Letters for Tuesday, July 22, 2008

• Taking care of seeds

• The sting of the ‘kill’

• All the world’s a stage

• Measuring emissions

Taking care of seeds

With the wide ranging debates over GMOs going on, I’d like to share what I know. If I’m wrong clue me in, if I’m right, well …

Scientists for the seed growers have developed strains of plants, through cross-breeding for certain characteristics, to obtain plants with stronger stems, stronger root systems, ones that are disease and insect resistant and also have a higher yield and higher germination percentage rates. Their catch phrase, in order to pass it along as a good thing, is that “the higher yield will feed more people.” A farmer is out to make money like any other business, pure and simple. If he can’t sell his product, he will throw it away before giving it away. This sounds silly, but if he gives it away to people, they don’t have to go to the store to buy it and the store doesn’t sell any so they don’t buy it from the farmer, simple logic.

In truth, the seed scientist will cross breed and back-cross breed from 10 to 16 times, speeding up the evolutionary process, and yes, even going down to mess around at the DNA level if possible, to get a seed with all the characteristics they want in their hybrid seed and then sell them for big bucks because of all the time and energy they’ve put into growing them. But, hybrid seed will only produce that excellent, uniform crop one time. If you try to collect the seeds from that crop and plant it, it produces a mish-mash of mostly unuseable and certainly unsellable product. The result: you have to go back to the seed company for your seed again, creating a closed market. Same thing goes for their chemicals, those plants work best with only the chemicals they produce for farmers to use on them, producing another closed market.

Corn is especially prone to attack by the corn stem borer, a moth that lays its eggs in the tassel on top of the corn plant. The caterpiller eats the tassel then bores down the stem to the ear and eats it too. The seed companies have developed a corn plant that produces its own poison in the tassel that kills the corn stem borer. Yay. Unfortunately, it kills any other pollenators that happen to land on the tassel. Oh yeah, corn is self-pollenating from the wind, so those good insects are killed needlessly.

When I was a farmer, I used insecticide on a demand basis, when needed only and sparingly. It’s expensive and time consuming, but if I didn’t do any spraying, I wouldn’t harvest anything. I enjoyed collecting and storing my own seed to ensure a consistent crop. I didn’t expect 100 percent germination or 100 percent healthy plants. No farmer ever does. By saving my own seeds, I guaranteed I would have seed next year without having to worry about ordering from a seed company too late, getting the wrong or mislabeled seeds or old seeds or no seeds at all.

My farming days were before the GMO scare, but now, my biggest concern is if we have to rely on big companies to supply us with seeds and they somehow screw things up (now how could that happen?), where do we get seeds from? Humans have been growing their own food and collecting and sharing their own seeds relying only on nature and the law of natural selection for thousands of years without the help of big corporations. You know how things turn out when corporations take over something that we used to do for ourselves. Is that what you want to happen in a place like Kaua‘i where things grow so well on their own? Remember: they only tell you what they want you to hear to make you think and feel how they want you to feel.

Jack Custer


The sting of the ‘kill’

I understand Peter Saker’s indignation (“Where’s the equality and fairness toward men?” Letters, July 19) about the subject matter of “Smell of the Kill.” I am on the board of Women in Theatre and felt much the same way when I read the play, and described it as “snarky.”

The explanation for why women can get away with a drama such as “Smell of the Kill” is really sociological. The one privilege that underdogs have in a plural society is the right to have fun with the dominant group. Women have come a long way in the past few years, but men still hold a monopoly on the real power, which comes with position and money. Look at any group, Mr. Saker and you will note the same dynamic: brown and black people can make fun of white folks in a way not permitted white people; poor people make fun of the rich in a way the rich dare not; the uneducated; the educated; the oppressed against their oppressor.

When true equality exists that type of humor dies or loses its charms. Still I share with you a bit of your discomfort and hope the humor of the play takes away some of the sting.

Joy Jobson


All the world’s a stage

Grateful as I am that Peter Saker took the trouble to read The Garden Island article on Women In Theatre’s upcoming production, as the director of “The Smell of the Kill” it falls to me to offer him the courtesy of a reply to his letter.

This “group of women” (i.e. WIT) has for many years now striven to keep the weaker sex harmlessly employed in dramatic pursuits, so that our “hatred and violence” may be soothed and softened into abeyance both by the works of major male playwrights and our obedience to male directors, whom we strive to please as best we can.

I must acknowledge the impeachment that we have sought — albeit humbly — to provide satisfying roles for the “Monstrous Regiment of Women,” (as Saker’s fellow protester, John Knox so aptly called us) — but I’m sure Saker will agree that a satisfied woman is generally speaking, a good woman?

I hope Saker will come to our play. Pleasant laughter in pleasant company is soothing to the most savage breast — and it is, after all, only a play.

Romey Curtis


Measuring emissions

I read recently that scientists have concluded that 50 percent of the methane gas emissions in Argentina are produced by their large cattle herds. This amazing finding was achieved by strapping inflatable balloons to the cows derrieres and measuring the flatulence.

It occurred to me that perhaps we could do our part in the battle against global warming by strapping similar devices onto our politicians mouths and trapping the voluminous amount of hot air emanating therefrom.

Michael Wells



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