Labels, please, for genetically altered food

Jennifer Thomson may be correct about the need for genetically engineered food in countries such as South Africa and China ("Poor nations can't afford debate on gene-altered crops," Nov. 13). I have no quarrel with these countries if they provide their citizens with such food.

My quarrel is with such food being produced in the United States, and being sold in my supermarket without my knowledge. All I want is to have a notice on each can, bag, apple, or ear of corn that has been so treated. It seems a small thing to ask.

Lee Rathbone San Diego

The argument that poor nations will benefit from genetically modified foods belies the realities of the biotech industry. This position ignores the fundamental issue that world hunger is not a result of insufficient supply, but rather the economics of distribution.

The biotech industry, in fact, is intent on establishing proprietary technologies such as "terminator" genes, which will prevent farmers from saving seeds. Furthermore, there are enormous hazards in these highly inexact technologies. In the face of unclear risks, we should act with utmost caution. To address world hunger, we must focus on the root economic causes rather than a magic technological fix.

Rafael K. Reyes Foster City, Calif.

Professors need time to think

Regarding your Nov. 7 article "Pressuring professors to put in more face time": As a tenured professor at a large land-grant university, I see 90 percent of my colleagues spend so much time working that they must make serious sacrifices in other parts of their lives. If anything, university faculty need fewer demands on their time, not more.

It is a common error for critics to look at the number of classroom hours and conclude that academics lead a cushy life. But this ignores the vast amount of time that academics devote to research, teaching preparation, administrative duties, and contributing their expertise to public service. All this for salaries which fall well below the vaunted corporate pay.

Historically, one of the great gifts of university life was a contemplative atmosphere in which a faculty member could pursue an idea without fear of losing his or her job because of "low" productivity. Already corporate-style pressures are leading beleaguered colleagues to choose "safe" research projects over projects which may be more innovative, but are necessarily also more time-consuming.

The real public relations task for universities is to educate the public about what their faculty really contribute.

Sally McMurry State College, Pa.

Candidates are fathers, too

In your Nov. 15 article "A run that fizzled - or a promising start?" you mention that former Green Party vice-presidential candidate Winona LaDuke is a "native American author, mother of three, and activist with a Harvard degree."

My question is this: How many children have been fathered by the twelve males mentioned in the article? It seems that when we discuss the success of women in extra-domestic spheres, we are obliged to point out that their success in such endeavors did not come at the expense of their normal and routine female duties.

While I respect and admire Ms. LaDuke for her success in all fields, parenting included, I lament the apparent unevenness of our expectations as evidenced by the way we talk about successful women.

Wayne Day-Laporte Prides Crossing, Mass.

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