Berkshire Activists Rally to Support GMO Labeling

Apr 22, 2013

Janet Bradley, an organic farmer from Windsor, Massachusetts, stood on the corner of Park Square in downtown Pittsfield with a small group of protesters.

Janet Bradley rallies for GMO labeling in PIttsfield.
Credit Lucas Willard / WAMC

“To me it’s a huge health concern. I just think we’ve got to increase awareness and that Massachusetts is the perfect state to get labeling of genetically modified foods,” said Bradley.

The rally was sponsored by the political group Massachusetts Right to Know about GMOs.

Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs are an increasingly popular topic of debate across the country. Staple foods including corn and soy products are often genetically modified to have greater resistance to pests and disease, or herbicides. Opponents say they have fears about negative effects that GMO’s could have human health and the natural ecosystem.

Aleisha Gibbons, owner of Berkshire Organics, a Dalton-based market and delivery company, helped organize the rally.

“We just want more information and we should have the right to know whether something is in our food or not,” said Gibbons.

Gibbons said that her store labels products containing GMOs for her customers, but said she’d rather see the food companies make all customers aware.

In Massachusetts, five bills have been introduced in 2013 that would require the labeling of GMOs.

Currently, in Vermont, a GMO labeling bill is working its way through the legislature. It could make the Green Mountain State the first in the nation to pass such a law.

Democratic State Representative Kate Webb, of Shelburne, is lead sponsor of the bill, which has this year moved from the legislature’s agricultural committee to the judiciary committee. She said the legislation would request that at least two other states also pass similar laws requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods.

As many as 30 states are considering legislation that would require labeling of GMOs.

Concerns have been reported by food industry lobby groups, including United Dairy Farmers of Vermont, which has said that the labeling of GMOs would have an impact on farmers who rely on genetically engineered corn included in feeds for their livestock.

Representative Webb said that while she has high hopes for a GMO bill in Vermont, she doubts any action will be taken to require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to change its policy.

But some in Congress have expressed support for a law that would require labeling of GMOs, including Massachusetts’ 2nd District Representative Jim McGovern, a Democrat.

“I think people that people should have a right to know what they’re eating,” said McGovern.

For now, the debate over GMOs continues – in the Northeast and nationwide.