Monday, May 09, 2005

The New Hoosier

Originally uploaded by jonimcgary.
When I make mental or paper lists of the good things about living in Indiana versus Fairfield County, I always include "cleaner air, cleaner environment". Or, perhaps I have listed it as "safer air, safer environment." I have assumed that the air must be cleaner and therefore safer here. There surely must be less pollution. After all, Fairfield county is bordered on two sides by major highways. The emissions from the traffic alone surely must make for dirtier air there versus here. We don't even have an interstate that goes through Bloomington. Plus, we have all that wholesome farmland around. So, there must be healthier here. Am I right?

Maybe not.

Two things have come to my attention lately. First, Indiana has a ton of soybean planted acreage. Most of the farmers use Round-Up on their (probably) patented "Round-Up Ready" genetically engineered soybeans. For awhile, that worked just dandy. But, nothing lasts for ever and eventually the weeds got wise and evolved to be resistant to Round-Up. So, now what we have is some kind of super weed that requires something else to kill it. Now, farmers are starting to use an older, much less safe product in addition to the Round-Up to kill this resistant weed. What will be the effect of this widespread use of this old agent, proven to be a lot less safe than Round-Up, on our air and water here? I am not feeling very positive about it.

PLUS...and this one is very disconcerting...the (asshole)governor of Indiana just signed something that would prohibit localities from declaring their town/village/city...whatever their local jurisdiction is...from declaring it to be a genetic engineering free zone for agriculture. Why is this important? For lots of reasons but the most compelling is this: pharmaceutical companies are starting to test the use of crops as vehicles to "manufacture" drugs. For instance, one could splice a gene into a strain of corn, plant a field of such corn and harvest corn containing the desired drug. The company could isolate the drug from the crop. They are testing this because it would be a cheap method of manufacture. I know that this is not at all far fetched having worked in the biotech industry. Milk producing animals are used often for the same purpose. The drug is isolated from the milk.

Using animals doesn't bother me that much because they can be contained. But using open air crops is just plain scary. How can cross contamination be controlled? (It can't...just look at the Round-Up Ready crop lawsuits.) How would we be sure that a field of a hormone-producing corn for example would not contaminate other crops in a community or even the drinking water of a community and over time lead to lots of unexpected health problems? (I can see the headlines now...Crazy citizens claim corn crop caused sterility of their entire town. ) The companies are not required to tell anyone where they are doing field testing and what they are testing. So, a locality would have no idea what was being done in its city limits and would have NO oversight or say in the matter...UNLESS, they can legislate themselves to be a no genetic-engineered crop zone. At least until they can study the matter further and make sure it is safe. The notion that the state can take this right away from a more local government is apalling to me. Very scary when you live in farming state in which there resides a powerful pharma company or two. Ah, the power of the lobby.

In other controversial Midwest news, Jack made a potholder today and ate four GoGurts. He referred to Chris's scar as the "crack in Daddy's chest." I made killer spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, watched Bill Mahr with my beloved hubby and will now go to bed and read a book.

See? Life goes on.

Don't get me wrong, I am not for banning research...or anything like that. I don't oppose animal testing. Hell, I would even wear a fur if it looked good on me for that matter. I do oppose irresponsible testing of any sort without a community having a say in how it is conducted on it's turf. Is that so radical?

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