PITTSFIELD -- State-mandated labeling of food that's been genetically modified could be on the horizon.
State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier told locals at Saturday's March Against Monsanto at Pittsfield's Park Square there are five bills in the state Legislature that would regulate genetically modified food. She's a proud co-sponsor of bills that would require labeling of genetically modified seeds and genetically modified food.
"I think this year it has really caught fire," Farley-Bouvier said.
Farley-Bouvier attended a rally -- one of hundreds taking place across the nation -- against genetically modified organisms, more commonly known as GMOs. About 50 people were present.
The march brought together those who are calling for a standard labeling system for GMOs. There's a growing movement of those suspicious about the long-term health implications of food that has been altered in a lab. Monsanto, a publicly traded company, is one of the nation's largest producers of genetically modified food and seeds.
Multiple states have begun discussing labeling food with GMOs, even though the Food and Drug Administration and many scientists say these foods pose no health risks. Still, there are pointed questions.
On Saturday, locals held up signs protesting Monsanto and the use of GMOs.
State legislators are alert to their concerns, Farley-Bouvier said, and she urged residents to call the chairs of the state Public Health Committee and state Agriculture Committee to urge a favorable report on the legislative bills.
"Call your legislators and call the chairs of the committees," Farley-Bouvier said. "That's a really great place to put pressure ... and put your two cents into this. We are trying to get [the bills] reported favorably out of the committee. That's what gives it a chance for a full vote."
Following her speech, Farley-Bouvier said she supported legislation because it's a "fairness issue."
"We should know what's in our food," Farley-Bouvier said. "Then people can decide what they want to do with their money."
The bills might not pass this year, she said, but she spoke favorably about a bill passing in the next decade.
"Whether it will pass this session or not, I don't know," Farley-Bouvier said. "But it's time will come."
Dr. Mark Pettus, who serves as Berkshire Medical Center's medical director of wellness and population health, said people should be cautious about eating processed food. Seventy percent of foods we eat are genetically modified, he said.
Animals fed genetically modified food have had reproductive problems, he said.
"Most of the health problems that we confront can be explained by changes in the environment in the last few generations," Pettus said. "Perhaps no change in the environment is as profound as those in our food supply."
The march was sponsored by Massachusetts Right to Know GMOs and Berkshire Organics.
"This is about transparency with our food and knowing what the ingredients are in our food products, "said Berkshire Organics co-owner Aleisha Gibbons. "We want to see GMOs labeled. We want mandatory labeling. If they know it has a GMO, they probably won't buy it. That will cause companies to stop using the ingredients and switch to cleaner ingredients."
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