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LETTERS FROM OUR READERS.

DESIGNER GENES

I just read your cover story on the human genetic blueprint ("Designer People," January/February 2001) and agree with the scientist who said that many traits are the result of nurture, not nature. In my opinion, altering genes to produce "the perfect child" is totally wrong. Generations of parents are getting lazier and lazier. What makes a child is how the child is raised.

According to the article, athletic children can be produced by altering genes. But what about parents spending time with their children to teach them sports or help them learn? What happened to good old-fashioned parenting?

Jillian Lyons Gallatin, TN

When you first look at genetic engineering, it all looks good: Life can be extended, diseases can be prevented, and children can be perfect. The problem arises when we look further into the future. If no one dies and lives are extended, our already overpopulated world would reach unthinkable numbers. As it is, we hardly have enough resources to feed everyone. And how would we regulate who gets the longevity genes? The people who cannot afford to buy their children special genes would be cast out and rejected. Everyone else would be perfect, and our world would be boring. The whole concept of purchasing genes is ridiculous, and I hope it never happens.

Ryan Graham Kanata, Ontario

Your article about so-called "designer" people was shocking, like something from a science fiction novel. We would have two classes of people--the "naturals" and the "gene enriched." There could be people walking around with the nose of a bloodhound, the eyesight of an eagle and maybe even the agility of a cheetah. With 3.2 billion chemical letters to decipher, I can't imagine this happening anytime soon. But it makes me wonder what the next millennium will be like. Scary.

Paul Dale Roberts Elk Grove, CA

HOG-WASHED

There is quite a bit wrong with the picture painted by the article, "This Little Piggy Creates Waste," (In Brief January/February 2001). The only positive thing about this industrialization of livestock production is an economic boost to the community. However, when you take a closer look, you realize that this is false economy. The true costs of such operations are not taken into account: the environmental cleanup and acute and chronic health problems associated with the operation.

Environmental disasters such as this must be stopped. It is not a question of whether or not to raise hogs, but how. Some farmers raise healthy hogs, whose waste is considered a resource. It is important for people to read about livestock producers who use alternative management strategies, combining old-fashioned animal husbandry with new low-tech facility design and sophisticated ideas about the relationships between livestock and the land. These farmers need support in leading a movement away from confinement livestock operations, and your magazine could help raise this awareness.

Tina Pilione Holistic Management Certified Educator Eunice, LA

Thank you for pointing out the environmental mental disaster that is factory farming. The portrayal of hog production in your In Brief was extremely enlightening as to the impact of this operation on its community. The contaminating nature of this type of hog facility, and the pork products rendered by it, are disastrous to human health. This fact, together with the barbaric, inhumane treatment of these sentient beings, will always make me wonder why confined animal feeding operations even exist. I'm always shocked back to reality by the sight of those "Golden Arches" slinging Sausage McMuffins on every street corner in America and by the bulging waistlines we see each day. I long for the day when compassion for non-human animals and the environment will outweigh the human ego and lust for money.

Chad Brown Tampa, Florida

David Robinson's employee "health benefits" at his proposed hog facility production plant would pale beside the health hazards they would face working in such an environment.

North Carolina's Hog Watch knows whereof it speaks; much of North Carolina became a cesspool after 1999, when Hurricane Floyd sloshed the contents of pig manure "lagoons" together with animal corpses across a good-sized swath of territory. Short of natural disasters, leakage of these lagoon liners fouls water supplies with feces-borne illnesses, and even while masked, factory farm workers and neighbors still suffer elevated risks of respiratory ailments from the stench of fast-accumulating manure. Down the line, workers in slaughterhouses and processing plants endure high rates of cuts, falls and repetitive stress injuries, not to mention psychological damage.

So congratulations to the six planning and zoning board members who showed good sense in voting down this public health disaster. What did the other five have in mind?

Murry J. Cohen, M.D. Annandale, VA

FLUORIDE FALLACIES

The article "Facing up to Fluoride" (Your Health, January/February 2001) is well done and agrees almost entirely with the investigation of fluoridation I did for a grad school research project. I'd like to add a couple of additional discoveries.

I found that my state recommends one part per million (ppm) of fluoride be added to drinking water, while the Centers for Disease Control recommends only 0.8 ppm for our climate region. Despite either recommendation, fluoride levels for the several months I measured them never dropped as low as one ppm, and they sometimes reached as high as 1.5 ppm. I traced the source of the product added to our water and found that arsenic and other contaminants, in varying levels, are always included along with the fluoride compound.

It's hard to say how much fluoride we get these days because it's now on vegetables and fruits through pesticide use. I found it ironic that, although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services points to several health problems associated with fluoride exposure and accumulation, the American Dental Association doesn't bother to mention these details.

I also haven't read much about how this hazardous material, which is regulated as a pesticide, crosses the placenta. Since fetuses have underdeveloped kidneys, they are automatically part of the susceptible population. Children absorb more fluoride than adults, so just what are we doing to future generations by encouraging pregnant women to consume it?

Susan Vaughan Kitty Hawk, NC

Usually, your articles are complete and profoundly to the point, but your discussion of fluoride needs some clarification.

"Fluoride" by itself is a meaningless term. There are actually two vastly different forms of fluorides involved. The fluoride sometimes found naturally in ground water is calcium fluoride, a relatively safe and firmly bonded form. Fluoride added to drinking water supplies, beginning with the Newburgh experiment in the 1940s, is sodium fluoride, a dangerous poison and a by-product of the chemical industry. The addition of sodium fluoride to reduce cavities was permitted because at the specified two parts of additives to a million parts of water, almost any poison would be diluted to an insignificant presence. Not emphasized, however, was the mottled, hardening effect of any fluorides on teeth or the possible accumulative long-term effect of such additions.

Kaare A. Bolgen North Adams, MA

CAUGHT ON FILM

As I hold a degree in photography and have spent 30 years in the industry, I would like to add to your Ask E response on photographic chemicals in the January/February 2001 issue:

* The two chemicals you mentioned by name (catechin and para-plenylenediamine) have been almost unheard of in a photo lab for many years.

* The greatest problem is allergic reaction to the developing agent used in the color negative film process (C-41), which frequently contacts skin.

* Only amateur products are packaged as a powder, and inhaling any powder is a bad idea.

* Stop bath is acetic acid (half strength vinegar), but the concentrate can be, and is labeled as, dangerous.

* The reason used fixers should not be dumped in the sewer is because they contain silver. All commercial photo labs recover the silver by one of several processes.

* The most important thing to remember is that anything that is misused can be dangerous.

Howard Stein Cherry Hill, NJ

PASSING THE WORD

Your "Balancing Act" cover story in November/December 2000 carries a lot of weight. I am using it as part of my presentation to city councils around Colorado. Having bicycled 100,000 miles on six continents, I have been up close and personal with overpopulation, from the Taj Mahal to the Great Wall of China. I've seen the effects from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Currently, I am visiting city councils trying to get the Aspen Resolution for immigration reduction and population stabilization passed one by one.

Frosty Wooldridge Louisville, CO

PESTICIDE-FREE TREES

I have a hard time understanding the promotion of kenaf and hemp as a replacement for wood pulp in paper products ("Wrapping It Up," Consumer News, November/December 2000). I have nothing against paper made from alternative materials, but the idea that you are doing your part to save the environment by using them is puzzling.

Per a Mississippi State University publication, "kenaf is parasitized by a number of species of plant-parasitic nematodes." They identify nematodes as being "associated with kenaf production in practically every country where the crop has been produced." The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs indicates that more than 50 different viruses, bacteria, fungi and insect pests are known to affect hemp. It's a safe bet that growing these plants in monocultures over a large area will exacerbate these pest problems, resulting in the use of pesticides in much greater volume than the "minimal" amount mentioned in your article. I am a tree farmer, one of approximately 67,000 nationwide. In the 20 years I've owned my tree farm, the pesticide use probably hasn't exceeded a gallon. Can't get much more "minimal" than that.

Geary N. Searfoss, Executive Director Wisconsin Forest Productivity Council Rhinelander, WI

THE ENVIRONMENTAL PRICE

I just read your Ask E response to "Does environmentalism hurt the economy?" (March/April 2000). Your answer was misleading, manipulative and dead wrong. I lived in Oregon during the Spotted Owl debacle. It wasn't just a few loggers that lost their jobs. Whole communities were devastated. I saw people lose their homes and families break up. I saw banks fail and unsold new homes boarded up.

You mentioned in your answer that "environmental regulation often increases the number of available jobs." You are absolutely right. Look in any federal, state or local government agency and you will see an increase over the last decade of several orders of magnitude in the number of environmental regulatory jobs. In industry, there has been a similar increase just to keep up with new regulation. Nothing gets done without at least an environmental assessment. All these costs are hidden from the public. They come in the form of increased taxes and fees, and increased costs for products. If people only knew the real costs of environmentalism they would be appalled.

Alex Sundberg Stayton, OR
COPYRIGHT 2001 Earth Action Network, Inc.
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Publication:E
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:May 1, 2001
Words:1816
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