Letters to the Editor

Published the week of June 28-July 4, 2000

 GROWTH INDUSTRY
I just wanted to let you know that Jeannette Batz's article "Fertile Imagination" (RFT, June 21) was truly outstanding. It should be required reading for every food-consuming American. It's kind of scary, in a way, the ignorance that the average American has regarding the subject of food. And the corporate mindset isn't helping. We should revere people like Paul Krautmann; then again, I envy him. Although I'm sure the work is very hard and tedious, I'm sure he would be the first to say that the rewards are worth every second. I garden, and believe me, there's nothing more rewarding or satisfying than growing and enjoying the fruits of your labor.

I read somewhere that George Harrison does a lot of gardening. It doesn't surprise me; one of the richest men in the world, probably, but he knows what is worth doing. Thanks for an excellent article. Very inspiring.
Lou Fassi

Thank you for the well-deserved and thoughtful article about the plight of one local organic farmer, Paul Krautmann. There were many important issues raised about organic farming and why it is truly the way we should all be eating in terms of taste, nutrition and improving the environment.

Jeannette Batz, author of the article, provided one disservice to the readers in terms of locally grown organic produce at Wild Oats. She writes: "Customers still find more organic produce there than anywhere else.... But it's not locally grown, either." Jeannette was mistaken. In fact, over the past four years, including today, Wild Oats has shown great commitment to local organic growers and organic supporters, which is evident throughout the store, including the produce aisle. A few of our local organic growers also needing attention and support are Biver Farms and Ozark Forest Mushroom Farm.

Generally speaking, consumers have the right to question, more than ever, the food they eat. Organic farming provides peace of mind in this regard and should be sought out by every person in every store. The price of some organic items is more expensive at this time. I feel that this will change when organic items become the mainstream food chosen by the majority of consumers. Organic, natural foods, including produce, should be eaten with conviction and passion. The food we eat has become a political statement in itself. Choose wisely. Vote often.
Scott Emanuel
Wild Oats Community Market

BURNING QUESTIONS
I am an environmental consultant and trainer who used to work as an inspector for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and for Greenpeace prior to that. I used to inspect the infectious-waste incinerator mentioned in C.D. Stelzer's article ("Getting Burned," RFT, June 21) back when BFI still owned it. Stelzer's article, while well researched, leaves out a few important points.

EPA's waste-management program focuses on source reduction and waste minimization as well as on alternative technologies for disposal, which were discussed in the sidebar. The medical industry cannot readily reduce the amount of tubing, bags, syringes, etc., which it uses without compromising patient safety. The challenge is to have their suppliers come up with a synthetic polymer which is nonchlorinated, as chlorine is the source of the TCDD (2,3,7,8 tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin) variety of dioxin, as well as all the other dioxins, furans and chlorinated biphenyls.

Secondly, using ETD (electrothermal deactivation) or microwaving and shredding medical waste takes care of the pathogens but doesn't address the dioxin problem. Chlorine is a chemical element and can't be broken down, short of using an atom-smasher. Perhaps passing the incinerator vapor over a bed of sodium would make salt? Who knows, but we need creativity rather than Chicken Little here. We made it; we fix it.

The mercury, lead and other heavy metals (barium, for one, which is also a local, naturally occurring groundwater contaminant) in the medical-waste stream collect in the incinerator ash and are eminently recyclable. Silver (valuable but toxic per the EPA) from X-ray-development solutions has been undergoing recycling for a long time; companies exist which do nothing but.

High-temperature incineration has been shown to be capable of breaking down the byproducts of concern, but most incinerators are being shut down due to public pressure rather than being upgraded. The NIMBY syndrome (It's gotta go somewhere, but "not in my backyard") has been replaced with the BANANA syndrome (Build absolutely nothing anywhere near anybody), and we all suffer for it. Crossing our fingers and hoping it'll all just go away doesn't work -- we all contribute to the waste stream, and it's about time we took responsibility for it and participated in the idea-generating process instead of just hiding under our beds and bitching.

Thirdly, every farmer or rural resident out there who uses a burn barrel to dispose of his or her household trash (whether or not they're in a county or a fire district where that's allowed) is creating a mini-dioxin site. Many of the plastic bottles and other plastic products we have in our households, which become wastes once they are empty, are chlorinated, and dioxins and furans are created much more readily when these wastes are burned at low temperatures. So if you move out of urbania to get some fresh air, realize that there are plenty of areas with TCDD, pesticides and fertilizers. It's not pretty, but don't kill the messenger.
Bob Carlson

STATE OF MIND
In reviewing the new Jim Carrey film Me, Myself & Irene, it was kind of your critic to include a paragraph on the controversy generated by the film's highly irresponsible portrayal of "schizophrenia" ("Film," RFT, June 21). The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill has asked Fox Film Corp. if Mr. Carrey might consider donating his time to tape some public-service announcements on what mental illness is really about, and they are seeking to educate Hollywood execs so this type of degrading misinformation is no longer packaged in a mainstream film.

Attempting to undo the damage is commendable; however, the problem is much deeper than having a few laughs at the expense of people with psychiatric disorders. Stigmatization and discrimination, particularly at the intensity felt by those disabled by a mental illness, represent the last vestige of the bigotry. It has become unacceptable to ridicule many previously disadvantaged segments of society, yet political correctness has never been extended to the mentally ill.

Imagine the same film with Jim Carrey, only he performs in blackface and makes fun of African-Americans. Or perhaps a variation on Springtime for Hitler where he plays a Jew who manages to generate a little slapstick even in a death camp. I don't think so. Nor do I think the film would have played in Peoria if Mr. Carrey scooted around in a wheelchair lampooning multiple sclerosis.

At the bottom of the politically correct heap, persons with mental illness get only a wink and nod toward entertainment that hardens stereotypes, misinforms about mental illness and very likely contributes to what can be a deadly reluctance to seek treatment. Mental illness, you see, is everybody's else's problem until it strikes your family. Then the "crazy shrink" become a fine doctor, the "crutch" of medication is suddenly correcting a biochemical imbalance and the fine health insurance you had becomes, well, a bit more "managed." Inventing new medications and mothballing state hospitals has been much easier than changing hearts and minds about mental illness. Why not ignore entertainment-industry misrepresentations and seek out a fact or two?
William C. Hughes

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