- The Washington Times - Monday, May 13, 2002

Gene-splicing tricks doom crops

Commentary columnist Michael Fumento easily dismisses the weaker arguments against genetically modified crops ("Beating the 'Frankenfood' rap," May 9). However, he does not mention the stronger case against transgenics.
When pesticides were introduced, they were successful. Soon, however, insects began to develop a resistance, and more and different pesticides had to be used. The same phenomenon will apply to transgenics with built-in pesticides, only worse. The natural pesticide spliced into our crops is in every cell of every plant throughout its life. Pests that survive will breed and pass resistant genes to their progeny. With chemical pesticides, we learned that constant spraying leads quickly to resistant pests. As a result, we got away from "calendar spraying" and started using "integrated pest management," which uses pesticides as a last resort. Crops with pesticide built into their DNA will soon destroy the usefulness of our safest pesticides.
The other drawback that Mr. Fumento didn't mention is the ability of plant species to trade genes. Pesticide-resistant crops could lead to pesticide-resistant weeds. Herbicide-resistant crops could lead to herbicide-resistant weeds. As seed-savers are aware, Queen Ann's Lace is similar enough to carrots to cross-pollinate and ruin the next generation of carrot seeds. Which weeds are close enough to corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton or potatoes to pick up gene-spliced resistance to herbicides or incorporate natural pesticide into their own bag of tricks? With dozens of kinds of crops and hundreds of varieties of weeds, it is a question of when it will occur, not whether.
Mr. Fumento is wrong to argue that the more frequent use of transgenic crops means they are becoming more accepted. Because no labeling of transgenics is required in the United States, customers aren't able to avoid them even if they fear that the gene-splicing tricks being used aren't in our long-term best interests.

CARL HENN
Rockville

Headline misses focus of Dobson story

A wholly inaccurate impression was left with your readers by your May 5 story concerning Focus on the Family, and our president and founder, James C. Dobson. By giving the story the headline "Larimore leading candidate to build on Dobson's work" and the subhead "'Focus on Family' plans succession," your editor puts an inordinate, inappropriate amount of weight on one or two comments in the story, resulting in a profound contextual overstatement. With the story bannered in that manner, readers could easily conclude (and some already have) that Mr. Dobson is about to retire from Focus on the Family after 25 years of successful ministry leadership and, indeed, that he has already announced his "successor." I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.
During the interview with your reporter, it was clearly pointed out that Mr. Dobson was not considering retirement nor even cutting back on his strenuous daily activities. It was emphasized that he intends to remain president of Focus and that board discussions about "succession" are neither a new nor urgent topic. Succession, it was further stated in interviews, while a subject of very normal and natural progression and faced eventually by any organization, and under consideration by Focus for more than a dozen years, is hardly an A-section news flash. It was further pointed out that Mr. Dobson maintains a disciplined diet and exercise regimen, and is in such good health that he is able to work around the clock on his incredible load of responsibilities at Focus on the Family.
It's a reporter's choice to not include such responses in an article, but when the story is given a headline that borders on alarmist rhetoric, an overemphasis was created, and a distortion resulted. The interview and story were about new communicators on our ministry team who've come alongside Mr. Dobson as additional voices, enabling him and us to take advantage of burgeoning media opportunities of all kinds. In medicine and medical-ethics issues, Dr. Walt Larimore is one such voice, but no one has been designated Mr. Dobson's "successor." Thankfully, no such individual is needed now.

PAUL HETRICK
Vice president, media relations
Focus on the Family
Colorado Springs, Colo.

Virginia eugenics

Recently, Gov. Mark R. Warner, Democrat, apologized for the historical practice of eugenics in Virginia ("Briefly," Metro, May 3). Yet two of his recent actions will continue the practice of eugenics in the state.
Mr. Warner apologized for state policies that resulted in the forced sterilization of 8,000 people from 1927 to 1979. He said that the "eugenics movement was a shameful effort in which state government never should have been involved."
Yet, far worse than being involved in forced sterilizations, Mr. Warner has aided eugenics practices that kill people because they are deemed unfit for society. Since taking office, Mr. Warner signed a charter for Eastern Virginia Medical School, which has a eugenics program. Mr. Warner also vetoed legislation that would have banned an abortion procedure often used for eugenic purposes.
Eastern Virginia Medical School offers pre-implantation genetic diagnosis , which is a laboratory procedure used during in vitro fertilization. The diagnosis involves examining the chromosomes of human embryos for genetic abnormalities. It allows parents to reject any of their sons and daughters who might have Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis or some other genetic condition. Those who are deemed unfit are destroyed.
No matter how you look at it, in vitro fertilization turns children into commodities, and the diagnosis is pure eugenics. Mr. Warner put the commonwealth's stamp of approval on Eastern Virginia Medical School, which has been a pioneer in both procedures.
Mr. Warner also ensured that partial-birth abortions would continue in Virginia. As most readers should know by now, partial-birth abortion is a gruesome procedure by which almost fully delivered babies are killed by having scissors jammed into their skulls and their brains sucked out. An attempt to outlaw the heinous practice passed in both houses of the Virginia Assembly, but Mr. Warner vetoed the bill.
Partial-birth abortion is often used for eugenic reasons. With prenatal testing, parents are able to abort children because of potential unwanted genetic conditions. In some cases, partial-birth abortion is used because the pregnancy has advanced to the second trimester.
Dr. Martin Haskell, who carries out the partial-birth abortion procedure, was interviewed by the American Medical News in 1993. He said 20 percent of the partial-birth abortions he performed were carried out for genetic reasons. In testimony submitted to Congress in 1995, Dr. James McMahon reported that out of more than 2,000 partial-birth abortions he had performed, 56 percent were carried out because of fetal flaws. These flaws included conditions such as cleft palate and Down syndrome, both of which are nonlethal abnormalities.
These "reproductive services" are fraught with the eugenics mentality. True equality among people can only be built on respect for human life as a sacred gift from the Creator. While Mr. Warner's apology sounded nice, he has allowed the killing of undesirables to continue. To truly oppose eugenics, one has to be 100 percent pro-life.

MO WOLTERING
Director of public policy
American Life League
Stafford, Va.


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