The debate over the safety or lack of same of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will go on for some time, but what does not need debating is the need to label GMO foods so consumers will know what they are purchasing. That knowledge is a basic right, and Beacon Hill should pass legislation mandating this labeling.
State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, a Pittsfield Democrat, is co-sponsor of a bill requiring the labeling of genetically modified seeds and foods, one of five such bills currently before the state Legislature. Ms. Farley-Bouvier spoke about this cause Saturday at a March Against Monsanto rally in Pittsfield's Park Square, one of hundreds of rallies held across the nation opposing GMOs.
There are increasing concerns among Americans about the health implications of food that has been genetically altered in a laboratory, especially as the movement in favor of organic, locally grown food over that produced by giant chemical companies gains momentum. The Food and Drug Administration say GMOs pose no health risk, and genetic modification is sometimes helpful in enabling crops to survive assaults from pests, but scientists are divided and this is not a settled issue.
If Monsanto and other corporations in the GMO industry have faith in their products' safety then they should have no trouble with their labeling, and if the FDA won't do so on a federal level then states should step in. This is not a complicated issue, because as Ms. Farley-Bouvier told The Eagle on Saturday, "We should know what's in our food. Then people can decide what they want to do with their money." According to a New York Times poll conducted over the first six months of the year and released this July, roughly three-quarters of Americans expressed concern about the potential health effects of GMOs and 93 percent said foods that have been genetically modified should be identified with labels.
Unfortunately, while the state representative believes that the bill's time will come she doesn't believe it will be this session. If any legislators can come up with good arguments as to why GMOs should not be required to label their products, which comprise roughly 70 percent of the food we eat, residents would love to hear them, but in the absence of those arguments, a GMO labeling bill should be passed in the weeks ahead and sent to Governor Patrick for his signature.