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Genetic Genie


Fri, May 11th, 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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Hoffman Stables

Return to Weaver - Field Report

Fri, May 11th, 2001
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Monday, April 30, 2001

Early Spring 2001

Regular readers may recall my article on the Blanding’s Turtle research project at Weaver Dunes near Wabasha, Minnesota, which appeared in the August 14, 2000 issue of the Fillmore C ..... 
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Container Planting Ideas

Fri, May 11th, 2001
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Virginia CooperMonday, May 14, 2001

This year why not try something new in that pot by the door. How many years have you planted geraniums and spikes? OK, they're reliable, trustworthly plants; disease free old friends that provide a summer of ..... 
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Math Class

Fri, May 11th, 2001
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Monday, May 7, 2001

My father was a mathematical marvel. He could figure stuff out in his head faster and more accurately than anybody I ever knew. I dare say I did not inherit either his good common sense or his ability to figure. That is not ..... 
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“It’s all about roads”

Fri, May 11th, 2001
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Monday, April 30, 2001

“The only thing the county board is concerned about are roads,” one person commented to me a few weeks ago.

And the way in which she said this implied that this was not necessarily a good thing.

About th ..... 
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