Monday June 3, 2013

On the labeling of GMOs

Regarding H.112, on labeling GMOs: As a local journalist who's reported on the connection between soil, food and health, I've learned a lot about GM crops, and want to make a couple of points.

While mention of GMOs prompts images of PhDs in lab coats or slick, brand-name goods on the grocery shelves, the introduction of these plants into our natural environment has consequences -- consequences that may not be as controllable or benign as the biotech industry would have us believe.

Many GMO plants are engineered to "tolerate herbicides." This means that by design, such GMO crops are treated with chemicals, most likely glyphosate (trade name: Roundup). Glyphosate works by chelating, or binding, minerals. This affects a plant's ability to take up nutrients. The chemical also alters the balance of microorganisms in the soil, which may lead to more fungicide use.

This, in turn, impairs soil life, and all that depends on it. A North Dakota farmer I interviewed described walking into a wheat field and hearing no insects. "The soil looked dead. It had been sprayed twice with fungicide It killed off the good fungi, too."

The widespread use of herbicides has also meant the advent of "superweeds": plants that have developed resistance to weed-killers. The industry's answer? Create GMOs to withstand another herbicide, which means an additional dousing of chemicals.

The long-term safety of GMOs and their chemical accompaniments has not been established. Scientists whose research raised concern have suffered professionally, including being forced out of their jobs.

The growing of food depends on a living system; it's not simply a matter of technology. We're part of that living system, and I worry about the cost to our health and the environment if we mess with it.

Knowledge of whether food is genetically modified is the least we should be given.

JUDITH D. SCHWARTZ

Bennington

Schwartz is the author of "Cows Save the Planet: and Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth."

Praise for Mary Morrissey

Last evening, this writer had the distinct pleasure to talk to a dear friend, and an excellent representative to the legislature, from our town. This happened at the choral recital at Bennington Elementary school. This is typical of this lady. Overcoming, as best she can, her own recent loss of her mother. She attends, as most people know, most of the functions that are vital to the interests of the community in general.

Anyone who knows her, knows that she reasons from a basis of honesty. Her reasoning is balanced and just as clear as any mountain brook water, in her home state of Vermont. She works tirelessly for her constituents. She can't do everything, but she can do something, and she never ceases to do that something that she can do.

I am so relieved to see that notwithstanding her recent loss, she has picked herself up off the floor, dusted off her gloves, and once again, is facing the many problems this state is experiencing. Her name is Mary Morrissey, and this town is fortunate to have her honest, excellent representation in the Vermont State legislature, in this writer's opinion.

LAWRENCE E. HARRINGTON

Bennington