Berkshire show support for proposed GMO labeling


GREAT BARRINGTON -- Berkshires residents on Tuesday continued to show strong support for pending initiatives to require genetically modified organism (GMO)food labeling in the state.

Dozens cycled in and out of an open house at Berkshire Co-op Market on Bridge Street to talk food, rules and regulations and get active.

"It’s amazing how much of the civilized world has already addressed this," said Matthew Novik, the market’s Communications Manager. "In the European Union, the people didn’t want [GMO food], so the government said, ‘We’re going to label it.’ Here, the people didn’t want it and the government said the opposite. That’s not the way things ought to work."

Around 75 people signed a last-minute online petition headed straight for the Statehouse supporting any of a number of draft bills that could see mandatory GMO labeling hit the state books.

The joint committees of the House and Senate are due to report a recommendation to the full Legislature today.

Novik said people came excited and informed Tuesday.

"Local people seem to be enthusisatically behind it," Novik said.

Additionally, all local farmers Novik has spoken to back the measure, he said. None grow GMO food.

Approximately 90 percent of corn grown in the United States is genetically modified and more than 80 percent of soy and cottonseed is genetically engineered, according to MA Right to Know GMOs. According to studies published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, GMO food can be toxic or allergenic.

The issue became still more pressing when the FDA, which has refused to require labeling of GMO food, approved genetically modified alfalfa in 2011.

Unlike other GMO crops, alfalfa’s pollen is spread by insects as opposed to the wind.

"This changed the potential reach [of GMO plant genes] from hundreds of feet to miles," Novik said. "Farmers are very concerned about cross-contamination," or the spread of dominant, GMO genes into the regular crops of non-GMO growers.

Amy Huebner, of Pittsfield’s Shire City Herbals, health food producers, helped organize Tuesday’s happenings.

"People have a right to know what their buying, and what’s on their plates," Huebner said. "For us, and other smaller-size producers, it’s really important that they know. This was a final push to get the word out."

To reach Phil Demers:

or (413) 281-2859.

On Twitter: @BE_PhilD


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