Maine voters pass first 'right to food' amendment in US

Maine voters pass first 'right to food' amendment in US
© Greg Nash

The voters of Maine passed the "right to food" state constitutional amendment on Tuesday, the first amendment of its kind in the U.S. 

The Associated Press reported that the amendment to Maine's constitution would “declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health, and well-being.”

The vote on the "right to food" amendment was passed with large support in Maine's state legislature, but needed to be placed on the ballot following approval from lawmakers. 

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The referendum on the amendment came amid growing sentiment among small farmers, liberals, libertarians and other anti-corporation factions that local communities should have more of a stake in their food supply, according to the wire service. 

Supporters of the amendment argued that the bill would allow residents the right to grow produce and maintain livestock when big business threatens ownership of local food supply. 

State Sen. Craig Hickman (D) told the newswire that the amendment resonated with Mainers. 

“It’s always a good idea to secure and protect an individual right in the world we live in. Food is life,” Hickman said, according to AP. “I don’t understand why anyone would be afraid of saying so out loud in the constitution.”

However, opponents of the measure argue the new amendment is vague, and poses a threat to food safety and animal welfare. They fear that people will try to raise domesticated livestock such as cows in their backyards in Maine's cities like Portland.

“Maine Farm Bureau is prepared to support Maine farmers as this amendment is enacted and, as always, stands clear in its resolve to protect and embrace food safety and animal welfare as a standard for all Mainers,” Maine Farm Bureau executive director Julie Ann Smith said in a statement, according to AP. 

Maine passed the nation’s first food sovereignty law in 2017, which allows food producers to sell their yields on site.