Maine Voices: adopting an environmental amendment would be a natural follow-up to the “right to food”

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The Maine Constitution amendment approved by voters earlier this month with 61% of the vote establishes a “natural and inalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and eat the food of their choice.” This is a laudable addition to the 24 basic rights of citizens of Maine listed in Section I of our constitution. The amendment grew out of the food safety movement in Maine, and it will now be up to the courts to decide on the practical meaning of the amendment.

The Salt Marsh Trail in Gouldsboro leads to several lookouts with views of West Bay. “The history of Maine makes it clear that without strict regulation and enforcement, businesses and individuals will pollute if they believe a profit should be made,” writes Roger Bowen. Photo by Carey Kish

Maintainers, not just the libertarians among us, should applaud this new right. However, we must also ask ourselves whether a “natural and inalienable right” logically prior to a clean and safe environment should not be added to our constitution. After all, if our waters are polluted and our soils contaminated with toxins, then growing crops and raising livestock becomes folly that effectively undermines the right to food amendment.

We can cite a precedent: the United Nations Commission on Human Rights voted unanimously last month to recommend that the General Assembly adopt as a “basic human right” a “healthy and sustainable environment”. If approved, environmental rights could be added to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, first adopted in the late 1940s and led by Eleanor Roosevelt.

As it turns out, we also have in the Maine Legislative Aether another recommended amendment to our constitution: the Pine Tree Amendment (LD 489), which is championed by Rep. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, and supported by a group. bipartisan legislators. It reads: “The state shall conserve, protect and nurture the state’s natural resources, including, but not limited to, its air, water, land and ecosystems for the benefit of all. , including generations to come. The proposed amendment was reported by the Natural Resources Committee in a bipartisan 9-4 vote in favor.

Unlike the Food Amendment, the right to a clean and safe environment will be less appealing to libertarians, as it will require strong government support for its implementation through regulations, rules, bureaucracy and support. ‘a targeted application. The history of Maine makes it clear that without strict regulation and enforcement, businesses and individuals will pollute if they believe a profit should be made, if the risk of being caught is minimal, and if anti- pollution are not codified and widely disseminated as part of a powerful advertising campaign.

The rubber meets the road, however, when the food amendment and the proposed environmental amendment conflict. One example, close to home, is American Aquaculture’s plan to rear hundreds of thousands of salmon in enclosures the size of a football field in Frenchman Bay. If the “fish factory” is built, the salmon will become big polluters and the diesel will be burned 24/7 in order to feed the vacuum cleaners which remove part (but far from all) of the effluents and the barges. and trucks that transport the captured effluents daily. , plus the fish caught, for processing at Prospect Harbor. Lobster fishermen fear their trap lines will be cut by barges; Acadia National Park is concerned that visitors will see the fish factory as an eyesore, and local residents fear the noise and air pollution that will no doubt be caused by American aquaculture.

Does the right to grow food also extend to US aquaculture as well as small-scale lobster fishing in the bay? Who takes precedence over the right to harvest food? And which operation is the most ecological?

In such cases, a constitutional right to a clean and safe environment, if seen as a logically priority right, should trump food rights, or at least distinguish between competing companies in terms of those who are the least likely to harm the environment.

Food security is a human right, and the citizens of Maine have enshrined this right in our constitution. We should follow suit, and soon, elevate the right to a healthy and sustainable environment to become the 26th Amendment to our state constitution.


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