Real vs Synthetic Food in Maine
On November 2nd, Maine voters will decide Question 3, a referendum to adopt a right to food amendment to the state constitution to enshrine the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the foods of their choice.
The resolution is a common sense protection of a basic fundamental right–something that is especially needed with supply chain disruptions and the deprivation of fundamental health freedoms throughout the country over the past year and a half. According to the New England Food Vision (nefoodvision.org) webpage, “Where Are We Now“, the New England region imports 90% of its food and 15% of the residents in the region are food insecure (i.e., “regularly do not have enough to eat”).
The vote should be a lock, but powerful interests from outside the state led by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) are lobbying against the resolution. The national opposition has now turned Question 3 into a bellwether for freedom of food choice and food security elsewhere in the U.S. The opposition has significant investments in synthetic food which it is pushing on the consumer; less access to real food increases potential market share for synthetic food.
Question 3 on the Maine referendum election ballot reads:
The amendment would add a right to food to the Declaration of Rights in Article 1 of the Maine Constitution. Article 1 would be amended to read:
There is in-state opposition to the proposed amendment from organizations such as Maine Farm Bureau and the Maine Municipal Association, but the lead opponent to the measure is HSUS. According to its 2020 annual report, the nonprofit (based in Washington, DC) has $322.3 million in assets; in 2020 HSUS received $214.4 million in revenue, with $39.6 million dollars earmarked for “public policy and enforcement”. HSUS has hired Preti Flaherty, one of the most influential lobbying firms in Maine to help it defeat the proposed amendment.
The stated reason HSUS opposes the right to food is that the measure doesn’t adequately protect animal welfare. In a flyer the non-profit released titled Vote “No” on Question 3, the Misleadingly “Right to Food” Amendment HSUS claims, “The measure could also be used to thwart companion animal cruelty investigations. If, for example, a person was torturing a dog or cat (or any other animal) they could simply claim that they are raising the animal for food and possibly be shielded from prosecution”. To this point HSUS has not mentioned specific incidences of animal cruelty that the amendment would prohibit prosecution of; it has only brought up hypothetical cases.
Proponents of the amendment point out that its language does not provide an absolute right to food and that the measure does not conflict with existing animal welfare laws. One supporter of the measure commented, “Industrial operations make up 5% of the farms in the United States, yet they receive roughly 95% of animal and safety violations not local Maine farmers. So now the lobbyists of these nonprofits want to divert resources meant to combat industrial meat abuses toward oppressing individual small farmers in Maine?”
Another DC-based nonprofit working with HSUS in lobbying against the measure is Animal Wellness Action (AWA), a corporation founded by former HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle in 2018 . Pacelle has been quoted saying, “We are going to use the ballot box and the democratic process to stop all hunting in California. Then we will take it state by state”. AWA is currently running ads on The Voice of Maine radio station urging people to “vote no on 3 if you care about animals or the environment.”
When HSUS brought Pacelle in as CEO in 2004, the nonprofit increasingly worked on opposing hunting  and stopping or significantly reducing the use of animals in agriculture . A look at its leadership provides evidence that its opposition to the Maine amendment is not based as much on animal welfare as it is pushing synthetic food on the people of Maine. The weaker the rights of Maine residents to raise their own livestock and produce their own (traditional) food, the greater the potential market share for synthetic food.
One name comes up more than any other in HSUS leadership and that is McKinsey & Company. McKinsey has been advising governments, military and corporations for over 90 years; McKinsey’s clients include 90 of the world’s 100 biggest companies . It also manages a $12 billion hedge fund that has been used to assist its clients in increasing profits .
One HSUS board member is an active partner at McKinsey; another is a former principal for McKinsey, and the Chief Operating Officer for HSUS is a former partner at McKinsey .
The McKinsey Center for Agricultural Transformation partners with governments, donors and companies “to improve evidence-based planning and set priorities for accelerating agricultural transformation” .
McKinsey works with European biotech companies to expand markets for their products . It was brought in as a consultant  to promote the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation started in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation . The Gates Foundation previously hired McKinsey to assist in implementing vaccine drug trials in Africa .
AGRA is pushing changes to seed laws that protect patented seeds and penalize seed trading . McKinsey has been developing policy plans for AGRA and organizing lobbying meetings between agricultural investors and government representatives in African countries . McKinsey is promoting policies in Africa to encourage land-spreading of sludge and industrial waste by farmers , consolidation of farmland control, and increased use of AI in farming . Over the past 5 years McKinsey has actively promoted the value of synthetic meat products manufactured by the corporations Beyond Meat  and Impossible Foods . Impossible Foods CEO, Pat Brown, has publicly stated, “We have a simple mission: to replace the use of animals as a food production technology, globally, by 2035” .
Aside from the McKinsey influence on HSUS, another Humane Society board member is the co-founder and managing partner of Rethink Food LLC . That company is a venture fund investing in agriculture technology, processing and consumer package goods. Rethink Food partners include Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, McKinsey and Impossible Foods .
For its own part, HSUS–along with Tyson Foods and Bill Gates–invested venture capital in Beyond Meat in 2016 [24,25]. Since that time, both HSUS and AWA have been actively promoting Beyond Meat as a solution to animal welfare concerns .
The result of the Maine referendum on Question 3 will be a harbinger of things to come in other states. Will governments protect the freedoms of individuals to produce their own food and help build community food systems and resiliency or will well-financed corporations and foundations be successful in further restricting access to nutrient-dense, real food?
Maine’s fight is your fight. You can support the Maine effort to strengthen freedom of food choice by donating via PayPal to Right to Food for Maine at RightToFoodForMaine.org/donate.
It’s not too late to help. Your contributions will go towards purchasing print ads and radio spots to counter the message of well-financed interests from outside Maine who want to reduce freedom of food choice and prevent a constitutional right to food from getting a foothold anywhere.
Consider this rebuttal to the opposition published by The Ellsworth American :
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