Though I run an organic farm and strongly support the organic movement, I’m open to believing that GMOs could be positive. However, the truth is hard to tease out; the concerns are many and legitimate; and the best policy course is unclear. To many opposed to GMOs, their adoption has felt like an ill-considered rush. A Dec. 3 OpEd, with such a strident tone, filled with half-truths and cartoonish characterizations of the opposition, embodies this attitude.

Gordon Colby writes, “GMO crops are as safe for human consumption and the environment as conventional and organic crops.” He’s correct that the weight of evidence is that GMOs are safe for human consumption, but he’s mistaken to characterize the dramatic increase in Roundup herbicide use facilitated by GMOs as good for the environment. Though “Bt” GMO crops have reduced insecticide applications, they are having the effect of taking a safe, effective, organic-permitted pesticide (Bt) and accelerating the day when it is no longer effective.

Both of these choices should give us pause. If the history of GMOs were dedicated to improving nutrition (golden rice) or producing varieties that were resistant to disease (thus decreasing pesticide use) or producing nitrogen-fixing varieties that ameliorated the nitrogen pollution problem, the case would be more equivocal.

But the reality is that for the most part, GMOs are Roundup ready and soon to be 2-4 D ready. The result is 404 million additional pounds of herbicide applied in the U.S. between 1996 and 2011.

Sam Hazlehurst


Pre-school education

Who is better establishing good social and emotional values in young children: parents or a local education institution? Most people agree that it should come from the home. There certainly are situations where the home does a poor job, but it is the exception not the rule.

Head Start was established to assist with the less-than-adequate upbringing issue, but it appears to be not what the president desires. So we have the big push coming from the president and others to start pre-kindergarten programs in our public schools to replace many parenting responsibilities. No longer can a child be a child but rather must be institutionalized at age 4. Good-bye childhood.

Children must get in line, stay still, finish their work, and do as the teacher says for 14 years. It was bad enough for kids when full-time kindergarten reared its head. These two new programs were instituted primarily as a result of both parents working and the convenience of having children taken care of in the school.

Pre-school programs that are now operating in places in our state are not mandatory. Full-day kindergarten is not mandatory but now includes all children in most situations. These two new programs are costing taxpayers significantly, unnecessarily.

Children should be allowed to be kids for at least five years, and parents and Head Start should do the job of preparing them for their public education.

Richard Leonard


Poverty and depression

Heather Denkmire’s Dec. 4 column sheds some light on possible links between poverty and depression.

A couple of my objections to journalistic convention in discussing poverty are that financial issues are assumed to be uppermost on our minds. Poverty is oversimplified to mean lack of money. Recurring financial crises can stunt creative aims to be sure, which can look pretty silly when one can’t pay the bills. Here are a couple of examples of cases in which depression persists despite material abundance:

— The wife of a socially prominent musician or architect lives a life of leisure in a luxury townhouse with a grand piano and second home in the country. She would be conventionally described as “privileged” based on her status, and yet her multimillionaire husband may be so self-centered and pedantically intellectual, she feels unnoticed, a prisoner in a gilded cage.

— The top scholar at a leading university who feels that the force-feeding of academics has led to a brittle kind of success at the cost of expressiveness and friendships.

So I would expand the definition of poverty to include people whose life situation and expectations of others are stifling the drive to self-actualization in the broadest sense. There are many cases of people who impulsively misuse their financial resources or feel blocked and lack insight into their condition or what to do about it.

Tony Taylor


Christmas holiday

I saw in the BDN today a picture of a “holiday tree” being put up by the city of Bangor in West Market Square. It is being called a “holiday tree” because it is on city government property.

Public schools are having “holiday concerts” or “winter concerts” now instead of Christmas concerts because of separation of church and state?

President Ulysses S. Grant made Christmas a legally recognized federal holiday in 1870. So if you want to call it a Christmas tree or a Christmas concert, go ahead. You are not breaking any law in doing so.

Janice Bodwell


Festival of Christmas

Will someone please tell me why the Bangor Christmas Parade is now being called “The Festival of Lights,” and we have the lighting of the “holiday tree”? What holiday does the tree represent? All this politically correct stuff around Christmas drives me nuts.

Simple solution. Call it the Christmas and Holiday Parade, tree, etc.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all.

Bob Mercer