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Hard to Swallow

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Your Oct. 2 "Fear vs. Hope" article quoted much opinion but little substance. You talked about Mark Wilson and Dr. Van Eenennaam but not one word about the presentations here by scientists Ray Seidler, Michael Hansen or Ignacio Chapela. There is no gene which increases yield. Traditional plant breeders are leading development of drought tolerant crops. Pesticide use is increasing in GMO production systems. Hundreds of scientists disagree that studies prove that genetically modified foods are safe. There have been errors and recalls arising from genetic modification itself.

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 within the plants themselves. These toxins and their byproducts are present at low levels in every cell of the plant including the parts we eat. Use of 2,4-D in these systems, individually or in combination with the toxins mentioned above, has just been approved by the USDA. These agricultural production systems are headed in entirely the wrong direction.

My 35-year farming career has been devoted to raising food without pesticides, even those like Bt which are allowed in organic production. Is this fear or hope? Even conventional "best management" integrated pest management practices try to minimize pesticide use rather than making it a built-in part of the production system.

Organic production has allowed our small farms and pasture-based dairies to compete in statewide markets with the smaller quantities that are possible in Humboldt County. Measure P will protect this advantage, creating a three-county GMO Free Zone for value-added organic, conventional non-GMO crops and a safe haven for seed production.

John LaBoyteaux, Redcrest


The cover title given to Heidi Walters' recent piece about Measure P — "Fear vs. Hope" — reflected the tone of the whole piece. This framing of the issue was visceral, emotional and unabashedly biased. It reflected a wholesale acceptance of the story told by Measure P opponents. (Even though she admitted opponents were "elusive," she sought them out and devoted most of her story to uncritically repeating their point of view.) After all, the story made clear that Walters intended "fear" to refer to the motivation of Measure P supporters, and "hope" to refer to its detractors. And given the choice, who would choose fear over hope?

Despite the optimistic tales spun by their promoters, GMOs in truth are a linchpin in the modern unsustainable system of agriculture, engineered to work cog-in-gear with herbicides and pesticides in a setting of vast industrial monocultures. So for folks like me, it's Measure P that is about hope. It's about the hope that Humboldt County will see through the GMO hype and move instead to strengthen its sustainable food system with rational, ecologically sound, economically productive practices. It's about the hope that our local farms, businesses, ecosystems and dinner tables will grow ever more diverse, healthy and bountiful. And yes, it's also about sensible risk management—but I'd hardly call that "fear."

Colin Fiske, McKinleyville


My belief has always been that the Journal endeavored to bring me well-balanced articles about issues affecting the North Coast. But now that I actually have extensive knowledge of the subject in question, I sadly realize my belief has been misplaced. While Heidi Walters quoted extensively from people in the pro-GMO camp, she didn't bother to contact or even utter the names of three reputable scientists (Ray Seidler, Michael Hansen and Ignacio Chapela) who expressed well-founded concerns about the technology.

She could have informed her audience that Dr. Seidler, a former EPA scientist, is deeply concerned about the environmental impacts resulting from GMO technologies; that Dr. Hansen, a senior scientist with Consumers Union (the producer of Consumer Reports) is a consumer watchdog who is in demand worldwide to speak on this issue; that Dr. Ignacio Chapela, a microbial ecologist at U.C. Berkeley, was involved in the disturbing discovery that heritage corn in remote areas of Mexico was contaminated by GMOs. Instead she only obliquely referred to these top-notch people by publishing a quote characterizing them as "outlier scientists who dissent from the mainstream scientific consensus." These scientists took the time to come to Humboldt to educate and to inform our community that we are part of an international debate on one of the serious issues of our time. I highly recommend you go to www.humboldtaccess.net and see what they had to say.

Humboldt now has the opportunity to opt out of an uncontrolled experiment, enhance our food sovereignty and support sustainable farming. Our robust agricultural sector, largely organic, is well positioned to take advantage of a rapidly growing niche market. Let's vote in our own economic interests and say yes to Measure P.

Bill Schaser, Eureka


For the last 15+ years, I had daily physical pain, swelling in the body, arthritis, went from healthy to pre-diabetic. Two years ago, as our GMO awareness increased, we moved to Humboldt to be closer to likeminded folks (and for other reasons, including culture, weather, etc.). Since I stopped eating GMO foods, and went organic, my body pain is gone, I can hike miles at a time with no pain, I now exercise daily with no pain. I have a phenomenal amount of energy that I've lacked for years.

It comes down to this: Should anyone have the "option" of being able to legally poison my food? No.

Brent Sherman, Fortuna


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