I was disappointed by the article "Fear vs. Hope" (Oct. 2) about Measure P, the effort to ban GMOs from being grown in Humboldt County.
I felt that it painted a picture of GMOs being safe, and anti-GMO activists to be angry and fearmongering as opposed to cautious and sensible.
I also found this article to be misleading. The one scientist that Heidi Walters interviewed stated that Roundup is "a very safe herbicide" and has "way less toxicity than coffee." Really? The attorney general of the state of New York found Monsanto to be conducting false advertising when they claimed that Roundup was "safe." And that was back in 1996!
The article suggested that if a farmer took reasonable precautions to avoid contamination it would be unlikely to lose its organic certification but that is not the only risk for our farmers. According to Monsanto's own website they have sued 145 farmers for patent violation. This is when plants containing GMO material are found on a farmer's land who has not purchased the seed. There is risk of this happening to any of our non-GMO and organic farmers here in Humboldt.
While "investigating" the future costs of enforcing this measure, Walters failed to state that the agricultural commissioner would have the authority to impose a monetary penalty on the person or entity responsible for the violation, i.e. cost recovery. It is there on the GMO Free Humboldt website which the reporter claimed to have looked at.
As a Humboldt County resident I would appreciate more thorough and balanced reporting in our local newspapers.
Kate Thurston, McKinleyville
As an organic farmer for 40 years, I do not grow GMO seeds, and want a GMO-free community. Three things concern me. One, there are hundreds of GMO studies that show serious health consequences. Two, these studies are being systematically discredited, largely by multinational corporations or their agents. Three, the whole push for GMO foods is backed by huge corporations that produce toxic chemicals, ands are profiting billions.
Discrediting research is a common tactic. In the book Seeds of Deception by Jefferey Smith, Dr. Arpad Pustai, 35-year employee of a world renowned nutritional institute in Scotland, led research to determine the safety of a GMO potato. He found subject animals had severely damaged organs and immune systems. His report was closeted, and he was put under a gag order for four years. The European regulatory agencies wanted to approve GMO at any cost.
Most frighteningly, Dr. Seidler said, in the gene splicing process, a promoter gene is used, the "promiscuous gene." This allows the target gene segment to transfer to other species, plants and animals. There is evidence that a large percentage of US people may have the BT gene in the cells of their intestines — manufacturing insecticide. There is an epidemic of intestinal and immune system diseases that correlates time-wise with the introduction of GMO foods.
Monsanto, which has brought us DDT, PCB's, Round-Up, Agent Orange, the "terminator gene" (renders seed sterile) is spending millions to block the growing movement to ban GMO food in the US.
A friend of mine from an Arkansas farming town says Monsanto has an office there and checks the farms to be sure they use Monsanto seeds and chemicals. If not, the farmers are blacklisted from the local bank, feed and equipment dealers.
Jessica Bittner, Bayside
On Oct. 2, organic farmers John and Robert Vevoda stated that their organic dairy cows are healthier and live longer and produce milk for eight years — almost two times the production of conventional (GMO) cows. What is good for the cows, is good enough for the consumer. No brainer — no GMOs. No toxic chemicals for me. Vote Yes on Measure P and to hell with Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, et al. We consumers are not "confused" and we are not stupid, either! No GMOs!
Earl Bootier, Kneeland
One subject not discussed in either the "Fear vs. Hope" article or in letters pertaining to the article is GMO lawn and turf grass, which is genetically modified by the insertion of endophytes in order to increase resistance to lawn pests.
Labels on such seed will state that these GMO grasses are not to be used in pastures, because the toxicity which repels lawn pests causes problems with the health of grazing animals — failure to thrive, lengthened pregnancies and abortions, and in some cases, death.
Naturally occurring endophytes in tall fescue have been extensively studied in Missouri, due to the impact on the beef industry there.
The practice of deliberately inserting endophyte genes into the so-called "endophyte enhanced" lawn and turf grasses has not only made lawns toxic to grazing animals, the blow-by effect of this GMO seed has infected pastures.
Even worse, a ranch in Oregon that reseeded pastures with "guaranteed endophyte free rye" discovered to their sorrow that the seed was in fact not endophyte free — a discovery made by necropsy of the dead animals, followed by analysis of the grass in the newly seeded pastures, which were then burnt and rested in the restoration process which ensued.
This ranch no longer plants any rye or fescue, because "guaranteed endophyte free" cannot, in fact be guaranteed.
The grass seed industry is well aware of this problem, courtesy of the law suits; and now advertises "livestock friendly" GMO grasses; while at the same time continuing to sell lawn and turf grasses labelled "for lawn use only" — not to be used in pasture.
If Humboldt County decides to go GMO free, genetically modified, endophyte enhanced lawn and turf seed would become illegal here. Your choice. (You might want to google endophyte toxicity.)
Nancy Woodward, Ferndale
I believe in organic and non-GMO food supply for animals and human consumption. The idea of it seems safer in a time when so much is unsafe in the world. If we can't trust the food we eat to not make us sick then what are we doing to ourselves? I've been under the impression that this new ban of non-GMO is to make the farms organic, but I noticed that in the article "Fear vs. Hope," Heidi Walters wrote, "They'll be able to keep applying non-organic-approved pesticides and fertilizers and, if they're livestock or dairy farmers, buying supplemental conventional and possibly even GMO feed."
And I think that's even scarier. Here's why: I go to the store and I buy something that is non-GMO and organic, but it could have been fed GMO feed. Shouldn't the nation be looking for a healthy alternative?
Michelle Ashworth, Trinidad
Regarding Measure P: Few people understand genetics and possibly even fewer, in this era of city-dwellers, understand farming. I am not anti-science; at least I have a degree, in science, from our beloved HSU. Yet I assure you that the letter writer who said that GMOs could not contaminate organic crops doesn't know what he's talking about. (And did you notice that letter was from Texas!)
The main crop grown from genetically modified seed is wind-pollinated corn. Every cell of a GMO plant has the new, foreign genes in it, including the pollen. Corn pollen can land on your neighbor's (down-wind) corn instead of yours. The inadvertent recipients of the GMO genes won't know: genes aren't visible. But all the progeny of a particular kernel of corn whose "daddy" was GMO corn carry the new genes forever. Eventually, somewhere, corn contaminated with the GMO genes shows up, while effected farmers have no idea how their seed came to have these genes — the very problem that Dr. Ignacio Chapela came here to talk about. Surely he knows more about it than that writer from Texas.
We should be skeptical when proponents of something have vested interests. Naturally, "scientists" defend the inventions/technologies they have brought us. "scientists" (not all of them) also continue to defend nuclear power and agri-chemicals that poison not just intended pests, but also our water and breast milk!
It is not illogical to agree with scientists on global climate change (where the majority opinion is against many powerful vested interests and correlates with observations we can make ourselves) and to disagree on GMOs. It's a bad idea, especially for food crops. Measure P is a good start in protecting ourselves from future (currently unknowable) harm. Health of the environment and of ourselves is a greater good than Monsanto's profits.
Karen Shepherd, Arcata
I see from the letters in this week's NCJ that I wasn't the only reader to be disappointed at the title and tone of your anti-P feature article, "Fear vs. Hope." I've been a fan of Heidi Walters for a long time, and would have expected better.
I'd hoped to use this note to address two considerations that she omitted, but after typing up an abbreviated version of the first one, (concerning implications of state pre-emption of county authority) I checked the accumulated word count and found I'd already hit 182. (The other one related to a farmer's "right to grow what he wants on his own land" without addressing the question of whether he could keep "what he wants," its associated herbicides, and the "superweeds" they may spawn from wandering off).
A suggestion: Why not just limit NCJ readers' election issue discussion to 140-character tweets?
Mark Drake, Fortuna
I want to know what I am eating. Genetically engineered foods can use genetics from any living organism and the consumer never knows where the genetics come from. Who wants to eat some gene of a mouse and not know about it? Call me a little ideological.
The organic label guarantees an overall process was followed making it less likely that I am eating GE foods. Multiple documented cases show seed stock being contaminated through pollination from neighboring GE crops. These seeds can be planted by organic farmers and be labeled organic. The organic label does not guarantee that I am eating non-genetically engineered foods.
Humboldt County is isolated and has an opportunity to ensure that GE cross pollination does not occur. Banning the growth of GE crops in Humboldt County ensures that Humboldt-grown organic label is of the highest quality. Marketing this gives us hope.
Thorin Lynn, Arcata
Journalists are no less subject to bias than the rest of us. And that's not necessarily a bad thing; bias toward fairness and justice, for example, is laudable. However, when a reporter produces a grossly unbalanced piece like "Risk vs. Hope," then it is a problem and does disservice to both the readers and the issue at hand.
What is at stake here is the freedom for Humboldt to make the decision whether or not GMOs can be planted here. Multinational biotechs are working hard at the state and national level to take away that right from counties and municipalities, having already done so in Oregon. This may be our last chance to retain local food sovereignty.
People are increasingly concerned about the quality of their food, as evidenced by the growing demand for sustainable and/or organic products. Humboldt cannot compete with Big Ag and its huge subsidies, but we are well-positioned to take advantage of the growing niche market for non-GMO products. Let's not screw this up. Even one farmer growing GMOs can cause cross-contamination and ruin markets for his non-GMO neighbors.
As Humboldt reconnects with its past, we have young people apprenticing under older farmers, then starting operations of their own. We're growing grain again, raising pastured hogs and chickens. We have organic wineries, breweries, a distillery and, possibly in the works, a hard cider facility. These new ventures are dependent on non-GMO inputs.
By voting yes on Measure P, we can support our local agriculture and step away from the ever-increasing use of toxins required by GMOs. We can be healthier, our environment can be healthier and our economy can be healthier. How can one argue with that? Please join me in voting yes on Measure P.
Kay Schaser, Eureka