Dear MOTHER: October/November 2012

Reader letters about energy efficient cars, genetically modified foods, putting food by, pioneering in passive solar, mosquito repellent plants and more.
Letters from our readers
October/November 2012
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Glyphosate, Roundup's active ingredient, has been linked to birth defects in birds and amphibians, as well as to cancer, endocrine disruption, damage to DNA, and reproductive and developmental damage in mammals. Roundup-Ready crops are genetically modified to withstand drenching with this weedkiller. 
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Eyes Open

Thank you for your ever informative magazine, especially the article on Monsanto’s role in the acquisition of so many companies, as well as the laws that apply to “natural” and “organic” foods and feeds (The Threats From Genetically Modified Foods, April/May 2012).

It saddens me to see our food industry so tainted. You are doing us all a great favor. Your reporters investigating Monsanto and Big Ag make a difference!

Alicia Broz 
Winfield, Missouri


What About Diesel?

I read the best green cars article (Guide to Green Cars, Summer 2012) and was curious why there weren’t any diesel trucks listed?

Josh Barry 
Redondo Beach, California 

Our annual Best Green Cars list is focused on the greenest, most energy-efficient cars that meet the needs of the most people. A diesel car (the Volkswagen Passat TDI) did make our 2012 list, and modern “clean” diesel engines certainly are renowned for their great fuel economy and longevity (see The Longevity of Diesel Engines). That said, we recognize that a truck is the most practical vehicle for the needs of some farmers and homesteaders. You can learn much more about clean diesel at Clean Diesel: A New Era of Green Cars, and find details on 2012 diesel cars and trucks on this chart for 2012 Clean Diesel Cars, Trucks and SUVs. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS 


Evaluating EV Emissions

Because plugging in to the grid connects to coal-fired power plants, plug-in electric vehicles simply transfer pollution from petroleum fuels to coal.

Rock Colingsworth 
Holland, Michigan 

It’s not that simple, Rock. Here’s a vital fact many people are unaware of: Electric motors are much more efficient than gas engines. About 75 percent of the chemical energy stored in an electric car’s battery can be translated to mechanical energy that rotates the wheels. By contrast, only about 20 percent of the energy stored in a conventional vehicle’s tank of gas actually moves the vehicle down the road. The rest is lost — primarily to heat created during the combustion process, but also to friction and air-pumping losses in the engine. It currently costs only about 3 cents per mile driven to “fuel” a typical electric car today, assuming an electricity rate of 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. By contrast, at a pump price of $2.75 per gallon, fueling a 25-mpg conventional car costs more than three times that amount. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS  


Sharing the Knowledge

In response to The Threats From Genetically Modified Foods: Thank you so much for posting this article on your website. After reading the article in the magazine, I felt an urgent need to forward it to friends.

I will now be taking an active part in efforts to require GMO labeling. I grow a garden every year and will look for non-GM seeds.

Marilyn Malaspino 
Amherst, New Hampshire 

All of our articles go up on MotherEarthNews.com, so you can always use an article’s online version whenever you want to pass it along. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS  


Illegal to Kill Animals to Eat?

In your June/July 2012 issue, you made the editorial comment, Rabbits are a great meat source for country or city homesteads (Dear MOTHER: June/July 2012).

Many animal welfare agencies in cities (SPCA, Humane Society, etc.) are against raising animals for food within city limits. On the TV show Animal Cops on Animal Planet, cities such as Detroit, Houston and Miami have all had residents arrested and taken to court on animal cruelty charges for harboring animals that would ultimately be butchered for food.

Therese Todd 
Salisbury, Maryland 

Readers, if you know of an incident like this in your area, please tell us about it by posting a comment at Illegal to Kill Animals to Eat?. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS  


‘With Brilliant Gems the Pantry Fills’

As soon as I saw the June/July 2012 canning cover, I remembered a poem I have carried with me for at least 25 years. I am 77 years old and recall canning seasons of my youth with great fondness. The poem, author unknown to me, is as follows:

Crowned in color autumn comes 
Topaz peaches, amethyst plums 
Ruby jelly, emerald dills 
With brilliant gems the pantry fills 
Gleaming jewels, sealed in glass 
Treasures of the harvest past. 

Your magazine is unsurpassed. Keep it up.

Al Sheffer  
British Columbia, Canada 


A Tradition of Canning

I just received my June/July 2012 issue today and was so delighted by the article Home Canning: Putting Food By the Old-Fashioned Way. Just yesterday I canned my first batch of cherry preserves — my first official, independent canning experience!

I especially appreciate that you mentioned the traditional values we preserve by canning. Although I value cutting costs and knowing where my food comes from, my canning endeavors are driven mostly by the need to carry on family tradition. My nanny, who recently passed away, canned every summer, ending up with a pantry full of green beans, stewed tomatoes and pickled peaches, just to name a few!

Samantha Falls Keys 
Sperryville, Virginia 


Bountiful Gardens Belongs Among the Best

I read your article about the best mail-order seed companies (Best Vegetable Seed Companies, December 2011/January 2012) and was sad to see you omitted Bountiful Gardens, based in Willits, Calif. They’re my first source for seeds, their service is terrific, and they always provide more seeds than advertised.

I recently ordered some ‘Southport Red Globe’ onions, and they said they wouldn’t ship because the germination rate was low, but they then sent me — free of charge — more than 1,000 seeds.

Priscilla Bode 
Helena, Montana 


Warning: GE Light Bulbs Can Kill Your Chickens 

In February 2011, I needed a new heat bulb for my chickens. In New Hampshire — as in many cold parts of the United States — we turn on a light bulb to keep birds’ water from freezing and to warm their space in winter. Close to the heat bulbs at the store were new-to-me General Electric bulbs for rough use. I bought a GE Rough Service Worklight 100 with “protective coating” that made it “shatter resistant” if broken. Good idea for a light bulb in a chicken shed, I thought. I never wondered about the new bulb. Coated with what? 

I used the new bulb on the morning of Feb. 6, 2011. That night I opened the door to my coop and found a death scene. Nineteen birds lay dead on their backs. I was horrified and worried about what could have caused such a tragedy. The next day, I sent four birds to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, where veterinarian Inga Sidor confirmed that the birds had died because of toxic gas given off by the GE light bulb, which, it turned out, was coated with Teflon (aka PTFE). 

Through the following months I built up a new flock and did everything I could think of to press GE to label its deadly bulb, believing the company eventually would. GE’s insurer’s best offer, however, was to pay for 12 replacement chicks and the cost of the vet’s work. Oh — and in order to get the payment ($782), I had to sign an agreement never to talk to the media about what had happened! I accepted the check, but later changed my mind. I wanted to be able to warn people about this product, so I returned the uncashed check. 

In late fall 2011, I found that Sylvania sells a similar Teflon-coated bulb called Rough Service Frosted. Each Sylvania bulb package has a red stick-on label: “WARNING: This product contains PTFE. When heated, it creates fumes potentially fatal to confined birds.” Why can’t GE do this, too? 

Bird-owners reading this account, please pass it on. Because these bulbs can kill birds, you have to wonder what danger they pose to humans. Shame on GE for not caring enough to properly label its bulbs. 

Lynn Chong 
Sanbornton, New Hampshire 


Dogs May Be Allergic to Lantana

The June/July 2012 issue contained a wonderful article about mosquito-repellent plants (Grow Safe, Natural Mosquito Repellents). A word of caution: Some animals can be allergic to lantana, which was one of the plants the article mentioned.

Our miniature dachshund brushed by some lantana, and within minutes he was swollen, his tummy was burned, and he was having a hard time breathing. I rushed him to the hospital and he was on medication for weeks.

Deb Whitehead 
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho 

Some sources do report that lantana can be toxic. Our thanks to the readers who brought this to our attention. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS 


Pioneering Passive Solar

I’ve subscribed to MOTHER EARTH NEWS for at least 30 years. It was the first source of information about passive solar houses for my husband and me. We built a solar house we designed that was inspired by an article in your magazine.

Last month, I was describing the house to a contractor, citing its 6-inch-thick walls, 4-inch insulation under white roofing, double-paned windows and overhanging roofs. He was impressed and said we were well ahead of the times. I owe that to your magazine.

Phyllis Mayfield 
Boulder Creek, California 


Population Not Sole Culprit

In response to a letter in the Dear MOTHER: April/May 2012 entitled Breaking the Silence, I would like to say that pinpointing the size of the human population as the source of current environmental problems is too narrow.

The areas of the world that have the largest population growth have the smallest ecological footprint. In the United States, where population growth is slower, our footprint is massive, and big business, for the most part, acts without a conscience.

We already have more people than the planet can support. We in the United States need to consume less and share more.

Mary Meyers 
Mokena, Illinois 


To the Neigh-Sayers

In response to the article Supporting Farmers, Eating Local Food by Joel Salatin (June/July 2012): I was appalled by the author’s attitude about “recreational” horses. Why doesn’t anyone seem to remember that horses provided sustainable transportation for humans for thousands of years?

Ironically, one of the next articles was about the best green cars. No matter how green the car, it’s made in a factory out of engineered parts. There is no “greener” transportation than the horse. Self-sustaining under natural conditions, horses are fueled by grass, and their byproducts super-charge the compost pile.

Amy Boren 
Puyallup, Washington 


Straight Talk on MPG

It’s really nice to see a discussion about getting high mileage in today’s vehicles that cuts through all of the hype and misinformation. What’s the Big Deal With 40 MPG? (June/July 2012) points out the reasons why achieving lofty high-mileage figures is a problem.

As a longtime powertrain design engineer, I can tell you we are constantly working to get tenths of a mile mpg improvement any way we can. I applaud Mr. Kaho for explaining it so well.

Rick Kacel 
Lincoln, Michigan 


No Drought About It

A recent issue contained yet another letter chastising you for coverage related to global warming. I thought it was ironic that the letter came from Texas, which has been in the news so much this past year because of the unprecedented drought and subsequent wildfires in the state.

As you know, many experts predict droughts will become more widespread and more severe because of global warming, as will other weather extremes such as thunderstorms, tornadoes, snowstorms and hurricanes. Glaciers throughout the world are receding — so much so that Glacier National Park may no longer have any glaciers contained within its borders within our lifetime.

Regardless of whether you believe in global warming, it is essential that we move to a sustainable society as quickly as possible. Keep telling it like it is — the vast majority of climate scientists are in agreement that our climate is becoming warmer. We must adapt to meet this challenge, and, unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of time to do so.

David Moewes 
Mesa, Arizona 

For more about how urgent these circumstances are becoming, see Understanding the Math Behind Global Warming. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS 


Don’t Forget Mules

I enjoyed Mr. Fairlie’s article on your website that compares horse power with biofuel power (Muscle or Machine? Draft Animal Power vs. Biofuel Farming). He should consider the efficiency of mules. They need very little grain — maybe a quarter of what a horse eats — and they use hay much more efficiently than horses do.

Mimi Costley 
Catharpin, Virginia 


Mother’s Wish List

Wanted: Pastured meat and dairy producers as well as growers of certified organic produce to join our Advisory Group. Over the next several years, we plan to conduct nutrient testing to highlight differences between your products and industrial foods. We are collecting names now so we will be able to contact you when we’re ready to call for samples to test. If you would like to participate, please go to our Advisory Group to sign up.

We are also looking for graduate students who would like to work with us on our nutrient-testing projects, and for labs that could conduct the testing at reasonable rates.

Please contact us via email at Letters@MotherEarthNews.com or write to "Dear MOTHER" at MOTHER EARTH NEWS, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609. Please include your full name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and space. 


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