UPDATE: LePage ceremonially signs GMO bill after all

Ted Quaday, executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, delivered more than 500 handwritten postcards to Gov. Paul LePage on Wednesday urging him to sign a bill into law that could lead to labeling of all foods coming into Maine with genetically modified ingredients. 

LePage ceremonially signed the bill on Wednesday, said his spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett.

“January has arrived, the Legislature is back in session,” said Quaday in a written statement. “It’s time for the governor to make good on his promise to the citizens of Maine.”

Quaday says LePage pledged to sign the bill in a letter he wrote last year.

Bennett said Wednesday evening that LePage supports the bill but because of the Legislature’s joint rules, he has no official capacity to sign LD 718, which was passed unanimously in the House and Senate last June as the Legislature was wrapping up its business for the year. 

“The governor will remain true to his word,” said Bennett on Wednesday. “No veto is forthcoming.”

For most bills, the governor has 10 days to sign, veto or line-item veto. If he does none of those, the bill goes into law without his signature. If a bill passes both chambers of the Legislature within 10 days of the end of one session and remains on the governor’s desk until the next — which is the case with LD 718 — the governor has two options: Veto the bill within three days of the beginning of the new session or simply let it go into law.

Bennett said Wednesday evening that another, non-official option would be to hold a ceremonial signing but that no event like that is scheduled.

UPDATE: Bennett said Thursday that LePage signed the bill ceremonially on Wednesday and that her statements to the BDN Wednesday evening were in error.

“The governor pulled a signature sheet from last session. He wanted to sign it because he said he could, but the signature sheet does not have the force of law,” said Bennett.

LD 718, An Act to Protect Maine Food Consumers’ Right to Know about Genetically Engineered Food and Seed Stock, takes effect when legislation requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food has been adopted in five adjoining states, including Maine. Connecticut enacted a GMO labeling bill last year and according to MOFGA, efforts are underway to enact similar bills in New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.

Quaday said enactment of LD 718 is a major milestone in efforts to help consumers know what is in their food.

“MOFGA supporters have worked tirelessly, organizing five different legislative campaigns on this issue since the 1990s,” he said. “The time was right for a diverse and collaborative effort to take hold and move the discussion forward. People want and have the right to know what’s in their food.”

MOFGA will celebrate enactment of the bill during a public ceremony in the State House Hall of Flags at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 14.

Maureen Drouin, executive director of Maine Conservation Voters, said 64 countries already label foods that contain genetically modified ingredients, including all of Europe, Russia, China, Brazil, India and Saudi Arabia.

“The GMO labeling law will give important freedom of choice to food consumers in Maine and the northeast,” said Drouin in a written statement.



Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.