On Thursday, July 23, 2015, the United States House of Representatives passed the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” (or, as opponents call it, the “Deny Americans the Right to Know” Act) with 275 representatives voting in favor of the bill and 150 opposed. This bill makes the labeling of food that contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs) voluntary, and is applied nationally. This has the effect of preempting and overruling the states that are attempting to or have passed laws that require that all GMO containing food-products be labelled accordingly (Maine and Connecticut, for example).
Many food and agricultural companies lobbied for the bill, stating the requirement that some states put on them (or would put on them, should individual states pass label requirement laws) would be heavily burdensome. Conversely, those opposed to GMOs continue to cite that science is unclear on the effects that GMOs have on the environment and on the consumer.
The 2014 Farm Bill, signed by President Obama February 2014, lifted the ban on hemp farming for “research purposes” only, holding in place the ban on hemp farming for commercial purposes.
After a few amendments, Maine’s House and Senate passed the bill on to the governor, Republican Paul LePage, who vetoed it, citing the “legal risks for Maine’s farmers” because federal law has yet to exclude “industrial hemp from its definition of ‘marihuana’.”
However, the Maine legislature officially overrode the governor’s veto. The Maine House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to override the governor with a vote of 135 in favor to 6 against on Friday, June 12, 2015. The Maine Senate followed suit on Monday, June 15, 2015 with a vote of 27 in favor to 6 against.
Maine’s major industries include shipbuilding, fishing, tourism, and agriculture. The U.S. market for hemp is at least $600 million per year with over 25,000 uses for hemp including food, fabrics, cosmetics, plastics, and biofuel. U.S. is the number one importer of hemp in the world with Canada and China act as the leading exporters of hemp in the world. This law will greatly benefit Maine’s economy, not to mention that hemp is well suited for organic production as hemp can grow densely and control weeds.
The final version of LD#4 can be found here, and its terms will be effective state law 90 days from June 16, 2015.
I am cynically waiting to see whether the US Drug Enforcement Agency will use its resources and tax-funded budgets to prosecute Maine farmers for participation in the commercial hemp market.