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First-in-the-nation ‘right to food’ wins in Maine

Voters in Maine approved a constitutional amendment establishing a right to food in a landslide on Tuesday, despite disagreement over what it would mean, according to unofficial results. The amendment, the first such constitutional guarantee in the nation, was ahead by a 3-to-2 margin with votes counted in 507 of 571 precincts statewide.

Described as an outgrowth of the food sovereignty movement, the amendment says Mainers have a right to grow and consume food of their choosing. Proponents such as state Rep. William Falkingham said the amendment “means that people have the means togrow or produce food without government interference, or prohibitions to meet their dietary needs for optimal health.”

With the vote count incomplete, the amendment was favored by 61% and opposed by 31% of voters, reported the Portland Press Herald.

Opponents said the amendment was so broadly written that it could override animal cruelty laws or open the gate to domestic livestock in urban backyards. The Bangor Daily News said the ambiguous wording would put judges in charge of interpreting what the amendment means at the practical level. “We’ll also point out that the constitutional amendment proposed in Question 3 does not expressly mention hunger,” said the newspaper on Oct. 20.

The language of the amendment was: “All individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to food, including the right to save and exchange seeds and the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being, as long as an individual does not commit trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the harvesting, production or acquisition of food.”

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.

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