Another side of the biotech food fight

The debate over the threat genetically modified (GM) crops can pose to monarch butterflies is somewhat more complex than your article suggests ("US poised for a biotech food fight," Nov. 17).

The research suggesting that monarch caterpillars can be harmed by eating large amounts of the GM pollen was performed in laboratory conditions that might not be replicated in actual field conditions. Furthermore, as the journal Nature reported on Aug. 26, that same GM crop is not harmful to the insects that prey on the pests the crop is designed to resist. As a result, the researchers concluded that the crops have an "environmental advantage" over insecticides.

Genetic modification is no different from other scientific advances - it has upsides as well as downsides. The public needs to be fully informed of both sides of the argument if it is to avoid the mess that food fights invariably leave behind.

Iain Murray Washington

Issues more important than names

Regarding the opinion article "Can George Do It?" (Nov. 17): I don't believe the issue is whether George W. Bush knew the names of the leaders of India, Pakistan, etc. As president, he would be able to get any of those names with a 10 second telephone call to advisers.

I believe the issue is how Mr. Bush responded to the question. His response gives more of a measure of his qualifications to be president than his knowledge of the names of various leaders.

But I was concerned with his response. He could have said that although he did not know the names of these particular leaders (save one), he knew the situations each of the countries was involved in. Perhaps he could have given a brief description of those situations.

That would have answered the reporters question which, as the reporter said on camera, was more "how would you react to such a challenge" rather than "do you know these names?"

Steve Loher Boston, Mass.

Shared responsibility in N. Ireland

Regarding "Behind-the-scenes talks boost peace in N. Ireland," (Nov. 17): Gerry Adams's statement that decommissioning is "voluntary" was not pulled out of a hat, but taken directly from a statement by Gen. John de Chastelain, head of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning. Also, the story misrepresents the nature of so-called "punishment beatings," which took place within both communities in the north of Ireland and were generally inflicted on one's own constituents, most often because the local police service was unable or unwilling to take action against petty thugs.

The assertion that Protestant opponents (were beaten) by pro-IRA gangs is misleading, leaving the reader with the impression that violence was one-sided, which it was not.

Christy Ward New York Irish Northern Aid Committee

Unplug the phone!

I read with some amusement "A move to make mealtime safe from phone calls," (Nov. 15) about the efforts of consumers and legislators to limit or prevent phone solicitations during the dinner hour.

There is no law requiring people to answer the phone simply because it rings. If people want quiet during the dinner hour, simply unplug the phone or turn the volume down to zero.

Surely this is a simpler remedy than new and intrusive legislation.

Daniel McGoldrick San Rafael, Calif.

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