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Genetic Genie


Fri, Jun 1st, 2001
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Monday, May 14, 2001

Nature provides for genetic exchanges through natural selection. Humans have long manipulated genetic inheritance through crossbreeding of plants and animals. But, in recent years, scientists have learned how to manipulate the genes themselves moving them at will from one organism to another. In "GMOs, Friends or Foes?" an article in the January-February 2001 "Minnesota Conservation Volunteer," science writer, Mary Hoff, explores what genetically modified organisms (GMOs) mean for Minnesota's environment. She reports that over 250 GMOs with traits such as herbicide tolerance, insect resistance and increased productivity have been released in Minnesota. For example, seeds resistant to glyphosate, a relatively safe weed killer, reduce the need for chemical herbicides and reduce crop injuries that occur with chemical use. Of concern is that GMOs could make herbicides and pesticides less effective by increasing exposure, thus quickening the rate at which weeds and pests develop resistance.

Nevin Young, University of Minnesota plant pathologist, says that genetic technology's greatest benefit is an increase in per-acre productivity, which increases our ability to feed a burgeoning world population. Who can argue against feeding the world?

However, unintended consequences come with GMO use. Hoff cites the deaths of monarch butterfly caterpillars that ate milkweed contaminated with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a microbe that kills the European corn borer. Bt corn roots also release toxins that can remain active in the soil for months. The jury is still out on how these toxins affect soil fauna, groundwater, wetlands and streams.

Hoff writes that transgenic genes may escape and interbreed with organic vegetables and their wild relatives. A wild population of any species consists of individuals whose genetic constitution varies widely. The potential and readiness for change are built into the survival unit. Artificially homogenous populations of man's domestic plants and animals are not well equipped to endure changing conditions.

GMOs tend to promote large-scale monoculture over diversified farming. Add to that the present rate of extinctions and we see a worldwide decrease in diversity and the ability of plants and animals to endure changing conditions, which ultimately threatens life itself.

A recent "Frontline/Nova" special described how GMOs, without our knowledge, have permeated our food sy .....
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"Come Hell or High Water"

Fri, Jun 1st, 2001
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Monday, May 28, 2001

Weaver Dunes Field Report Mid Spring 2001

Peepers and Chorus Frogs now sing in earnest from wetlands throughout Fillmore, Houston, Winona, and Wabasha Counties. The incredible din of these tiny inch long fr ..... 
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Plan ahead to beat The Blight

Fri, Jun 1st, 2001
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Virginia CooperMonday, June 4, 2001

One of the things I enjoy most about gardening is watching the changing foliage and bloom as flowers parade through our short summer. The month of May starts with tulips and daffodils and ends with iris and ..... 
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The Game of Softball

Fri, Jun 1st, 2001
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Monday, June 4, 2001

When I was growing up, my brothers and I began our softball season as soon as the grass in our front yard was dry enough to walk on without leaving tracks in the mud. We played softball every spare moment we got throughout ..... 
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The Death Penalty, with Chinese Characteristics

Fri, Jun 1st, 2001
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Monday, May 28, 2001

The European Parliament, considers capital punishment to be both barbaric and inhumane, regardless of the means by which the death penalty is carried out. They routinely mention the United States in the same breath as Chin ..... 
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