and that he will sign LD 718 into law.

Another belief that virtually all Mainers share is the nearly unanimous support among Republicans, Democrats and independents of Mainers’ right-to-know about GMO (genetically-modified organisms, also known as GE or genetically engineered) food. A scientific Pan-Atlantic poll conducted last spring showed 91 percent of Maine voters favored legislation enshrining their right to know about GMOs.

Similarly, this fall another scientific Mellman poll indicated 90 percent of New Hampshire voters support right-to-know GMO labeling. Repeatedly, national polls have shown phenomenal support for GMO labeling: 93 percent in a July 2013 New York Times poll; 96 percent in a February 2011 MSNBC poll; and 93 percent in an October 2010 Reuters/NPR poll.

Last spring, Maine’s two leading daily newspapers, the Bangor Daily News and the Portland Press Herald, both endorsed Maine’s GMO-label bill. LD 718 had 123 legislative co-sponsors. When LD 718 came up for floor votes in the Legislature, it passed by huge margins: 141-4 in the House and 35-0 in the Senate. Internationally, 64 countries in the world, representing over half the world’s population, including Europe, Asia, South Africa, Russia and China have GMO labeling.

We grow Maine Certified seed potatoes in Aroostook County. It is worth noting that farmers, just like their non-farmer counterparts, fully support GMO labeling. Farmers understand GMO labeling is a consumer rights issue and has virtually nothing to do with farmers.

Right-to-know is basic label transparency, and it does not offer a value judgment as to whether GMOs are good or bad. Farmers grasp that transparency is important for good business and for a strong democracy. GMO labeling will inform and allow the free market to operate, enabling citizens to make responsible purchase decisions.

The Aroostook County Farm Bureau endorses LD 718 as does Maine State Farm Bureau. Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association has been a strong supporter of LD 718. The national trade organization, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, based in Washington, Maine, supports LD 718. Beyond Maine’s border, farmers in the New Hampshire Grange have also endorsed the labeling of GE food. The large National Farmers Union, as well as its local chapter, New England Farmers Union, support mandatory labeling of GE food.

Mainers uniformly desire GMO labeling. The Maine Legislature has acted responsibly. Mainers now expect LePage to fulfill his promise to sign LD 718 into law. LePage, please keep your word.

Jim Gerritsen grows Maine Certified organic seed potatoes in Bridgewater, where his family has been farming for 37 years.

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