Recent GMO-related Letters to the Editor

What if we’re wrong on GMOs?
Measure P has a lot of people asking: Is it possible that genetic engineering could have unintended consequences?
One group of “experts” says, “Yes,” and those who stand to benefit from GMOs say, “No.” When there’s a profit motive to take a particular position, I tend to not trust the outcome.
And, there’s the logical argument: If we are wrong, either way, what are the consequences of the mistake? If we are wrong about banning GMO crops from our county, what are the consequences to our local farmers, to our environment, to our children? Minimal, it would seem.
However, if we allow GMO crops and we’re wrong, then what? How do we put the genie back in the bottle?
Everywhere we look, it seems profit motives are driving decisions. If it makes someone money, it must be good. I deny this thinking.
Sometimes, the right decision does not enhance our wallets. Sometimes the right decision is what is right in front of us.
Measure P will help a lot of our small farmers economically, but that’s not my main reason for supporting it.
I support it because it will be good for the whole community in ways that go far beyond money.
Healthy, local farming makes healthy, local food. Not Monsanto’s but nature’s best, proven through the ages to be good for us.
Where GMOs are concerned, the answer for Humboldt County seems obvious: Vote yes on Measure P.
George A. Wheeler
Headed in wrong direction
Genetic engineering has resulted in the development of agricultural production systems which assume people will eat pesticide in our food. Pesticides like Glyphosate (RoundUp) applied directly to GMO crops are taken up by the crop plants, or the plants are genetically engineered to produce Bt toxin (Cry-various) within the plants themselves.
These toxins and their by products are present at low levels in every single cell of the plant including the parts we eat. They are an integral part of the production system. The use of 2-4D in these systems, either individually or in combination with the toxins mentioned above, has just been approved by the USDA. Dicamba and several other pesticides are awaiting approval. These agricultural production systems are headed in entirely the wrong direction.
My nearly 35-year farming career has been devoted to raising food without pesticides, even pesticides like Bt that are allowed in organic production. This is a primary goal and direction of organic farming. I have been successful in this effort.
Even conventional best management IPM (Integrated Pest Management) practices try to reduce and minimize pesticide use rather than making that use a designed and built-in part of the production system.
Humboldt County’s small family farms and pasture based dairies have a great advantage in the growing market for value added organic and conventional non-GMO Foods. Organic production has allowed our farms and dairies to compete in national and state markets with the smaller quantities that are possible in Humboldt County. Measure P on the November ballot will protect this advantage and create a three county GMO Free Zone for value added organic and conventional non-GMO crops and a safe haven for organic seed production. Agricultural production in those counties which have passed GMO bans has only continued to increase and diversify since the bans were enacted.
Conventional agricultural production will also continue in Humboldt because Measure P prohibits only the raising or growing of genetically engineered organisms. Genetically engineered foods and animal feeds will continue to be imported and sold. Laboratory research at Humboldt State and healthcare work involving GMOs will also be unaffected. Read the proposed ordinance.
I hope you will join me in November by voting YES on Measure P.
John LaBoyteaux
Camp Grant Ranch
Silencing GMO critics
After reading articles by Rollin Richmond and his cohorts, I was struck by how fond they are of name calling. Not only have Measure P supporters been lumped in with climate deniers and conspiracy theorists, we’ve been characterized as inadequately educated anti-science fear mongers who have trouble dealing with new technologies, so I guess we can add Luddite to the list as well.
Well, this “inadequately educated, anti-science fear monger” would like to comment on Richmond’s screed in your September issue. In it, he compared what Galileo had to suffer when he questioned the religious dogma of his day to what the poor agrochemical GMO producers have to suffer when we “anti-science” types question the dogma of our day – namely, that GMOs are perfectly safe and no different from the foods we’ve eaten for millennia. I suggest he has the comparison backwards.
The church of Galileo’s day established inviolate dogma; (you will believe this way because we say so and we are the arbiters of truth.) Because Galileo’s observations caused him to question the prevailing doctrine (not unlike the questioners of our day) he was persecuted and given a clear choice: recant or die. Also remember that it took almost 360 years for the church to admit it was wrong and exonerate Galileo.
Fast forward to the Bush/Quayle years. In 1992, shamelessly pandering to agrochemical interests and with no supporting scientific basis, Dan Quayle simply announced that GMOs were hereafter to be considered “substantially equivalent” to the products of conventional breeding and hybridizing. In other words, we (The Power) say this is true and we are the arbiters of truth. Sound familiar? This was great news for companies like Monsanto, which had been having trouble meeting the safety standards required by the Codex Alimentarius. Presto change-o, with this fiat, testing requirements disappeared.
Of course, the ultimate irony is that, while GMOs were suddenly to be considered NOT new and NOT different, they were subsequently deemed new and novel enough to enjoy patent protection. So a purely political decision established the dogma of our day which, like Galileo, some question at their professional peril.
We like to think we’re so much more civilized than the Inquisitors of the 17th century. But, while we no longer burn people at the stake, we still find effective ways of silencing those who question the central dogma. Should a scientist discover something negative about GMOs, industry’s propaganda/lobbying machine goes into overdrive. “Tobacco science” is trotted out and a concerted effort is made to discredit both the scientist and his research. Grassroots folks like us are just belittled and called names by biotech boosters like Richmond, who, remember, was also publicly opposed to labeling GMO foods. I still find it uncommonly strange that the head of an institution of higher learning would be in favor of withholding knowledge.
I also don’t understand how Richmond, who calls himself an evolutionary biologist, can seemingly ignore a basic evolutionary principle: selection pressure causes organisms to adapt. Over 90 percent of the GMO crops he’s so enamored with are engineered for only one of two traits: herbicide resistance or pesticide production. What happens when a field is repeatedly dosed with an herbicide like Roundup? Some weeds become resistant, of course, not unlike bacteria which have become resistant to multiple antibiotics, largely due to repeated dosing in feed lots.
And the solution? First, try more frequent applications and second, apply higher doses of the poison in question. When that fails, as it eventually will, a new toxin is engineered into the plant and the process repeats itself. In other words, we’re engaged in an arms race of sorts. Shall we continue the escalation until we poison ourselves off the planet or will we wake up and start working with nature instead of against her? We may not have 360 years people!
What, then, has all this to do with Measure P? Absolutely nothing! Measure P is neither pro nor anti GMO – even though some people are trying hard to characterize it as such. It simply provides a way to ensure that Humboldt’s farmers can take advantage of a growing niche market and it protects all of us from the ever-increasing amounts of toxic chemicals required by GMOs as pesticide and herbicide tolerance increase. There are millions and millions of acres planted in GMOs; what is wrong with having a three-county, contiguous economic zone where they are not planted? Let’s support our agricultural base, reduce toxic chemical use, and market ourselves as the good food capital of California. Vote yes on Measure P.
Kay Schaser
Yes on Measure P
Hey, do you guys remember, are you old enough to remember, back in 1981 or so, when I and about 2,600 other idealistic folks all got arrested for blockading and delaying the construction of Diablo Nuclear Plant? It is located just up-wind of Los Angeles and built on an earthquake fault in a tsunami zone, go figure!
I would encourage all youngsters today, I mean all age folks really, to follow their hearts in similar ways as we protesters did back then, as it was a very fine and productive exercise. I remember how the men and the women were separated after we were arrested, and we were put in separate make shift jails, compounds with yards surrounded by barbed wire.
In the evenings, under the stars, as we walked around inside the barbed wire, we could see across the field to the dimly lit women’s compound, and, gathering together, we would raise our voices and sing love songs across the field to them. And then listen as the women returned a song to us. It makes me gasp to remember how beautiful that was. Long time ago.
They ended up building the nuke plant, of course, but we proved to be right, and that was the last nuke plant that was built in the U.S. for over 30 years. And so the nuke corporations went and built in other places, like Fukushima, where the big accident happened a few years ago. That accident and the one at Chernobyl pretty much reinforced some of the points of our protests: that the down side of accidents and radioactive waste management, and terrorist opportunities well outweighed the false dreams of the project propagators, their false dreams being mainly energy which would be, “too cheap to meter,” or that it would help end poverty or hunger, or make the country energy independent. Too cheap to meter!
 But we protesters knew that using the nuke plant would be very detrimental to our communities, our state, and our home, and that the false dream claims were most likely fantasies from profit driven minds. Our main outstanding fact was that there were other better ways to make that same energy. Solar cells existed back then and were being used, also wind and geothermal. Back then also were huge opportunities in conservation-insulation, etc., which we have used quite a bit since then.
The protesters understood that there was already a great, safe, nuclear power plant called the sun, and that is was almost pathological to ignore that gift of this nuclear energy while pursuing a corporate profit oriented nuclear plant which would create such damage to our lives for thousands of years after the power stopped being produced. It seemed to us that only an idiot or someone making a lot of money from it would make a choice such as that.
Pro nuclear folks would try to discredit the protesters in any number of ways, usually off the subject. They would make mindless claims that we were communists or anti-science, choosing to ignore the fact that we totally embraced science everywhere, we loved our solar cells and our cars, and the rockets going to the moon. This was before computers. Our protest had never been about science but rather about the mindless and idiotic choices that the profit oriented corporations were making in using that science. We knew there were great alternatives, all our alternatives included and embraced science.
So now, 34 years later, I read that RR has said the anti GMO people are afraid of science. This seems to me to be quite an uninformed and idiotic thing to say, not to mention the intellectual laziness it reveals as it pertains to the upcoming election. I am a member of the farmers’ market association, I sell produce at farmers’ markets and grocery stores in Humboldt County, and I can assure you that the farmers in Humboldt County are about 99 percent against growing GMO in our county and we all embrace, practice, and utilize science, every day, in maintaining our soil, growing our animals and crops, and doing the marketing and selling that it takes to get fresh, nutritious food to the people in our community.
I am so certain that any one of the farmers does more science every day that RR did in his entire tenure as president at HSU. Farmers are practicing chemists, we are biologists, we are botanists, we are engineers, we are science teachers. We do scientific seed trials and breed new and better varieties using conventional science.
We also have natural wisdom that comes from working with the earth and nature every day, and also from being part of the 99 percent who are exploited rather than benefited by the Corporations, such as those that propagate the use of GMO . We know that we can and do grow our food without resorting to GMO techniques and that anyone’s use of GMO presents such a downside risk to our community and our food system that only the uninformed or the idiotic would support the use of GMOs, unless they have some skin in the game, are trying to make money from a centralized food system, bolstering their history as being a scientist, or maybe they are just selling papers or trinkets or something.
Humboldt Farmers ask for your support with a YES vote on Proposition P in November’s election. This proposition is that you can buy and sell and eat all the GMO product you want in Humboldt County but you cannot grow it here. This protects our local farmers. If you believe that GMOs are going to end hunger or poverty or save the planet or something, well it will still happen from elsewhere on the planet.
We local farmers simply ask that it not be grown here, as we are aware of its false dreams and we know that we currently grow great food without it, and that it has a downside potential that could seriously hurt the Humboldt farmer community and indeed our state and the entire homeland. Please vote YES on Prop. P.
 George Waller

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One Comment;

  1. California Conservative said:

    Wow, the fear mongering chronicles would be a more accurate title for this article. By the way, BT crops produce a protein that is harmless to humans. Either vote with your brain or vote with your emotions but too many just vote using the latter and little to none of the former.

    As a side note, why has no one addressed Chad White’s article about genetic mutations of crop seed? Seemed to be a very good article and double standard if there ever was one.

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