Tilling the debate over genetically altered crops

In "No bumper crop of genetically altered plants" (Aug. 30), you lament the uncertain future of genetic engineering and explain that major trading partners will not allow the importation of modified US seeds or foods until they are tested for safety.But it is not strictly true that nations safeguard consumers. Our government has no such concerns - genetically engineered products are often not even labeled.Not surprisingly, the food industry opposes labeling, preferring to take profits now and let someone else worry about the consequences.Our government seems to share this approach, as it has not adopted labeling requirements. That greed and government complicity have come to this stage is a profound indictment of immorality in public policy.The only way we can protectour children and ourselves is to buy products that are labeled officially "organic."

Marie Robinson Key West, Fla.

I am perplexed by "Hope for sustainable farming in gene-altered crops" (Aug. 30, opinion page). I agree that genetically altered plants hold promise in fighting salinization. But to state that salts are stored in leaf parts raises the question of what happens to these salt-imbued leaves. Also, the statement that "we can productively increase funding for public research" seems to ignore the fact that a great deal of research is carried out at public institutions such as the University of California, Davis. The chief financial beneficiaries of this tax-supported largess remain big corporations. Gene-altered crops may be important weapons against salinization, but they are not panaceas.

William Preston San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Thank you for the article on gene-altered crops. I have always had some qualms about these forays into food production, and have worried about the long-term risk of eating genetically altered foods. I understand that small farmers have for generations saved seeds from one season's crop to plant the next season. But from what I have read, seeds from genetically altered plants are not viable the next year, thus requiring farmers to re-order seeds each season, and perhaps bringing them financial hardship.

Frieda Arkin Ipswich, Mass.

For the past two years, I have grown genetically engineered (GE) Bt sweet corn and potatoes, neither of which requires insecticides. After harvest, the genetically engineered Bt sweet corn and potatoes outsold the conventional by a margin of 3 to 2, at the same price. Many consumers were interested in taste; for others, the selling point was a reduction in pesticide spray and worm damage.

This year, people are asking for Bt sweet corn. But the necessity of buying bags of 100,000 seed units (which plant six acres) makes it impractical for many farmers. If companies and processors want to capture the benefits of agricultural biotech - including reduced pesticides - then we must offer customers the option of GE crops.

Jeff Wilson

Birkbank Farms Orton, Ontario

In casinos, inspiration not in the cards

In "The empty lure of casinos" (Aug. 28, editorial page), you suggest that casinos foster the belief in chance. Very true. Our pervasive gaming mentality sullies and degrades the human spirit, inoculating thought from the benefits of seeking and striving for spiritual things - now satisfied to leave the future to that pagan goddess, "Lady Luck." The most disturbing aspect of this tragic development is that it makes society more antagonistic to genuine inspiration, which threatens this myopic view of life.

Wade Hampton Tisdale Boonville, Mo.

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