The Maine legislature approved a bill that would require labeling foods that contain ingredients from genetically engineered (GE) crops. The bill received strong endorsement by lawmakers, by a vote of 141-4 in that state’s House and unanimous approval in its Senate.

Similar to the bill enacted recently in Connecticut, the legislation only would go into effect when four contiguous states with a combined population of 20 million passed similar requirements for labeling. This contingency, designed to mitigate expected lawsuits, may prevent the bill from final enactment.

 

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A labeling bill recently was defeated in New York (population 19.6 million) at the committee level. A bill in Pennsylvania (population 12.8 million) faces strong opposition from the agriculture industry. A New Jersey (8.9 million) bill is in committee and faces strong opposition from food retailers. Despite the introduction of five bills in Massachusetts, there is no indication that one will pass despite strong public support for labeling.

The Maine bill could face additional obstacles because of its definition of "genetically engineered." While this definition defines the process of genetically engineering, it does not describe the end result -- food. Many foods contain GE ingredients but are not the product of the process described in Maine's legislation. Honey is such a food and European Union officials are wrestling with the question of whether pollen from genetically modified plants in honey makes it GE.

 

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