The Hot Potato of Organic Food Guidelines

Your story "Public Groundswell Sways Organic Guidelines" (May 14) fails to note that the organic foods movement offers absolutely no credible scientific evidence supporting its anti-biosolids stance. ("Biosolids" is the proper term for treated municipal sewage sludge that qualifies under federal regulations for land application as a fertilizer.)

The organic foods industry, which controlled the writing of the rule, excluded biosolids for being "synthetic." This shows a lack of understanding of how biosolids are produced - they are the natural byproduct of proper wastewater treatment. The cleaner the water gets, the more biosolids are produced.

In fact, biosolids are the bodies of microorganisms that died to make your water clean. What's synthetic about that? The federal "503" biosolids rule governing their use as a fertilizer took nine years to develop and is risk-based.

Biosolids are safe for use in growing food crops, as a blue-ribbon group of scientists impaneled by the nongovernmental National Research Council said in its three-year review of the 503 rule in 1996.

As a responsible newspaper, the Monitor needs to look hard and critically at what the organic rule's exclusion of biosolids is going to do to public perception of biosolids and just what wastewater treatment facilities all over the country are going to do with the millions of tons of this material that are produced in making our water clean. You can't just stack it in the back yard and hope nobody notices.

Steve Frank

Littleton, Colo.

Saving lives, not money

"Saving Rare Critters Squeezes Cities" (May 14) does not mention aspects of the Endangered Species Act that are worth mentioning.

While it is true that preserving (and hopefully restoring) endangered species may be costly, the US Congress intentionally wrote the ESA so that economic factors would not affect the listing of endangered and threatened species.

Obviously, Congress was aware that emphasis should be put on the preservation of life rather than the stuffing of developers' pockets and the tax coffers of American municipalities. However, the majority of Americans, as well as the secretary of the interior (who is responsible for listing endangered species), have missed the boat.

Probably caught up in an economic balancing game, the Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to designate critical habitats for a reported 80 percent of listed endangered species.

Furthermore, over 1,000 species await listing while only about 50 are added each year. And an estimated 27,000 species are permanently lost each year. At the same instant, the maniacal, urban sprawl bulldozer continues to destroy habitat these species must have to survive.

Money is the central focus. But it shouldn't be. Both Congress and the Supreme Court have described endangered species as "invaluable." It is high time that economics is taken out of the mix and Americans start focusing on the issue at hand - the preservation of life.

Garrett L. Boehm Jr.

Barrington, Ill.

Politically driven plates

"A New Strategy in the Abortion Fight" (May 8) is an intriguing story on the "Choose Life" license tags that the Florida legislature recently approved. I don't understand all the flap over political statements on license plates. Didn't New Hampshire have "Live Free or Die" (a rallying phrase from the Revolutionary War)?

D.L. Reilly


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