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MN Blog Cabin Roundup 3/11

Amy Klobuchar moves to the DARK side on GMO labeling

from News Day by Mary Turck

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar joined Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee last week to vote for the DARK Act — the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act. That’s the bill that would forbid state and local governments from requiring labeling foods containing GMOs.

How DFL legislators with only 29% voter approval could win in November

from Wry Wing Politics by Joe Loveland

DFL state legislators are an awfully unpopular bunch. According to an August 2016 Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey of registered Minnesota voters, only 29% have a favorable view of DFL state legislators, while 49% disapprove. Not many candidates with 29% approval get reelected.

Still, DFL legislators may manage to do well in the November general election, due to at least five factors.

What happened to the Alondra Cano ethics complaint? (And why it matters)

from North by Northside by Jeff Skrenes

Late last year, Minneapolis Council Member Alondra Cano found herself in a controversy of her own making when she attended a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America, and used her Twitter account to publish the names and addresses of several of her constituents.  One of them filed an ethics complaint, or at least publicly stated his intentions to do so.  The issue was picked up nationally, and even on a global scale, with mainstream media calling it "doxing" and local bloggers offering a spirited defense of why this was not a violation of that nature. …

When that post was published, it took the story to a completely different place than what Minneapolis needed it to be, if we're to learn from it and arrive at better local governance.  Cano's actions weren't "doxing," and almost certainly didn't violate any laws.  They may, however, rise to the level of an ethics violation.  And that's where Minneapolis needs its elected officials to aspire to behavior that better facilitates constituent interaction with local government.

Punk debaters need an old-fashioned schoolmarm lesson

from After Thought on Unheralded.Fish by Nancy Edmonds Hanson

If there’s one big lesson we’ve learned from the latest Republican debates, it’s that this nation desperately needs more women in politics.

And not just any women. What front-runners Trump, Cruz and Rubio badly require to upgrade their discourse are a few battle-hardened sixth-grade teachers.

In defense of a paved Minnesota Valley State Trail

from streets.mn by Monte Castleman

Recently there’s been a lot of controversy about filling in a link in our protected bicycle trail network, the portion of the Minnesota Valley State Trail through the Minnesota River Bottoms in Bloomington. The idea to add a paved trail to the existing dirt mountain bike trail is nothing new, the concept of a trail from Minneapolis to Le Sueur (and later all the way to South Dakota) has existed since 1969. What’s different now is that construction of the controversial segment is imminent. Ann Lenczewski, the (now former) longtime DFL state representative from Bloomington, secured $2.5 million in funding in the 2013-14 legislative session. Plans are to do various engineering and survey work this year, with heavy construction, starting with a bridge over Nine Mile Creek, next year. City Pages recently ran an article, “The High-Priced Paved Trail Bloomington Doesn’t Want” and this has generated a lot of comments on Bloomington-related Facebook Groups, so I thought an article here would be timely.

Protected bikeways are even more useful in winter

from Biking in Mpls by Lindsey Wallace

This summer, I volunteered for the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition at Open Streets. My role consisted of standing around with a sign and encouraging people biking by to try out a temporary protected bikeway. This was part of a block sectioned off as a protected bikeway, with some fake planters and chalk. The idea was to give people an idea of what biking in a protected bikeway would feel like.

While volunteering there, the most frequent question I got was, “How are these going to be maintained in winter?” People were concerned. They were concerned that the city was going to spend money on facilities that would be costly or impossible to maintain amidst ice and snow.

Herbivorous Butcher

from Kinda Different by Keith Dawson

We ventured into Northeast to visit The Herbivorous Butcher (yeah, it sounded unlikely to us too) at 501 NE 1st, just inside the border. The place opened last month to widespread buzz, incuding in the international press. There the brother-and-sister founders claim to be producing vegan and gluten-free “meats” and “cheeses” unlike any others experienced (or suffered) by those in search of alternatives to food raised on the hoof.

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Comments (1)

GMOs

I'm very disappointed by your decision to feature a rehash of Mary Turck's knee-jerk response to Sen. Klobuchar's vote regarding GMO labeling without comment. Turck simply republishes an earlier post displaying the tired, superstition-based, half-true (at best) claims against GMOs that the organic marketing machine is using to create fear and doubt about biotechnology.

The post lists the usual misconceptions and outright falsehoods regarding GMOs, demonstrating a total lack of understanding of genetics, evolution, and simple historical fact. The implication is that the big bad corporations are trying to force poison down our throats while poisoning our environment. I am not used to defending corporate behavior, but in this case I feel I must present some facts to counter the overwhelming lack of honesty and understanding contained in virtually every statement in Turck's post.

First of all, corporate agriculture is not exclusive to those companies developing and using GMO technology. Whole Foods and Stoneyfield Farms are not mom-and-pop shops, and organic farms use pesticides, sometimes more intensively that conventional farmers, simply because they are less effective. If the justification for labelling is that consumers deserve to know how their food is raised, then organic products should also be labelled with information regarding the growers' use of pesticides.

The fact is that many genetically-modified crops make it possible for farmers to use LESS pesticide, which farmers like to do if only because it costs them less to produce the same amount of product. Roundup and Duo contain less dangerous chemicals, to both humans and the environment, than the pesticides they have replaced, and BT corn and soy eliminates the need for harmful insecticides. Misapplication of pesticides is always possible, with or without GMOs, and is also possible with so-called 'organic' pesticides. Likewise, monoculture is not a product of GMOs.

Nor is pesticide resistance the fault of GMOs. A rudimentary understanding of genetics and the history of agriculture reveals that herbicide-resistant weeds have been a phenomenon since the beginning of the use of herbicides, long before any GMOs were available. This is a phenomenon directly parallel to antibiotic resistance in medicine. The pesticides and antibiotics are not the culprits; the problem arises from particular practices, and can be remedied by changing those practices - crop rotation, for example, in the case of agriculture.

But then the argument for labelling switches to informing consumers as to "what" they're eating. In this case, there simply is no detectable difference in the contents of GMO vs. 'organic' food, just as there is no detectable difference in the contents of conventionally grown vs. organically grown food.

The real reason for insisting on labeling is to demonize GMOs - except the ones that 'organic' growers want to allow. Turck posits the choice as between transgenic modification, the insertion of genes from 'other' organisms to produce desire traits, and selective breeding. For some reason she chooses to omit other methods: hybridization, mutagenic modification, and gene editing.

Hybridization can modify dozens or hundreds of genes at a time, sometimes producing allergens, but such modification is unregulated and freely adopted by 'organic' growers (despite the fact that they are patented). Mutagenic modification modifies genetic structures by applying chemicals or radiation, and can modify dozens of genes at a time. The products can be destructive to human health, and have sometimes been withdrawn from marketing after having been shown to generate allergic reactions, but are unregulated and freely adopted by 'organic' growers. Should hybrids and mutagenically-produced foods also be labelled? If not, why not? The latest GMOs, potatoes and apples, were produced by copying the plant's own genes, so involve no outside organisms. Are these as 'dangerous' as those acquiring genes from other organisms? Is Turck aware that humans share 60% of our genes with fish? Are we dangerous?

The anti-GMO rhetoric is filled with falsehoods and based on both a lack of understanding of the underlying science and motivated reasoning. The consensus among scientists in biotechnology-related fields that GMOs are safe and even beneficial is parallel to the consensus among scientists in climate-related fields regarding anthropocentric climate change. Why, then, do otherwise seemingly intelligent people continue to ignore the facts and scientific knowledge and promote a false narrative?

And why does MinnPost, of all channels, continue to promote that narrative without comment?