Letters for May 9, 2013

We’re fracked

Re “All fracked up” (Green, April 11):

If the allegations about hydraulic fracturing are true, we can expect major financial impacts to our state.

• Seismic activity: direct impact to mining

• Chemical exposure, explosions, leaks: Worker compensation claims will skyrocket

• Public health impacts: Extreme burden to our already stressed healthcare system

• Contaminated water, air and soil

• Loss of water as resource: Out of control wildfires, cost of hauling water to replace lost resource

• Fracking is exempt from the Superfund Act: Cost of clean up will fall on the state of Nevada

If SB390 is approved in its current form, there will be no recourse for our state to offset the huge financial impacts that could occur. It is my belief SB390 needs to be revised to protect our state in the event the allegations about hydraulic fracturing are true. It is also my opinion that the best course of action for this to occur is to implement a moratorium in order to study this issue in depth prior to allowing the industry to conduct business in our state. The financial implications to the state of Nevada could be catastrophic if hydraulic fracturing is shown to be as dangerous as many scientific studies are claiming. Petition: http://org.credoaction.com/petitions/nevada-s-public-health-is-at-risk-we-want-a-moratorium-on-hydraulic-fracturing .

Dawn Harris


Food for the future

Re “Everything you wanted to know about GMOs” (Feature story, May 2):

Our planet now holds about 7 billion human beings. Despite enormous progress—for the first time in history, a slim majority of those inhabitants can now be considered middle class—about 2 billion of those live on the brink of starvation. This growth will reach 8 billion by the middle of our century, when it is hoped continued economic progress will result in a leveling off of population growth, as economic security brings smaller families.

When we look at the problem of feeding these billions, it’s clear that modern agricultural practices, including GMO foods, holds the most hope for averting mass starvations. Organic agriculture cannot be counted on due to its inability to raise yields per acre. Organic if nothing else is traditional, and study after study has confirmed that traditional agriculture has yields per acre of up to 30 percent less than modern agriculture does. So, if you promote organic food production, while working to inhibit modern practices, you are saying that you don’t care about the survival of about 2-4 billion humans over the next few decades. That may seem to be a strong statement, but I think it fits. The organic movement in the US and Europe is essentially an upper middle class Caucasian movement, and organic food, despite its trendiness, lingers at less than 5 percent of US food production. In other words, a niche market. Statements by leaders in the organic food industry that they want to label GMO in order to grow that market are therefore all the more self serving and frankly illustrate how the green movement is more about preserving a peculiar view of nature than preserving human lives.

Not only has organic agricultural practices proven to be unable to keep up with human population growth, in fact if organic production were implemented on a large scale to even attempt to feed these hungry mouths, it would require putting many millions of acres of marginal farm land that is now wilderness to the plow. It would mean putting to the plow acreage roughly the size of South America! It is remarkable how modern agriculture has increased yields while banking land. If there is anything that is green, it would be forests and plains that man does not need to cultivate, but which nature can reclaim.

Perhaps we see a real clash of visions here. It would seem that many Greens envision a future quite Jeffersonian, where small farmers dominate the planet. Decentralization is good, but although I am largely Jeffersonian in my beliefs, I would speculate that the alternative to their vision is one where there is a good deal more pristine uninhabited wilderness, but the rest is dominated by large agricultural enterprises, and then smaller rings of small farms, suburbs and highly populated cities. Farming is dawn to dusk, dirty and dangerous work. The truth is, throughout history, most people, when given the choice, prefer to live in cities and close to cities. Modern agriculture, including GMO’s, are best suited to this vision of urban and suburban living, with large, yes, dare I say, factory farms and suburbs, but the Green tradeoff being much more uninhabited wilderness where nature can thrive alongside the futuristic cities we will build.

Brendan Trainor


GMO News & Review

Re “Everything you wanted to know about GMOs” (Feature story, May 2):

“Everything” we wanted to know? Be careful with the claims of largesse. I think you might have missed a few points. Like that approximately 27 countries ban GMOs and more than 60 require labeling. Why doesn’t the US? Greed, maybe. And when more of the money-hungry folks wake up to the fact that these countries aren’t going to want to buy our GMO-laden products, then they’ll have a reason that seems to make sense to them, yes they will (at least on the labeling and transparency issues). And while you quoted Kiki Corbin bringing up the point about companies like Monsanto controlling their seeds, you missed the mark on what that really means to the world in that these companies are on their way to controlling all of the agricultural seed of these major world crops. If this isn’t slowed and controlled, they could do it. That is huge!

Another point that was missed was that part of the problem with the Roundup Ready corn and soybeans (and other GM “improvements”) isn’t just with what we might be consuming, but also with what we are literally spreading to the wind. Plants from a GM crop field can’t help spreading some of the pollen from that field to the next. Monsanto and friends seem to think that the seed a neighboring farmer might save from corn that was cross-pollinated by the GM corn is now their property. Insert lawsuit here. Bye-bye family farm. So who are the remaining farmers going to be basically forced to turn to for their seed? And what about what happens when some other plant figures out a way to grab some of these new stylish genes for themselves? Scientist say this isn’t supposed to happen, but none of them really know for sure what nature can do.

And though I’m no scientist, and I agree that all of this is ultimately caused by over population, I think you let Shintani overstate that the population is growing exponentially. Yes, we’ve more than doubled the world population since 1960, and while you can plug in small numbers to make Shintani’s statement mathematically correct, most people are going to think that this means we more than double our population each year, rather than in 50 or so years. It just seems unusual for a scientist to make an emotionally charged, inaccurate statement like that without an agenda. But yeah, population growth needs to reverse, or we’re all screwed.

I also disagree with Shintani further, for myself, in that I don’t automatically distrust scientists. I do, however, distrust the people backing the scientists who are developing this stuff. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. While I applaud you for bringing what information you did to the community’s attention, (especially the information on what Kiki Corbin and others are trying to start in Nevada), I wish the article was more comprehensive–maybe should have been a series of stories covering a couple of these issues in each, well, issue.

Joel Lippert