Wednesday February 6, 2013

On genetically engineered foods, GMO labeling

Editor of the Reformer:

Kai-Ming Pu asserts in the Jan. 31 Reformer Letter Box that scientific evidence "overwhelmingly" shows that genetically modified foods are safe.

However, several National Academy of Sciences studies have affirmed that genetically engineered food is likely to contain unexpected toxins, carcinogens or allergies. There is also proof that GE crops increase the use of pesticides that cause birth defects, endocrine disruption, damage to DNA, reproductive and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity and cancer at amounts equivalent to pesticide residue found on produce.

The point of the GMO labeling campaign is there is no definitive evidence that genetically modified food is safe, largely because testing of this kind cannot be done overnight. There have been no epidemiological studies, for example, of the possible impacts of the consumption of GE crops on health, and yet scientists have found that insecticide in GE corn is now showing up in the bloodstream and the umbilical cord of pregnant women.

Furthermore, federal agencies, like the FDA, who are responsible for things like labeling, have relied on research financed by companies that make genetically modified seeds. In a variation of the fox guarding the hen house, these same agencies are often staffed with people from the biotech industry, like Michael R. Taylor, a former executive at Monsanto, who was appointed the FDA's deputy commissioner for food and veterinary medicine.

Given the fact that 70 to 80 percent of our processed food has GMO ingredients (especially from corn and soy), labeling these ingredients has made good sense to over 90 percent of those polled in the United States, as well the 60 countries in the world that currently require it. For those who would like more information about this subject, you are invited to attend the free screening of Genetic Roulette on Monday, Feb. 18, 6 p.m., Room 2 East, Marlboro Graduate Center.

Tim Stevenson,

founding director,

Post Oil Solutions,

Feb. 4

Generating power ...
but to what end?

Editor of the Reformer:

The very greatest environmental impact upon the Connecticut River is Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage, which could power the entire state of Vermont at summertime peak electric load.

Pumping water from Turners Falls reservoir 800 feet up to the summit reservoir at 15 thousand cubic feet per second is equivalent to 340 typical railroad tank cars climbing Northfield Mountain every minute during many nighttime hours.

Cascading water from the summit reservoir back into Turners Falls reservoir at 20 thousand cubic feet per second is equivalent to 450 tank cars rolling down the mountain every minute during many daytime hours.

No more than 7 percent of American shad counted at Turners Falls dam (2005-11) made it through Turners Falls reservoir to Vernon dam after passing by Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage.

Concerned citizens can request and ensure that a thorough study of this extraordinary environmental impact and its mitigation is completed and implemented during Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) relicensing proceedings that have just begun.

[Note: My sources are: FERC Scoping Document 1 for the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project relicensing (FERC No. 2485-063, December 2012); tank-car equivalencies are based upon 7.48 gallons per cubic foot of water and the approximately 20 thousand gallon capacity of a typical tank car (www.gatx.com, lessor of 57 thousand railroad tank cars); American shad counts are as reported by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.]

Howard Fairman,

Vernon, Feb. 4

Affordable health care?

Editor of the Reformer:

For years, Vermont has led the way in making health care accessible and affordable by giving low- and middle-income Vermonters the chance to buy insurance through the state's VHAP and Catamount Health programs.

However, Catamount Health and VHAP will be eliminated when Vermont's Health Care Exchange begins in 2014. Approximately 30,000 of our fellow Vermonters who are either enrolled in or eligible for these programs will have to buy insurance through the Exchange, which in most cases will include significantly higher out of pocket maximums.

I applaud Governor Shumlin and his Administration for allocating $10.3 million in cost-sharing assistance and premium subsidies to cushion the blow of these price increases in 2014, but it's simply not enough. It's great that they have taken steps to lower premiums, but for many people, real health insurance is the assurance that if anything goes wrong, their families will be covered. Many families will be stuck rolling the dice and joining the uninsured population if they are faced with significant increases in their premiums.

I strongly encourage the Legislature to sit down and figure this out. I highly doubt that their goal when they put Vermont on the road to Green Mountain Care was to make it so that our fellow Vermonters can't afford to pay for unexpected injuries, hospital visits or surgeries. Our elected officials have an opportunity to prevent this, and help ensure that low and middle-income Vermonter's maintain affordable and accessible health care.

John Hatton,

Brattleboro, Feb. 1

KidsPLAYce turns 30

Editor of the Reformer:

KidsPLAYce is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year. Really, we have been serving this community for 30 years.

KidsPLAYce became a nonprofit in 1983 with the goal of fostering the healthy development of young children through playful and joyful learning experiences, while strengthening families through providing a supportive community environment.

There are people in this community who came here as children who are now full grown adults contributing to this wonderful town in which we live. It has been incredible meeting them and hearing their stories about what they loved about KidsPLAYce. It is also amazing to hear stories from the parents, caregivers, and grandparents of these children about how this space impacted their experiences as parents and the community they found here.

This year we are reaching out to you, the community, to begin collecting these stories to create a history and scrapbook of KidsPLAYce. We would also like to share these heartfelt stories in our efforts get financial support so that we can continue to grow and develop this wonderful community resource. We are looking forward to bringing more engaging exhibits and programs to our community in the coming years.

Please email your stories to KidsPLAYceVT@gmail.com. We would love photos as well for this project, if you only have physical photos feel free to bring them in so we can copy them and return them to you safely.

Later this year we will be hosting a reunion celebration for all the families who have been a part of KidsPLAYce and for all the dedicated people who made KidsPLAYce happen over the years. If you know any of these people please share this email with them so that we can invite them personally.

We are so grateful for your support over the years. We are looking forward to supporting this community for many years to come.

Elizabeth Johnson,

executive director,

Brattleboro, Feb. 1