Maine ‘Right to Food’ measure would change state’s Constitution

Maine ‘Right to Food’ measure would change state’s Constitution

by Sue Jones
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Voters in Maine Tuesday will decide if the state will be first in the nation to include a constitutional “Right to Food.”

The ballot measure would add a right to food to the Declaration of Rights in Article 1 of the Maine Constitution, according to the state Attorney General’s office. The Declaration of Rights sets forth “the natural, inherent and inalienable rights of the people of Maine.”

In the official “Intent and Content” statement prepared by the AG’s office for voters, it says the proposal would not protect trespassing, theft, or poaching.

“The right would also exclude other abuses of private property rights, public lands, or natural resources in the harvesting,  production or acquisition of food,” the voter statement adds.

The ballot measure, known as Measure 3, was referred to voters by the Maine Legislature.

“The proposed right to food would include the right of each individual to save or exchange seeds, and the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the good of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health, and well-being,” the AG’s ballot statement states.

An accompanying fiscal impact statement says the “Right to Food” won’t  create costs for  the state or local governments.

Measure 3 carries on the “Food Freedom” movement that swept through several Maine towns a decade ago.

It is opposed by a the Maine Veterinary Medical Association, Maine Municipal Association, Maine Friends of Animals, Maine Farm Bureau, Maine Animal Coalition, Animal Rights Maine and the Maine Potato Board.

The Maine Farm Bureau sees the language as duplicative of the existing  Declaration of Rights. And the “Right to Food” Amendment leaves a “bad taste in our mouths. Measure 3  “is a soluiton in search of a problem.”  It  establishes a right to food, but does not “authorize a penny for the hungry.”

The “Bad Taste” committee says Measuire 3 could eliminate state and local food safety regulations.

Still, there is no shortage of supporters for Measure 3.  The House passed a “Right to Food” resolution on a 106-31 before sending Measure 3 to next Tuesday’s election ballot.

Little money is being spend for or against Measure 3.  Two other ballot measures, however, may drive voter turnout. Measure 1 is a controversial energy transmission issue with spending on both sides and Measure 2 seeks money for infrastructure.

The Maine Department of Agriculture expressed its “concerns about conflicts that could arise related to the department’s statutorily mandated role to uphold food safety standards related to food in commerce” and found sponsors of Measure 3 “amenable to adjusting the language to remove references to food processing and preparation, which, as previously written, we believed would conflict with current state and federal law regarding food establishment licensing and inspection programs.”

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