Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Refugio Rd, pronounced as the title of this post by locals for some odd reason, is the most obscure climb in the Santa Barbara area. Given that it begins, literally, at the ocean and climbs straight up for over 4,000' it's odd that it's not on more cyclist's radar, especially given this is now one of the more famous training destinations in the country.

Yesterday I tackled it from the valley side, which is even more rarely done because it's dirt. But I'm looking at linking a long ride here in the fall and this was an important part of the recon. My observations upon rattling down this climb on my CX bike is that my concoction is going to be rather painful and, perhaps, down right stupid. At least, however, I'm certain about which direction I'll be tackling this climb in.

The Refugio climb goes up a saddle between Santa Ynez and the ocean, then heads south and connects with Broadcast Peak, the highest point on the coastal range above Santa Barbara. With some knobby tires, you can continue along a dirt road on the ridge to West Camino Cielo, which then links all the way to Gibraltar Road. The standard road ride is an out and back beginning at Refugio State Beach. For a pleasurable experience, I'll recommend the latter.

This is only a quarter of the big loop I'd like to ride. For now, however, I'll keep those plans on ice. For one, I've still got some off-road details to sort out to ensure my loop is even ridable. Then I've got to gain some fitness and toughness if I'm going to handle yesterday's type of beating for 13 or 14 hours.

Tour de Mammoth

Today I decided that touring Mammoth on a cyclocross bike was the best way to go. Well, actually, it was the only bike I had so I decided to try and make the best of it. I needed a big ride at altitude, so I made up a course using the two major road climbs and a bunch of trails I'd never been on.

In fact, I hadn't ridden much on these trails at all but they were rumored to be sandy and perhaps unsuitable for my steed. I figured that, in the worst case scenario, my bike was fairly light and carrying it would be good training. So off I went.

I tooled around town to warm-up and then hit the village to sniff out some trails. Found something called Uptown, which seems to head up, my intended direction. The trail was well worn single track and, I thought, had been planned very nicely. It was about as easy as a trail could be that would eventually climb 2,000'. I snaked up the hillside at a civilized pace until I hit the Mammoth bike park and a sign warning me not to enter without some sorta pass. So I hit the main road and climbed it to Mineret Summit (above pic).

I met an LA Tri guy up there and we chatted a bit about the club, his new place in Mammoth, triathlons, and my trepidation about setting off on an unknow trail with a bike that was still, to some degree, an unknown performer on such terrain.

The trail description promised it to be "advanced" with "steep drops" and "deep pumice". I was slightly worried and called Sandee to report my whereabouts should something go amiss and I not return.

However, a few minutes later I'd decided they were using a different assessment of the word "advanced", probably referencing it to tourists. The trails was nice tight singletrack and no problem for the CX machine.

5.5 miles later I popped by out on the highway and crossed back into the park (below the warning signs) and hit a trail named "downtown", which was more of the same. While you could certainly hammer this stuff a lot faster on a mtn bike it was pretty much just technical enough to make it interesting on my rig.

Back at the village, I headed up towards the Lakes basin and part II of my tour. The climb was fine, although it would have been a bit more pleasant without the constant headwind. At Twin Lakes I snapped a pic and then took off looking for a bike trail sign.

I found something called Vista or something, which was odd because it was entirely through trees and pretty much the only place around that DIDN'T offer a vista. That being said, it was a serpentine and non-sandy path through the pines and just sublime.

It dumped me on Old Mammoth Rd where about a quarter mile down there was another bike sign at something called the Mammoth Rock Trail. After the rock, this plunged down the west slope of the Sherwins towards town. The trail was fairly rocky and had a lot of deep sand and, truth be told, I would have had a lot more fun on a hippie bike. At least until the end where I hit a gravel road which took me back towards town, where burritos and coffee were waiting.

All in all, this was just about a perfect day out. I'm not sure what other rides the area has to offer but this has to be one of the best. I could not recommend it more highly.

Monday, June 25, 2007

26er vs 29er

29 inch wheels are one of the hot new trends in mtn biking right now but the jury is certainly still out in regards to them actually performing better than traditional 26" wheels. My friend Steve just wrote an in depth analysis of the two. If you're interested, check it out here:


I ran some similar tests last year and came to a similar conclusion; that 26" wheels may be a bit faster but riding 29s is more fun. Of course, as the pic of me suggests, essentially, it's not really about the bike anyway....


Artificial sweeteners suck and you should avoid them. Sure, science hasn't "proven" they will, for sure, kill you prematurely but that's most likely because companies make billions of dollars on these things, which means that they'll spend enough money on marketing, lawyers, and bogus science to ensure at least some doubt in placed in the mind of the end user about the legitamacy of the science showing it may be dangerous.

Here's the latest research to hit the newswires. Get it now before big PR firms beat it into "unproven scuttlebutt".


Friday, June 15, 2007

One Gear Is All You Need

I finally got my fixie together. Retro'd my old Specialized Allez 1982 American Flyers Team Shaver Sport into a beautiful 42X16. Now all I need is a moustache and I can do the rig proud. It's been hard to get on anything else. In fact, since racing twice at the Sugarhouse crit last weekend (both cat and masters) I haven't shifted a gear, riding either my single speed hippie bike or the Allez.

I've mainly been trail riding to get ready for my friend Reed's impromptu bachelor party this weekend. I know bachelor parties are usually filled with cretin banal male rituals, such as hanging around strip clubs, hookers, getting into fights and drinking beers through a funnel, but my friends are different. There will be beer, no doubt, but the rest of the weekend will be filled with exploring the various trails in southwestern Utah. I'm thinking one 3-4 hour ride in the morning, followed by a 3-4 hour session each evening. It's supposed to be 105 today in St. George, so we'll probably spend the middle of each day drinking Oly to hydrate. This is a bachelor party, birthday challenge style.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bill Gates' Graduation Speech at Harvard

Well worth 10 minutes out of your day...

Bill Gates' Graduation Speech at Harvard]
June 7, 2007

President Bok, former President Rudenstine, incoming President Faust,
members of the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers, members
of the faculty, parents, and especially, the graduates:

I've been waiting more than 30 years to say this: "Dad, I always told
you I'd come back and get my degree."

I want to thank Harvard for this timely honor. I'll be changing my job
next year . and it will be nice to finally have a college degree on my

I applaud the graduates today for taking a much more direct route to
your degrees. For my part, I'm just happy that the Crimson has called me
"Harvard's most successful dropout." I guess that makes me valedictorian
of my own special class . I did the best of everyone who failed.

But I also want to be recognized as the guy who got Steve Ballmer to
drop out of business school. I'm a bad influence. That's why I was
invited to speak at your graduation. If I had spoken at your
orientation, fewer of you might be here today.

Harvard was just a phenomenal experience for me. Academic life was
fascinating. I used to sit in on lots of classes I hadn't even signed up
for. And dorm life was terrific. I lived up at Radcliffe, in Currier
House. There were always lots of people in my dorm room late at night
discussing things, because everyone knew I didn't worry about getting up
in the morning. That's how I came to be the leader of the anti-social
group. We clung to each other as a way of validating our rejection of
all those social people.

Radcliffe was a great place to live. There were more women up there, and
most of the guys were science-math types. That combination offered me
the best odds, if you know what I mean. This is where I learned the sad
lesson that improving your odds doesn't guarantee success.

One of my biggest memories of Harvard came in January 1975, when I made
a call from Currier House to a company in Albuquerque that had begun
making the world's first personal computers. I offered to sell them

I worried that they would realize I was just a student in a dorm and
hang up on me. Instead they said: "We're not quite ready, come see us in
a month," which was a good thing, because we hadn't written the software
yet. From that moment, I worked day and night on this little extra
credit project that marked the end of my college education and the
beginning of a remarkable journey with Microsoft.

What I remember above all about Harvard was being in the midst of so
much energy and intelligence. It could be exhilarating, intimidating,
sometimes even discouraging, but always challenging. It was an amazing
privilege - and though I left early, I was transformed by my years at
Harvard, the friendships I made, and the ideas I worked on.

But taking a serious look back . I do have one big regret.

I left Harvard with no real awareness of the awful inequities in the
world -- the appalling disparities of health, and wealth, and
opportunity that condemn millions of people to lives of despair.

I learned a lot here at Harvard about new ideas in economics and
politics. I got great exposure to the advances being made in the

But humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries - but in how
those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity. Whether through
democracy, strong public education, quality health care, or broad
economic opportunity - reducing inequity is the highest human

I left campus knowing little about the millions of young people cheated
out of educational opportunities here in this country. And I knew
nothing about the millions of people living in unspeakable poverty and
disease in developing countries.

It took me decades to find out.

You graduates came to Harvard at a different time. You know more about
the world's inequities than the classes that came before. In your years
here, I hope you've had a chance to think about how - in this age of
accelerating technology - we can finally take on these inequities, and
we can solve them.

Imagine, just for the sake of discussion, that you had a few hours a
week and a few dollars a month to donate to a cause - and you wanted to
spend that time and money where it would have the greatest impact in
saving and improving lives. Where would you spend it?

For Melinda and for me, the challenge is the same: how can we do the
most good for the greatest number with the resources we have.

During our discussions on this question, Melinda and I read an article
about the millions of children who were dying every year in poor
countries from diseases that we had long ago made harmless in this
country. Measles, malaria, pneumonia, hepatitis B, yellow fever. One
disease I had never even heard of, rotavirus, was killing half a million
kids each year - none of them in the United States.

We were shocked. We had just assumed that if millions of children were
dying and they could be saved, the world would make it a priority to
discover and deliver the medicines to save them. But it did not. For
under a dollar, there were interventions that could save lives that just
weren't being delivered.

If you believe that every life has equal value, it's revolting to learn
that some lives are seen as worth saving and others are not. We said to
ourselves: "This can't be true. But if it is true, it deserves to be the
priority of our giving."

So we began our work in the same way anyone here would begin it. We
asked: "How could the world let these children die?"

The answer is simple, and harsh. The market did not reward saving the
lives of these children, and governments did not subsidize it. So the
children died because their mothers and their fathers had no power in
the market and no voice in the system.

But you and I have both.

We can make market forces work better for the poor if we can develop a
more creative capitalism - if we can stretch the reach of market forces
so that more people can make a profit, or at least make a living,
serving people who are suffering from the worst inequities. We also can
press governments around the world to spend taxpayer money in ways that
better reflect the values of the people who pay the taxes.

If we can find approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that
generate profits for business and votes for politicians, we will have
found a sustainable way to reduce inequity in the world.

This task is open-ended. It can never be finished. But a conscious
effort to answer this challenge will change the world.

I am optimistic that we can do this, but I talk to skeptics who claim
there is no hope. They say: "Inequity has been with us since the
beginning, and will be with us till the end - because people just .
don't . care."

I completely disagree.

I believe we have more caring than we know what to do with.

All of us here in this Yard, at one time or another, have seen human
tragedies that broke our hearts, and yet we did nothing -- not because
we didn't care, but because we didn't know what to do. If we had known
how to help, we would have acted.

The barrier to change is not too little caring; it is too much

To turn caring into action, we need to see a problem, see a solution,
and see the impact. But complexity blocks all three steps.

Even with the advent of the Internet and 24-hour news, it is still a
complex enterprise to get people to truly see the problems. When an
airplane crashes, officials immediately call a press conference. They
promise to investigate, determine the cause, and prevent similar crashes
in the future.

But if the officials were brutally honest, they would say: "Of all the
people in the world who died today from preventable causes, one half of
one percent of them were on this plane. We're determined to do
everything possible to solve the problem that took the lives of the one
half of one percent."

The bigger problem is not the plane crash, but the millions of
preventable deaths.

We don't read much about these deaths. The media covers what's new - and
millions of people dying is nothing new. So it stays in the background,
where it's easier to ignore. But even when we do see it or read about
it, it's difficult to keep our eyes on the problem. It's hard to look at
suffering if the situation is so complex that we don't know how to help.
And so we look away.

If we can really see a problem, which is the first step, we come to the
second step: cutting through the complexity to find a solution.

Finding solutions is essential if we want to make the most of our
caring. If we have clear and proven answers anytime an organization or
individual asks "How can I help?," then we can get action - and we can
make sure that none of the caring in the world is wasted. But complexity
makes it hard to mark a path of action for everyone who cares - and that
makes it hard for their caring to matter.

Cutting through complexity to find a solution runs through four
predictable stages: determine a goal, find the highest-leverage
approach, discover the ideal technology for that approach, and in the
meantime, make the smartest application of the technology that you
already have - whether it's something sophisticated, like a drug, or
something simpler, like a bednet.

The AIDS epidemic offers an example. The broad goal, of course, is to
end the disease. The highest-leverage approach is prevention. The ideal
technology would be a vaccine that gives lifetime immunity with a single
dose. So governments, drug companies, and foundations fund vaccine
research. But their work is likely to take more than a decade, so in the
meantime, we have to work with what we have in hand - and the best
prevention approach we have now is getting people to avoid risky

Pursuing that goal starts the four-step cycle again. This is the
pattern. The crucial thing is to never stop thinking and working - and
never do what we did with malaria and tuberculosis in the 20th century -
which is to surrender to complexity and quit.

The final step - after seeing the problem and finding an approach - is
to measure the impact of your work and share your successes and failures
so that others learn from your efforts.

You have to have the statistics, of course. You have to be able to show
that a program is vaccinating millions more children. You have to be
able to show a decline in the number of children dying from these
diseases. This is essential not just to improve the program, but also to
help draw more investment from business and government.

But if you want to inspire people to participate, you have to show more
than numbers; you have to convey the human impact of the work - so
people can feel what saving a life means to the families affected.

I remember going to Davos some years back and sitting on a global health
panel that was discussing ways to save millions of lives. Millions!
Think of the thrill of saving just one person's life - then multiply
that by millions. . Yet this was the most boring panel I've ever been on
- ever. So boring even I couldn't bear it.

What made that experience especially striking was that I had just come
from an event where we were introducing version 13 of some piece of
software, and we had people jumping and shouting with excitement. I love
getting people excited about software - but why can't we generate even
more excitement for saving lives?

You can't get people excited unless you can help them see and feel the
impact. And how you do that - is a complex question.

Still, I'm optimistic. Yes, inequity has been with us forever, but the
new tools we have to cut through complexity have not been with us
forever. They are new - they can help us make the most of our caring -
and that's why the future can be different from the past.

The defining and ongoing innovations of this age - biotechnology, the
computer, the Internet - give us a chance we've never had before to end
extreme poverty and end death from preventable disease.

Sixty years ago, George Marshall came to this commencement and announced
a plan to assist the nations of post-war Europe. He said: "I think one
difficulty is that the problem is one of such enormous complexity that
the very mass of facts presented to the public by press and radio make
it exceedingly difficult for the man in the street to reach a clear
appraisement of the situation. It is virtually impossible at this
distance to grasp at all the real significance of the situation."

Thirty years after Marshall made his address, as my class graduated
without me, technology was emerging that would make the world smaller,
more open, more visible, less distant.

The emergence of low-cost personal computers gave rise to a powerful
network that has transformed opportunities for learning and

The magical thing about this network is not just that it collapses
distance and makes everyone your neighbor. It also dramatically
increases the number of brilliant minds we can have working together on
the same problem - and that scales up the rate of innovation to a
staggering degree.

At the same time, for every person in the world who has access to this
technology, five people don't. That means many creative minds are left
out of this discussion -- smart people with practical intelligence and
relevant experience who don't have the technology to hone their talents
or contribute their ideas to the world.

We need as many people as possible to have access to this technology,
because these advances are triggering a revolution in what human beings
can do for one another. They are making it possible not just for
national governments, but for universities, corporations, smaller
organizations, and even individuals to see problems, see approaches, and
measure the impact of their efforts to address the hunger, poverty, and
desperation George Marshall spoke of 60 years ago.

Members of the Harvard Family: Here in the Yard is one of the great
collections of intellectual talent in the world.

What for?

There is no question that the faculty, the alumni, the students, and the
benefactors of Harvard have used their power to improve the lives of
people here and around the world. But can we do more? Can Harvard
dedicate its intellect to improving the lives of people who will never
even hear its name?

Let me make a request of the deans and the professors - the intellectual
leaders here at Harvard: As you hire new faculty, award tenure, review
curriculum, and determine degree requirements, please ask yourselves:

Should our best minds be dedicated to solving our biggest problems?

Should Harvard encourage its faculty to take on the world's worst
inequities? Should Harvard students learn about the depth of global
poverty . the prevalence of world hunger . the scarcity of clean water
.the girls kept out of school . the children who die from diseases we
can cure?

Should the world's most privileged people learn about the lives of the
world's least privileged?

These are not rhetorical questions - you will answer with your policies.

My mother, who was filled with pride the day I was admitted here - never
stopped pressing me to do more for others. A few days before my wedding,
she hosted a bridal event, at which she read aloud a letter about
marriage that she had written to Melinda. My mother was very ill with
cancer at the time, but she saw one more opportunity to deliver her
message, and at the close of the letter she said: "From those to whom
much is given, much is expected."

When you consider what those of us here in this Yard have been given -
in talent, privilege, and opportunity - there is almost no limit to what
the world has a right to expect from us.

In line with the promise of this age, I want to exhort each of the
graduates here to take on an issue - a complex problem, a deep inequity,
and become a specialist on it. If you make it the focus of your career,
that would be phenomenal. But you don't have to do that to make an
impact. For a few hours every week, you can use the growing power of the
Internet to get informed, find others with the same interests, see the
barriers, and find ways to cut through them.

Don't let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities.
It will be one of the great experiences of your lives.

You graduates are coming of age in an amazing time. As you leave
Harvard, you have technology that members of my class never had. You
have awareness of global inequity, which we did not have. And with that
awareness, you likely also have an informed conscience that will torment
you if you abandon these people whose lives you could change with very
little effort.

You have more than we had; you must start sooner, and carry on longer.

Knowing what you know, how could you not?

And I hope you will come back here to Harvard 30 years from now and
reflect on what you have done with your talent and your energy. I hope
you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments
alone, but also on how well you have addressed the world's deepest
inequities . on how well you treated people a world away who have
nothing in common with you but their humanity.

Good luck.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Politics of GMOs

Should you eat genetically modified organisms? The question really seems to be do you have a choice? My colleague, Denis, and I have been working on a GMO story for quite some time. What we're looking for is more concrete evidence as to how they may affect your health. At this time, most of this is unclear. Other than some unproven science and speculation, they seem reasonably safe. What we still don't know is whether there are no true adverse effects or if the large corporations who profit from them are lobbying the information out of the news wires. Don't think for a second that the latter isn't a possibility. The perpetrators are powerful companies with nefarious histories.

One thing we are sure about is that genetically engineered foods (GE) should be listed on our labels in the USA, as they are in most developed nations. But thanks to heavy lobbying from the companies who produce these foods, they can continue to add GMOs without the public being any the wiser, which doesn't seem like it's going to change anytime soon. If they are so safe, we wonder, why all the politicking to keep them off of labels?

Here is an article about some of the politics of GE. If you'd like to see more, rent the documentary film The Future of Food. If you feel passionate about it, please make your voice heard. Write your local elected official. If we want this changed it's entirely up to us to do it.

By David Tomsic

When Mendocino County in California passed its historic Measure H, with 57% of the votes cast, it became the first county in the United States to ban the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). More recently, Trinidad and Marin Counties, also in California, have passed similar bans, with Sonoma County soon to do the same. I guess the people of these places didn't like being passive test rats in some giant food corporation's experiment. Do you?

Shall We Dance?

Like all living things, plants reproduce. They exchange genetic material through the process of cross-pollination. Pollen moves from one plant to the next on the wind, or on the feet and wings of bees and butterflies. The actual traceable movement of genetic material is called "gene flow", and is the reason that we have such prodigious and opulent diversity in the flora realm. The result is the fecundity of the world, with grains, fruits, roots, vegetables, nuts, and all the cornucopia of plants we consume. No doubt about it, we are the direct beneficiaries of this miraculous process.

Now, through the clever inventiveness of human ingenuity, we have one-upped Mother Nature. Human beings can now directly modify the genetic material of a plant to make it act in certain prescribed ways. Such plants can only be understood as designer organisms, with specific traits or relationships built into their genes, thus changing their behaviors forever. It may still look like wheat, for example, but there are profound differences between it and all of the other, naturally occurring wheat plants in the world.

This is no cosmetic alteration; it is systemic. And it is vastly different from the guiding of plant reproduction that humans have been doing for centuries. All prior manipulations of the gene pool have been restricted by implacable natural barriers that dictate "who can breed with whom", or to put it another way, nature has firm boundaries governing which genes can mix it up together. The creation of GMOs has smashed these barriers like a tsunami crashing over an island.

Arguably, this development could be viewed as a miracle of modern technology. Why, just think of the possibilities! We can splice in an antidote to a chemical poison so the plant doesn't die when mass quantities of that poison are poured over it. Now we can kill all the weeds with the impersonal and remote precision of a smart bomb. Think of the yields! Think of the extra money to be made in the marketplace! Such excitement has been the buzz in the boardrooms of giant corporations like Monsanto, Lumen Foods and others for over a decade.

Problem is, there are big problems raised by this genetic tampering, and we're only now starting to see them show up. Nature doesn't just passively allow a single surgically precise gene splice to remain isolated, affecting only that plant in precisely the intended way. Plants are living, not technical, things, and their procreative behaviors, as they keep combining and recombining, are unpredictable. The cumulative impacts generating from such individually designed mutations have not been taken into account when it comes to GMOs. Another way to understand this is that, in the natural world, where everything is connected to everything else, when you change one thing, you affect all others.

For a decade, anxious observers of this massive science experiment in food production have predicted that we may live to regret some of the unintended corollary effects of these corporate activities.


Such predictions have borne out. With GMOs, a host of unanticipated problems has arisen. One of these is the contamination of non-GMO (organic) plant material by corporate GMOs through the natural process of cross-pollination.

Example: According to an article in The Non GMO Source (October 2004), "Nearly 20,000 papaya seeds from across the Big Island in Hawaii, 80% of which came from organic farms and the rest of which from backyard gardens and wild trees, showed a contamination level of 50%." There are many such examples.

Bringing this into your backyard, an Associated Press article written by Paul Elias and published in the Statesman Journal of Salem, Oregon (9/24/04), quoted a U.S. government study in Oregon's Willamette Valley which showed genetically engineered grass had cross-pollinated conventional grass growing 12 miles away.

Multiply this expansion by ten growing seasons and you can see why people are scrambling to pass legislation to ban the cultivation of GMOs.

On The Road

I recently drove south to Mendocino County in hopes of digging up some information on this issue. After crossing the county line I stopped at a food store in Laytonville. Buying some organic produce at the checkout counter I enquired about Measure H. A moment later, I was in the company of a wise and beautiful woman in her 50's. "You need to go to the Ukiah Brewing Company," she told me, her dark eyes glimmering. "That was the center of what went down."

Two hours later I found myself having a beer with Alan Cooperrider, owner of the Ukiah Brewing Company. Mr. Cooperrider and his wife Els, both former biologists, were the originators of Measure H. He was deliberate, intelligent, and soft spoken.

Aside from the usual bureaucratic hurdles, Mr. Cooperrider noted the depth of his opposition's pockets. "The previous record for expenditures on a Mendocino County ballot measure was $120,000. Monsanto exceeded that in the first week. In the end they spent over $600,000 trying to defeat the thing. In fact, the sheer volume of money coming from OUTSIDE the county stimulated the curiosity and involvement of many folks inside the community."

My next stop was the Fetzer Vineyards tasting room in the beautiful coastal town of Mendocino. It was here, quite by chance, that I conversed with an attorney who specialized in environmental litigation. It was his view that ". . . a lot of this type of legislation is defeated due to lack of funding."

The conversation was ironic in that Paul Dolman, at that time with Fetzer and now with Parducci Vineyards as part of the Mendocino Wine Co., was a key instrument in the orchestration of vital business support for Measure H. In fact numerous Mendocino County vineyards and wineries were active contributors.
Even wine and spirits giant The Brown Forman Group, who recently purchased Fetzer Vineyards, supported Measure H. Public relations director Jim Caudill was quick to return my call, stating, "We don't think we know enough about them (GMOs). We need much more controlled testing." The Brown Forman Company insists that most of its products, which include Jack Daniels Whiskey, be made without GMOs.

Bon Appetit

Monsanto, the vast multinational corporation leading the charge to patent life forms, is best known for its "Round Up Ready" line of genetically modified seed. This genetic modification allows farmers to douse their fields with the general herbicide "Round Up" (also made & sold by Monsanto) without affecting the "Round Up Ready" crops growing in those fields. In order to get the "Round Up Ready" line to market, Monsanto petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vouching that their product was safe for consumers.

Can we trust the FDA to "do the right thing" when it comes to protecting the health of the citizenry? In most cases, I would say yes. But past history shows us, with Vioxx, DDT, asbestos, lead paint, etc., that this is not always the case. In the case of its "Round Up Ready" line, Monsanto had to convince the FDA to increase the allowable amount of herbicide in produce on supermarket shelves 100 fold.
Hmmm . . . more poison in our food. Now THAT'S a step in the right direction! Sadly, the FDA ruled in favor of corporate profits over consumer health in this case.

The Harbinger

Alan Cooperrider told me another true story that illustrates one of the problems of GMOs. Monsanto was unable to control genetic drift from crops using its patented GMO wheat in eastern Canada. Inevitably, the GMO genes made their way via cross-pollination to the fields of a neighboring farmer. Now it just so happened that this farmer grew organic wheat and, from his point of view, Monsanto's uninvited gene flow was a contaminant making it impossible to sell his wheat as organic. He sued.

The farmer lost the case... and when he tried to sell off his contaminated crop as conventional, MONSANTO SUED HIM for patent infringement, and won.

This is where the corporate motives of GMO producers become crystal clear. If you spread the predicament of the Canadian farmer out upon a larger canvas (say, the entire world's agricultural production), it becomes apparent that Monsanto et. al. are attempting to seize a royalty on the production of all food crops through the means of cross-pollination. They intend to demand their royalty on every grain or kernel of food produced, anywhere in the world, regardless of whether or not you wanted their genetically modified version in the first place. And incredibly, to judge from the case in eastern Canada, they have the courts ruling in their favor. That is tragic for organic growers worldwide.

The tragedy for consumers of organic foods worldwide is that, given the way cross-pollination works, if GMO production goes unchecked, we will all be eating genetically modified organisms whether we like it or not.

In a world where individuals should have the right to choose, this is diabolical.
In the world of competitive markets, this is business as usual. Which world do you want to live in?

Givin' Howleys A Bad Name

To further illustrate the situation let's go back in time. Roughly 200 years ago the first ocean going trade vessels inadvertently brought the rat to the Hawaiian Islands. Without a natural predator to check its numbers, the rat population grew out of control. A solution was devised, introducing a voracious predator, the mongoose, into the food chain in hopes of attaining some sort of natural balance.

It was soon discovered that the mongoose hunted by day, while the rat was nocturnal. This meant that the mongoose had to find another food source, so it went to work on the bird population. Today, Hawaii has lost over 90% of its native bird species to extinction due to this simple oversight.

Human error stemming from human ingenuity caused the Hawaiian calamity. What, I ask you, is the potential for a similar oversight when we start splicing genetic materials together and releasing them into the wild? It is unfathomable. With cross-pollination as an unstoppable force, it could make Adolf Hitler look like a kid with a cap gun.

Winning the Blame Game

I predict that if the consumption of GMOs results in widespread complications involving human health, the resulting tragedy will likely follow the liability pattern seen with Agent Orange, Gulf War Syndrome, Love Canal and many other environmental toxin cases. The common thread in all such cases involves exposure to a toxin shared by a vast number of sufferers, statistical evidence strongly suggesting the link between that toxic exposure and a syndrome of horrific health conditions, and the unwillingness of government agencies and the courts to find in favor of the victims. In the case of GMOs, there will no doubt be statistical evidence strongly suggesting the link between GMOs and some unforeseen health issues, but establishing a "direct correlation" between the two in a court of law will prove very difficult. The taxpayer will, once again, shoulder the financial burden of these consequences, while the corporations responsible for the disaster will, once again, walk, taking no responsibility for their actions.

Pulling a Weed

The traditional Chinese pictogram for "Crisis" and for "Opportunity" is the same. The connotation in this pictogram is "turning point", that we must change whatever course we have been on. To avert disaster we must seize the opportunity presented by the crisis and make a decision, one different than before.

There is wisdom in this ancient linguistic form. The crisis that we face holds its own solution—our opportunity—within itself. We have an opportunity to get the attention of these corporations and their agents in government in the ONLY way that seems to matter to them: go after their bottom lines.

We all eat food every day of our lives, and it is absolutely 100% our choice as to what we put into our bodies. Even if there is no Measure H type GMO legislation in your neck of the woods (yet), when you consider how much money you spend on food in your lifetime, one fact becomes very clear: Your involvement can make a HUGE cumulative difference! All of those thousands of dollars spent on food during your lifetime represent your vote for the world you want to live in. You cannot downplay your own importance and responsibility in this matter. Just as important, your actions bring others on board, and all of our money combined supports the people who are working hard to do the RIGHT thing. Every dollar you spend on organic food is a dollar that doesn't trickle towards Monsanto.

All this without raising your voice, your fist, or even an eyebrow... just your fork! Forty years later Gil Scott Herons' words are still ringing true, "The revolution will NOT be televised."

A genetic blueprint was created over eons of time in nature's, and no one else's, kitchen. Monsanto has merely hacked apart, and spliced together a couple of these genetic sequences. They did not invent the thing, they've merely manipulated it. They present their bastard child before the world as if it were a king, when in reality it more closely resembles one of Dr. Frankenstein's fantasies.
It's time to bring this issue out into the open. Local governments have the power to make the difference using democratic means, such as Mendocino's Measure H. I will be working with others to craft such legislation in our area of Oregon. Are you with me?

David Tomsic is an arborist and writer living at Cascade Head on Oregon's coast. If you would like to become a part of a network of concerned and non-violent citizens taking on the issue of GMOs, please contact Mr. Tomsic at: the website: www.gmoactive.com, or email him at kmieck@hotmail.com Thank you.