Rokita's Betrayl

Representative Todd Rokita has betrayed you, again! On May 12th, he signed on as a co-sponsor for HR 1599, a Congressional bill that would effectively block required labeling of foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients. A labeling requirement on such foods exists in 64 countries worldwide.
This is not a new story. Rokita signed on as a co-sponsor of the same bill introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas in the last session of Congress. Pompeo is a darling of big chemical/seed and big food corporations. It appears Rokita wants to be one as well.
HR 1599 carries the name, “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act”. It is far from that. Those of us that believe the public has a right to know how food is produced and what is in it call the act, “The Deny Americans the Right to Know Act” (DARK). Take a look at food labels now. There is a great deal of information on them, but big chemical/seed and food corporations want no one to know if genetically engineered components are a part of the food you eat. Secrecy is the word.
Contrary to claims about the safety of GE or GMO foods, there have been no long term human health safety tests. Tests on laboratory animals, mostly outside of the United States, have shown all sorts of health concerns with measurable damage to digestive systems, liver, and other organs. In the United States, GE foods were simply declared safe by government decree under the George H.W. Bush/Dan Quayle administration. The decision was political and not based in sound science. The scenario continues. People have become the laboratory test animals without their knowledge or consent.
There is a new reason now for even greater concern. Glyphosate (RoundUp, typically) pesticide has been declared a “probable human carcinogen”; that is, causes cancer. This comes from the World Health Organization: International Agency for Research on Cancer. This designation is the highest possible through laboratory animal testing.
The primary reason for genetically engineered corn and soy beans to date has been to enable them to withstand massive doses of glyphosate pesticide and live. All vegetation around them is to die. It is known pesticide residues follow the crop to the dinner table. Now we know there may be an increased risk for cancer. But, you are not supposed to know that.
I am taken by the parallels I see between the tobacco industry and the present day big chemical/seed and processed food industries. Secrecy and lies dominated the tobacco industry.
So, here we are with a Representative that prefers to keep you in the dark. He does not want you to know if the foods you feed your family contain genetically engineered ingredients or have been dosed with a cancer causing pesticide. He does not want you to be able to make informed decisions for yourself, but rather have the big federal government make them for you. He wants all power to rest with federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency that have failed to protect you in the first place. He wants to take all power away from states to be able to make decisions and act for their respective citizens.
I, for one, fail to understand this kind of reasoning unless it again is yet another case of follow the corporations, lobbyists, and the money. It certainly is not to protect the interests or health of Indiana citizens.
Nice going, Representative Todd Rokita. You are one for the books.

Age of Disbelief / National Geographic Magazine

[There is an article in the March 2015 issue of National Geographic magazine that caught my eye. The article, “The Age of Disbelief”, by Joel Achenbach describes several scenarios wherein the common public does not believe what science tells. The part that got me was that about genetically engineered foods. It was false. My letter to the National Geographic editor is below.]
As a holder of a masters degree in aquatic toxicology and a doctorate in genetics, I want to call your attention to what I believe to be a grossly erroneous statement in Joel Achencach’s article, The Age of Disbelief, concerning foods containing genetically modified ingredients. He said, “…. there’s no evidence that it isn’t (safe) and no reason to believe that altering genes precisely in a lab is more dangerous than altering them wholesale through traditional breeding”. This statement is blatantly false.
Point one: the genes are NOT altered PRECISELY. Genes are inserted via gene gun, microinjection, or via bacteria or viruses infection. There is no precise insertion but rather random mass insertion into the host genome. There is no measure of damage or alteration to the host genome which can happen in dozens of ways. And there is an abundance of evidence of serious health consequences in laboratory animals in studies conducted outside the United States. Read the literature.
Point two: genetic modification or engineering cannot in any way be compared to traditional breeding. Traditional breeding respects biological barriers that have developed over millions of years. Genetic engineering grossly violates those barriers with unknown consequences. The resulting plant or animal on the molecular level is total different than the original plant or animal. There is a significant difference and there is always the potential of rogue proteins appearing.
Point three: to date the primary reason for genetic modification has been to create plants able to withstand massive doses of glyphosate (most commonly in RoundUp) and live with all vegetation surrounding those plants dying. Now one sees the development of super weeds and the recent determination by the World Health Organization that glyphosate is a “probably human carcinogen”. This is the highest designation possible with lab animals. Pesticide residue follows these crops to the dinner table.
So, Achencach did not do his homework. He swallowed the tale told by big chemical/seed and big processed food corporations. National Geographic is supposed to be a truth teller. In this case, readers were fed a story that puts them at risk.
Regards, Kent Blacklidge PhD

Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Wall Street Journal

[Ms. Pamela Bailey, President and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association had an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal in support of genetically engineered foods (GMOs) on May 7th, 2015. Below is a copy of an email response sent to her.]
Ms Bailey….. I happened to purchase a copy of the Wall Street Journal for reading while eating lunch. I ran across your opinion piece about GMOs. It is clear where your pay check originates, but I am wondering about what background you have in biological science.
I, for one, applaud Chipotle’s decision to remove genetically engineered ingredients from the food they offer. I applaud Vermont, and for that matter Connecticut and Maine, for passing legislation that would require labeling of foods containing GE components. I applaud all efforts, and there have been many, to pass GE labeling legislation in the many states where legislation has been introduced. I just hope Rep. Mike Pompeo’s bill will go down in defeat.
I noted that your piece could have been written right out of the Monsanto public relations department. What you failed to mention is that 64 countries world wide require labeling or ban GE foods all together. What you failed to mention is that food companies have been able just fine to serve markets in those countries. What you failed to mention is that GE crops were brought to the market and declared to be safe simply by government decree during the Bush/Quayle administration with Michael Taylor at the FDA. What you failed to mention were Taylor’s close ties to Monsanto and even being a VP there for a time. What you failed to mention is that there have now been several animal studies, mostly in other countries, where test animals fed genetically modified feed developed a whole range of health issues. What you failed to mention is that the primary reason for GE crops to date has been to enable them to withstand massive doses of the herbicide, glyphosate, and live. What you failed to mention is that pesticide residue follows the crop to the dinner plate and that glyphosate has now been designated as a “probable human carcinogen” by the WHO. And, I might add, the use of pesticide has gone up, not down.
And why do I care. My background includes over 20 years in the newspaper industry with several as publisher of an Indiana daily. At middle age, I returned to Purdue where I garnered a MS in aquatic toxicology and a PhD in genetics. I was with a research group that did some of the early genetic modification in fish. I know the inside story.
You have partaken of the Kool-Aid served by big chemical/seed corporations. Last year, the AARP reported that the expected life span for men in the USA is last among 17 industrialized countries and that of women is 16th of 17. Further they reported the span has grown wider over the past 30 years. Something is seriously wrong and I happen to believe it is our food supply when compared to the other 16 countries.
You claim “GMOs have been in the food supply for decades without a single documented illness”. I would appreciate knowing of long term safety studies, human or animal, carried out by independent researchers in the United States without ties to big chemical/seed or big food.
Finally, I am about as staunch an advocate as one might find for the public right to know. There is a long list of information on food labels. Whether a product contains genetically engineered ingredients needs to be in that list. Secrecy is not the answer. I am taken by the parallels I see with the history of the tobacco industry. Secrecy and lies were the order of the day.
Regards, Kent Blacklidge


That is the last number I read of the dead that had been trying to get from Libya to Italy. The boats they were on sunk. The people drowned. This is a catastrophe without end.
Europe does not want to be the destination of choice for the thousands who want to flee the conflicts, lack of food, and lack of jobs of the Middle East and of Northern Africa. But, it is. Australia ultimately adopted a no immigrant policy for those trying to enter from South East Asia. Europe is already faced with thousands of immigrants who came from very different cultures and faiths than what had been traditional in Europe for centuries. Assimilation has been very difficult at best. All sorts of civil unrest has resulted.
Now there is a proposal being considered to use military power to destroy the boats that are being used by human traffickers. The idea is to make people stay where they are; to make it much more difficult to travel from one continent to another. This is a good idea. The flow of people from over populated, resource poor and war areas needs to be stopped or it will ultimately destroy the receiving countries.
The one issue no one will talk about is population. Virtually all of the pressure for immigration comes from already over populated countries. The long term solution is for populations to shrink, not continue to grow. It is only then that there can be economic progress made that will provide people with opportunities to take care of themselves. Do I think this is going to happen. NO.
The pressure for immigration will continue to grow as human population on the planet heads toward 12 billion. The numbers are not growing in already developed countries. They are where population is already a major problem. Take a look at Niger, Mali, Somalia, Chad, Burundi and Nigeria. The average number of births per woman in those countries still exceeds 6 and in Niger it is 7.6. Or how about Yemen and Iraq at over 4. They have no chance. By contrast, the birth rate in the United States and in other developed countries is less than 2, where it needs to be to stabilize population. The USA would have a stable population if immigration was not a factor.
The pot boils.

The Trolley

Little things do mean a lot. Kokomo had a bus line decades ago that had routes all over town with the main hub being on the north side of the downtown square in front of the then Turner Department Store building. There was a drugstore, dime store and a couple of others along the block between Buckeye and Main on Walnut Street. That was the transfer point for people coming off one route and proceeding on another.
What I remember as a pre-teen was that if could you could put your money in the coin box as you entered the bus, you could ride anywhere in town. That was the way all the kids in town went to the Saturday afternoon movies, all of which were within a couple of blocks of the center of town. None remain. All of the cities’ kids were watched over by all the adults in town. Safety was not an issue.
Times changed. The bus line disappeared. Shopping centers sprung up east, west, and south. People had to get themselves there and back. This was tough on those who did not have a car or physically had difficulty getting around. That was the case for decades. The downtown deteriorated. Some public transportation existed but only on a limited basis.
Times have changed again. The downtown of Kokomo is alive with activity. Kokomo added the Kokomo Trolley system with a hub about a block south of city hall. It is a real joy to see KokomoCityLineTrolleypeople who now depend upon the trolley to get all over our city from the far reaches in every direction. It has been a blessing for a whole collection of people. My hat goes off to a city administration that had the guts to give this a try. There were voices that said the system would not work and that people would not use it. They were wrong. The trolley is part now of the character of Kokomo. Good.

J200 – Journalism

The semester at Indiana University Kokomo is coming to an end. The campus is buzzing with students winding up assignments, taking final tests, and looking forward to at least a few days of rest before summer sessions begin.
For me, it was the end of attending a class in journalism taught by Dr. Erin Doss. Yes, I lived 20 years plus at the Kokomo Tribune including four as its publisher/CEO. I did some writing but mostly was concerned with management of a business and getting a newspaper on the door step of each subscriber every day at the same time. Formal journalism was not in my background. I wanted to learn particularly about the change in journalism over the past 3 decades. I did.
I loved the class. Just being around students and a professor who were enthusiastic about writing and journalism was refreshing. I found the cardinal principles of journalism had not changed one single bit. Reporters still are to gather news and information, then present it to their readers in as objective, complete, and unbiased ways as humanly possible. Hard news and opinion are to be separated. Features are to entertain and educate. Readers are informed about matters and issues that affect their lives. None of that has changed.
What has changed are the vehicles to get information from the heads and hands of a reporter to the eyes and minds of the reader. In my final days at the Kokomo Tribune, it was from reporter to computer keyboard to photo paper to full page paste ups to camera to full page negatives to press plates to, finally, a high speed offset press…… then on to delivery trucks for carrying to over 200 mostly teenage newspaper carriers and to subscribers’ door steps. That was the system.
Huge change has taken place. Now news starts with the reporter with final page design and layout (pagination) being done right in the newsroom. The image goes directly to machines that produce the press plates; then on to the press. The teenage carrier system has all but disappeared. Press runs are typically at night and delivery is by adult carriers in cars. But there is more: electronic media.
Even in the classroom, students were accessing news only minutes old via cell phones and computers. Social media and electronic delivery of news are the ways of today. Newsprint and ink have had to take a back seat and will likely remain that way.
I must tell you, though, that for this old dog the sounds of a press, the smells of paper and ink, and the joy of holding a newspaper in hand will never fade. Newspapers were the historical record and conscience of a community. I am not sure how this will ever be replaced.
Thank you, Dr. Erin Doss for an enjoyable, enlightening semester for this dinosaur.