Letters | 8-5-14


Use caution and science-based evaluation when considering GMOs

I write in response to Donna Worden’s letter of July 12.

I was surprised by the citing of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine statement that, “There is more than casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation.”

As a medical professional interested in the GMO debate I was unaware of any studies that establish cause of adverse GMO health effects in humans. Since I had not heard of the AAEM I did some brief research and noted that the academy does not publish any journal or sponsor research. I also note the following from Wikipedia:

“Quackwatch lists the American Academy of Environmental Medicine as a questionable organization, and its certifying board, the American Board of Environmental Medicine as a dubious certifying board. They are not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

If we want to cite organizations with a clearly stated goal of scientific objectivity we might look to the respected American Academy of Science Board of Directors October 2012 statement that, “… the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.”

Regarding GMO deaths of butterflies: This is true. Some genes introduced into plants are purposefully targeted to kill particular moth and butterfly species that destroy crops. And pesticides used to kill these same species do exactly the same.

Regarding GMO deaths of bees: The widely noted decline in bee populations may have many causes but a July 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture study joined a growing body of evidence linking bee deaths with pesticides. There has been no clear link to the pest-toxic components of currently used GMO plants. If use of GMO-modified plants results in a decreased use of the incriminated pesticides, the environment might be less toxic for the bees.

Regarding anecdotal reports of livestock illness: The previously cited AAS statement includes, “There are occasional claims that feeding GM foods to animals causes aberrations ranging from digestive disorders, to sterility, tumors and premature death. Although such claims are often sensationalized and receive a great deal of media attention, none have stood up to rigorous scientific scrutiny.”

Regarding cotton farmer suicides: A March 13 Economist review of data regarding cotton farmer suicides in India concluded, “The idea that GM cotton drives farmers to suicide has become received wisdom. But it is wrong.”

Genetic engineering is simply a tool. Like any tool, it can make good things and it can make bad things. A good things example is vitamin-enhanced foods that fight malnutrition. Potentially bad things examples include soybeans containing a Brazil nut gene that could cause allergic reactions, and Roundup resistance that encourages heavy herbicide use, which can promote resistance and cause health and environmental effects. So the scientific conclusion is genetic engineering as a tool is perfectly benign, but the products of that tool might be or might not be. I would suggest cautious and science-based evaluation of claims for both benefit and harm.

Sloganeering and presentation of anecdotes as science does not advance informed public discussion and policy.

C. Eric Lindborg

Kailua-Kona

Fight the urge to disengage

Reading the various news accounts reporting on candidate forums and listening to some candidates themselves wiggling, equivocating and obfuscating, my first impulse is to throw my hands up and say never mind. Why bother voting? Why bother giving testimony at council meetings or the Legislature? They do as they please regardless of what the majority of the people want or what is in the best interest of the constituents who pay their salaries.

Case in point. Both of Councilwoman Margaret Wille’s opponents in District 9 say “the jury is still out” on incineration and they do not yet know how they would vote until they see the actual proposals. The truth is the jury is not still out because the only proposals to be put forward next year because of the mayor’s limited request for proposals are for mass-burn, garbage-to-energy solutions. The task force of 24 professionals came out unanimously against incineration long ago. These candidates know they are either in favor of incineration or they are not but they choose to dodge the question.

Another disturbing factor that should frustrate any voter is all the super political action committee money from Honolulu going to candidates in Big Island races. Apparently PRP’s true colors became too well known after the Ben Cayetano smear, so it shut down and formed another super PAC headed by the same chairman but now called Forward Progress. It is still showering its money and influence on its favored candidates and smearing with glossy negative mailers and phone calls the candidates who won’t do their bidding.

And by the way, those who want more local control of our schools need to vote for the Libertarian candidate Alain Schiller, as both Malama Solomon and Lorraine Inouye stated schools should be under state control, which really means federal control — think Common Core. Solomon even goes as far, back to obfuscation, as indicating that if we want more local control of our schools, the county would have to come up with a lot of money, as if all education funding now comes only from the state.

So, it’s not easy. You must be diligent. Do your homework before voting and don’t be fooled by the fancy, glossy mailers flooding your mailboxes, and especially be leery of candidates who speak in platitudes and sound bites. And lastly, how long someone has lived here or where they went to school is less important than are they informed and will they represent their constituents?

Michelle “Mike” Kerr

Waikoloa