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Politics

Maine House Backs Bipartisan ‘Right To Food’ Bill That May Go Before Voters

Maryam Jernigan-Noesi and her son Carter pick vegetables from their garden.
Maryam Jernigan-Noesi and her son Carter pick vegetables from their garden.

The Maine House of Representatives has given initial approval to a bill that would enshrine a right to food in the state constitution.

The constitutional amendment broadly states that residents have an inherent right to grow, raise, harvest and consume food of their own choosing.

An outgrowth of the food sovereignty bill that passed in 2017, the proposal is also part of a movement aiming to secure individual food harvesting and sustenance rights says Biddeford Democratic Rep. Margaret O'Neil.

"Food is foundational to life and food freedom is really the freedom to grow, prepare and consume food," she said.

Opponents of the bill warn that the proposal is sweeping and vague and could undercut state and local officials' ability to craft health and safety ordinances.

Republican minority leader Rep. Kathleen Dillingham, of Oxford, says the proposal could invite a host of legal challenges.

"This language is so broad we will be placing these challenges in the hands of the courts to interpret intent," she said.

Republicans and Democrats voted 104-41 to approve the bill, but it needs additional votes and a supermajority upon enactment in the House and Senate before going to voters for final approval.