Up on the News
There was also a call for
an engineering study of town hall’s maintenance needs and a bit
of a County Legislature bashing session when it became clear that money
originally intended to be used for the repaving of Route 28 throughout
the town would now end up elsewhere, notably in the voter heavy sections
of southern Ulster County.
Supervisor Peter DiSclafani announced that he had received just that
day, April 6, a response from the New York City Department of Environmental
Protection on the latest wastewater plan, which proposes using vegetated
sand beds instead of the conventional concrete and chemical sewer plant
that Phoenicia voters turned down two years ago.
While the DEP letter, drafted by Assistant Commissioner David Warne,
does not green light the plans, it doesn’t halt their progress
with a red light either.
“While some outstanding issues related to the proposal still remain,
DEP is nevertheless encouraged by the progress made in responding to
our comment letter of December 10, 2008,” Warne wrote.
The hamlet, targeted for a sewer system in the mid 1990’s, has
received at least two extensions to a deadline made by DEP. The most
recent, which ended last December, was granted to allow Phoenicia to
do a feasibility study for an alternative treatment system. The City,
which is offering $17.2 million to build the hamlet a conventional system,
reviewed the alternative plan and refused to approve it.
Richard Rennia of Rennia Engineering said the City supplied specific
objections to that first proposal, developed last fall by the Dutchess
Rennia then amended their proposal to include all the elements the City
thought missing. The size of the system has doubled and now it includes
the micro-filtration phase of treatment the City requires. As a result,
it will now cost as much to build the wetlands/reed bed system as the
old conventional one, but would cost much less to operate.
The conventional system would have cost $375,000 a year to run. Rennia’s
system would cost $177,000 a year.
During the first week of February, DiSclafani sent Rennia’s amended
plan to DEP and waited for a response.
It its letter, Warne said DEP is prepared to offer yet another time
extension to Phoenicia, but has given DiSclafani and Rennia only until
the end of this month to address four specific concerns:
Rennia must back up claims of its system’s ability to remove ammonia
DEP says it needs to be convinced that the standby reed beds can be
kept operational. Rennia needs to prove they will not freeze over in
the winter or dry out in the summer, possibly drawing from European
uses of the systems as back-up data.
Rennia needs to provide more data on how the system would operate during
peak flows and low flows.
Finally, Rennia must supply back up information to show how they came
up with the size of the system needed.
Should these matters be taken care of, Warne said, DEP would require
the town to secure an option on the extra land needed for the system
before proceeding any further..
Warne also threw another idea into the mix. New technology is available
that combines two types of treatment into one. Warne said Membrane Bioreactor
technology, allowed under the yet-to-be-adopted amendments to the Watershed
Rules and Regulations, would be an acceptable part of the system.
“The town might be well served to request the development of a
cost estimate for this alternative,” he said.
DiSclafani said he has yet to hear from Rennia about how they would
respond to Warne’s letter, or even if they could
In other business Monday (see newsbriefs for discussion of ongoing process
for the town’s proposed new Farmstand Law), many at the Monday
meeting were up in arms over word that plans to re-pave Route 28 with
the help of federal stimulus money have been scrapped by the county,
which, according to DiSclafani, has reallocated those funds elsewhere.
The supervisor added that the lion’s share of the funds are now
to be used in more populated areas, even though he has complained for
close to a year about Route 28 being unsafe.
“People in the county hub rarely come up here,” DiSclafani
Lastly, Oliveria resident Joan Lawrence Bauer complained about the lack
of progress toward a real plan for a renovation of Town Hall. She said
a recent study of the structure, which she thought was to produce options
for how to proceed, amounted to little more than a fire/safety inspection.
Lawrence Bauer, who used to work as a spokesperson for the Emerson Resort
and Crossroads Ventures but has recently taken up employment with Rural
Ulster Preservation Company in Kingston, felt a more detailed inspection
was required, saying that until the town knows the actual shape the
structure is in it is impossible to make any real plans to upgrade it.
The CCC has developed grant proposals and initiated action plans that
will help the towns and villages along the Rt. 28 corridor develop in
a manner that is appropriate to the region, although some of the funding
has been temporarily frozen due to state deficits. In response, the CCCD
and CCC are seeking new ways to collaborate by sharing materials, services
and resources that are already budgeted and can be directed towards achieving
goals at a much lower cost.
Supervisor Martin Donnelly and some of his staff of the Town of Andes
provided a pizza smorgasbord for the meeting, which featured a presentation
by several members of the executive committee of Friends of the Catskill
Interpretive Center (FCIC), an organization founded in 2003 and now with
over 220 members dedicated to the realization of the long deferred construction
of the Catskill Interpretive and Visitors Center, first planned and funded
by New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) in the
A collaboration of NYSDEC, community members, local business leaders,
political representatives and the Catskill Center for Conservation and
Development (CCCD) during the 1990s led to the idea and concepts for the
“Catskill Interpretive Center,” to be similar in function
to the interpretive and visitor centers found at the gateways to the Adirondack
Park. As a result of the collaboration, plans were funded by NYSDEC in
the 1990s and a 62 acre parcel of land on NYS Rt.28 in Mount Tremper was
purchased by the CCCD and The Trust for Public Land and then leased to
NYSDEC, which funded significant site work including construction of the
now infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” leading to the project site
on Rt. 28 in Mt. Tremper and ongoing maintenance.
At approximately the same time the project site and plans were funded
(1995), then incoming Gov. George Pataki cut the project and focused his
then-limited resources on encouraging the City of New York and upstate
watershed towns to come up with an agreement to resolve some of the longstanding
problems posed by the presence of the NYC reservoir system. The creation
of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and Catskill Watershed Corporation
(CWC) took the bulk of the funding available for use in the region at
that time and The Catskill Interpretive Center was put on hold until recently,
when NYS appropriated $1 million to revise the plans in order to ensure
a more “green” design, utilize modern information technologies
to help update the interpretive exhibits, and presumably revive the project.
Recent NYS fiscal problems have put this appropriation in question and
members of the Executive Committee of the FCIC are scheduled to meet with
Willy Janeway, Director, Region 3, NYSDEC in the near future to receive
an update as to when the funding might be restored and see if the process
can be facilitated with help from the FCIC.
Jim Infante, Secretary of FCIC,presented a comprehensive slide show detailing
the history and current status of the project, which can be viewed at
the FCIC website online at www.catskillinterpretivecenter/goals.org .
Included in the online slide show are portions of the renderings and plans
of the proposed center made by the NYSDEC, which features extensive interpretive
exhibits highlighting areas such as “The Forest Preserve“,
“Making a Living“, “Water for the Big Apple“,
“Americas First Wilderness“, “Byways of Commerce“,
“Inventing Tourism” and “Forever Wild”.
A small theatre, auditorium, library, classroom, media gallery , book
store and an office/ reception area figure prominently in the original
plans from 1995. Brochures of local museums, attractions, food and lodging
would also be featured, thereby serving as an entry portal to the many
unique but often unknown and hard to find features and amenities found
in the Catskill region.
Infante said that, “The primary purpose of the Catskill Interpretive
Center is to celebrate the natural and cultural assets of the Catskills;
interpret these, certainly for residents but especially for visitors,
and lastly - and to my mind very importantly - to be a public entry point
to attract visitors to the Catskill Park and Forest Preserve. The Forest
Preserve is three hundred thousand acres of beautiful land, beautiful
trails, great facilities but there is no entry point where people can
come to inform themselves about the trails, fishing, and amenities such
as the unique but not well known small museums, historical societies,
restaurants and hotels in the area. I think the region is unique and unusual
and there is a great deal to be said about it.”
He also noted that, “The Catskill Park is the second largest park
in the state of New York and unlike most national and state parks, does
not have a center to serve local residents and tourists.”
Infante also emphasized that the Interpretive Center should be “a
public facility with free access, strategically located within the Catskill
Park and Forest Preserve and be a provider of educational and interpretive
programs for the Park and Forest Preserve.”
In comparing the potential usage of the proposed Catskill Visitors Center
to the two visitor centers located in the Adirondack Park and Forest Preserve,
Infante pointed out that the those visitor centers receive 120,000 visitors
a year , whereas original projections made by the NYSDEC were for 150,000
visitors per year at the proposed Catskill Interpretive Visitors Center.
Infante also said that he believes that the proposed Center could draw
even more than that due to the close proximity of the NYC metropolitan
In closing his portion of the presentation, Infante emphasized the three
major goals of the FCIC which include demonstrating to the political leadership
of the state that the project is a priority for the region and that the
surrounding towns and the counties of Ulster and Delaware have passed
resolutions in support of the project to help assure New York that it
is indeed a priority for the region; convincing the leadership to appropriate
capital funds for the construction of the facility, including funding
for operations and maintenance; and finally to raise $1.75 million of
the budget through fundraising by the FCIC, making it a public-private
partnership that would be of great benefit to the region.
Sherret Chase, chair of the FCIC, said that, “My hope is that the
Interpretive Center will not only serve all of the public functions that
come to mind, but will also be very much a place that local people will
treasure, a place that they could find pleasant to have small and large
meetings and concerts in, while at the same time also serving the economic
function of facilitating people who come to the region from the outside.”
He added that, “Many meaningful jobs would result during the construction
process. This project is essentially shovel ready and is as worthy of
public monies as any project that I know of. We need political support
to push it through and get it going. We will be meeting with NYSDEC Region
3 Director Willie Janeway next week to find out where we stand and whether
the project can be revived”
Olive Town Board member Helen Chase, CCC representative from Olive and
an Executive Board Member of the FCIC, emphasized the importance of retaining
both the small and large auditoriums in the revised plans to provide meeting
space for the local communities as well as the larger region.
Robert Selkowitz, CCC representative from Olive and an Executive Board
Member of FCIC as well, suggested the possibility of doing a smaller but
complementary project in the meantime such as an information kiosk that
could be made by the Shokan Boy Scouts, Troop 63, who are in the early
planning stages of a timber frame structure project that will benefit
a public space within the Town of Olive in the near future. He cited a
similar project that was carried out with a very low budget using donated
materials at the Community Center in the neighboring hamlet of Accord,
Town of Rochester, a few years ago. Selkowitz felt that locating the kiosk
at the site of the proposed linear picnic park on Rt. 28 in Shokan, or
even at the visitor center site itself in Mt. Tremper, would serve to
direct both visitors and local residents to the area’s many amenities.
He felt it important that something be done concretely while waiting for
the larger project funding to materialize.
All of the FCIC Board members expressed the idea that the state has already
made a substantial investment of time, money and effort which demonstrates
that the it believes that the project would be a good investment of state
resources. Essentially, the state has been a committed partner, in the
view of the FCIC board members in attendance at the meeting.
Membership in the Friends of Catskill Interpretive Center organization
is free and more information about the group, its history and mission
can be found at www.catskillinterpretivecenter.org
In other CCC news, Peter Manning said, “The CCC is moving forward
in other areas of its broader mission and we are expecting a favorable
outcome on the grant application submitted to the CWC for the preparation
of a corridor management plan for the nomination of Route 28 as a Scenic
Byway. Designation of State Route. 28 by New York State as a Scenic Byway
will allow the CCC to apply for state-funded community improvement grants
only available to Towns situated along a NYS Scenic Byway.”
The next meeting and presentation of the Central Catskills Collaborative
will be held at the Olive Town Hall, Bostock Rd., Shokan on Thursday,
April 23 at 6pm with details and agenda to be announced.
See you there...
senior, Iannotti said, had asked for dibs on a box of macaroni and cheese
from the 2000 Republican Convention in Philadelphia, given him by GOP
fundraiser Julie Conway, an Onteora alumna who worked for years on former
House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s staff. The box, he pointed out, was
festooned with elephants and Bush/Cheney stickers.
“I just warned her,” Iannotti added, “that although
possibly valuable on E-Bay, she shouldn’t try eating it.”
Then there were the bull and bear toys the teacher used in his civics
classes to demonstrate the idea of up and down Wall Street markets, which
he said he’d be passing on to Onteora’s advanced civics course
teacher, Brian Connelly, along with a small voting machine.
“I’ve got closets full of t-shirts and posters,” he
said, addressing what couldn’t be seen beyond his room’s walls
full of bumper stickers and buttons, including some prized Nixon campaign
paraphernalia. “I’ll leave what’s not taken by year’s
end in a box for whoever takes over from me. And what’s not taken
gets thrown away.”
In addition to teaching at Onteora for nearly three decades, Iannotti
served as the high school’s departmental head for social studies
for the past eight years, taught the district’s economics and government
courses when mandated by New York state in the 1990s, and designed and
implemented his highly popular integrated civics course as a means of
giving his students an involved way of meeting state requirements that
he feels has helped build up the school’s much-touted high-level
of political participation in recent years.
Talking about how he got to where he is today, and what he plans to do
after retirement in a few months, Iannotti displayed the matter-of-fact
fairness and good humor his students of all political stripes have long
praised him for… as well as a healthy dose of pride at his quiet
accomplishments. Not least among them, an appreciation for his way of
reaching, appreciating, and leading high school seniors where others have
tended to fail.
Born and raised in Providence, RI, Iannotti describes his childhood and
early school “career” in peripatetic terms before finally
coming to Kingston where he graduated high school and still lives (albeit
technically in the Town of Ulster), when his father found work at IBM.
Later, he earned a B.A. in history from Oneonta State, and a Masters at
SUNY New Paltz.
He started teaching at a small Otsego County school before moving to Miller
Junior High in Kingston and Onteora in September, 1980.
What pulled him to social studies, first, and his innovative brand of
civics, later on?
Iannotti described a period, from 1980 to 1993, when he taught history
and served as a track coach at Onteora, spurred on by his own regiment
of jogging picked up after graduating college feeling 60 pounds overweight.
He took over the district’s cross country team from his predecessor,
Bernie Stahl, who had initiated the award-winning program in 1952. He
made himself a team player.
Then several things started to shift his life, Iannotti says.
Back in the late 1980s, the state mandated that high schools start teaching
at least a half year course in economics. A few years later, they also
mandated what has since become known as PIG, or a Participation in Government
When everyone in the department was polled to see who would take on the
new courses, Iannotti came out the winner. In regards to economics, it
turns out some undergraduate coursework in minor- and macro-economics
made him more qualified than any of his peers in the field. As for PIG,
it just so happened that the teacher was simultaneously growing more interested,
at the time, in local government.
In 1993, Iannotti was appointed to fill out the term of a Town of Ulster
councilman. It was at the same time that IBM, his father’s former
employer, was moving out of the county.
“Call it a crash course in public policy,” he now says, looking
back. “I appreciated, immediat ely, the integration of economics,
politics, and social policy involved in the work, along with the need
to generate something real and beneficial.”
Iannotti ended up serving out the term he was appointed to, the running
and winning two more terms as a conservative Republican candidate, eventually
serving from 1993 through 1999… as his town’s deputy supervisor,
as well as councilman and ex-officio municipal police commissioner.
“It was over that six year period that the idea for my civics class
was born,” he says. “I decided to alter the curriculum to
address a lot of the things I was living outside the classroom.”
So how did his civics class get born from such humble beginnings?
“I wanted to put together a course that would look into the structure
of government at town, county, state and federal levels, that also addressed
macro- and micro-economics, that looked into business organizations and
labor history, international trade and financial policies, monetary policies
and the use of revenues at government level. That compared economic and
government systems but also looked into the roles of interest groups,
the media, and the courts – as well as what was involved in due
process and the rule of law,” Iannotti says of the discussions he
had throughout the mid-1990s with then-Onteora principal Frank Gorlesky
about his planned course. “I wanted to discuss political parties
and what the good citizen does in relation to the bad citizen, in terms
of staying informed and active…I wanted a forum to which I could
bring guest speakers from town boards and local businesses. And I wanted
it to be more fun for the students.”
By 1998, Iannotti was given the go-ahead for his new civics course, which
ended up augmenting the half year mandated courses well, giving students
better chances at meeting the state requirements and easing the school’s
scheduling of classes.
Now, 12 school years later, the teacher estimates that at between 100
and 120 students a year, he’s taught about 1400 kids in total. And
seen some major shifts in the political and economic worlds along the
way, as well as in the school’s own demographics.
“Back when we started the Republicans had solid control of the county
legislature. The Dean Gitter project, which many of my students have written
thesis papers on over the ensuing years, was still merely an idea, with
none of the sides yet formed on either side of it,” Iannotti noted.
“We’ve since been through three presidential elections, the
Indian Mascot issue, and hosted a number of forums on campus, including
a 2003 gathering on the Iraq War and a 2002 Meet the Candidates event
for those running for school board at the time.”
Guest speakers who have come to Iannotti’s class have included two
district attorneys for the county, Congressman Maurice Hinchey, legislators
Dick Petro and Peter Kraft, Woodstock town justice Frank Engel, county
attorney Josh Koplovitz, and several former students including Hinchey’s
chirf of staff, Dan Ahouse, Conway, and New York Public Interest Group
lobbyist Jessica Wizneski.
How had the student body changed over all these years?
“When we started, during the final years of Jimmy Carter, the district
was much farther to the left than it’s been since,” Iannotti
answered. “During the 2003/2004 years, things shifted to the conservative,
although more recently there’s been a great deal of support for
Obama. There’s been a great deal of oscillation…”
And what about student involvement in politics?
That, Ionnotti said, had shifted dramatically… from an earlier lack
of interest in outside politics – a “collective senior ennui,”
as he put it – to student voter registration percentages now being
among the highest in the county. He pointed to annual student registration
for the Harvard Model Congress, at which Onteora regularly has one of
the largest delegations, to involvement in the high school’s Student
Affairs Council and various political clubs.
Have the teacher’s own politics been effected by his teaching, as
well as his students, over the years?
“It has made me somewhat more balanced to constantly see so many
different sides to a subject,” Iannotti replied, after charting
the amount of reading and other research he has kept up with regularly
as part of his own preparations for the class. “I guess you could
say I have moved toward the center…”
And his own future, following retirement?
“I don’t think I’m electable anymore,” he said.
“The demographics have changed…”
Would he miss ONteora?
“I wasn’t enthusiastic when I was asked to teach them the
first time but now I can’t imagine teaching any other kind of kid,”
he said. “And I came to enjoy my daily drives on Route 28. It’s
Then he detoured, reading through his e-mails… from past students
now teaching, or working in business and government, to those still in
college, sharing their course curriculums with him.
“This won’t go away,” John Iannotti said, proudly. “These
are all my friends, now.”
of State aid restored and additional cuts to the budget, voters will see
a 6.47 percent levy increase, less than the initial proposal of a 9 percent
The proposed budget will top $50.1 million, compared to the 2008/2009-voter
approved school budget at $48.2 million. Ford warned that in coming years
the budget will be difficult because the CPI (Consumer Price Index) could
give a very low contingent budget calculation, resulting in a severe impact
Cuts to the district include four regular education teachers, two support
staff, one special education social worker, two FACETS mental health counselors,
the INDIE program, and one kindergarten class.
Other reductions include the general fund for school lunch, administrative
clerical support, the board of education budget, and transportation.
Increased spending includes technology, BOCES services and additional
homework help for High School students as outlined by the Strategic Plan
recommendations. Ford said that overall programming remains rich in high
school electives, honors programs, advanced placement, sports and a variety
Board members Donna Flayhan, Laurie Osmond and Anne MacGillicuddy, however,
expressed skepticism because their requests for additional information
MacGillicuddy said $40,000 budgeted for new voting machines was not necessary
and could help offset the $65,000 cost to keep the FACETS program in the
school, which many spoke in favor of at a previous board meeting in March.
The board was told it was mandated, but she said she contacted the Ulster
County Board of Elections and discovered that only at the federal level
are municipalities required to have new voting machines.
Osmond voiced concern over the FACETS cut, as well.
“People would have to drive to Highland, Ellenville or Kingston,”
she said. “I know for a fact that there are people in this district
living outside villages who do not have cars and these are often the people
in the most dire financial circumstances which adds a lot of stress to
Ford said she spoke with Ed Brown, the Commissioner of Ulster County Department
of Mental Health who runs the FACETS program.
“I’ve offered him a space to continue the program where we
would do kind of a push off from both sides, we wouldn’t charge
him for the space, and he wouldn’t charge us for the services since
those services are actually supported by our taxes,” she said.
In a separate phone conversation, Brown said he spoke briefly with Ford
on the proposal.
“We’ve just had a very limited conversation,” Brown
noted, adding that no details had been outlined on the proposal. He also
explained that the program is not fully funded by tax dollars, meaning
revenue would have to be found either through Medicaid, private billing
or other providers.
In a separate interview,he pointed out how at Onteora, FACETS social workers
are accessible at the Middle/High School and on some days at Woodstock
Elementary. Students and families are offered counseling during and after
Brown explained that students would be put at a great disservice if the
program left the district, primarily effecting students on the western
end the district.
“Onteora provides geographic accessibility and if students must
come to Kingston, the children must be brought in by their parents,”
he said, noting how this is not only disruptive to a student’s day,
but takes away from a parent workday. Having it on site offers immediate
services to a student without missing school or work. Brown also said
their services are different from social work counseling. “Ours
is a licensed mental health treatment service,” overseen by a psychiatrist,
with counseling from social workers, he said. Students still must travel
to Kingston for the psychiatric services. A mix of regular and special
education students from all financial backgrounds utilize FACETS. It also
provides medical treatment, a program the district does not offer. Long
confirmed that district counseling is not a “clinical model.”
Resnick said she believed the elimination of FACETS and the social worker
reflected declining enrollment.
“When you talk about FACETS or INDIE or some of those programs being
changed or realigned, I think that has to do with real decline in enrollment
that is perhaps going unrecognized,” she said, adding that the projection
next year revealed 70 less students at the high school.
Osmond requested a vote to keep FACETS, either through restoring it in
the budget or by exploring Ford’s proposal regarding its operation
on a barter system. Trustees Resnick, Dan Spencer, Michelle Friedel and
Rick Wolff defeated the motion. MacGillicuddy abstained, requesting more
information. Osmond and Flayhan voted yes.
Osmond voiced anger over the $70,000 cut made to the INDIE program in
contrast to proposed money folded into the Vision 21 program.
“I think it’s unfortunate that somehow these two programs
are pitted against each other because I think both programs offer value
to our district,” she said.
The board is expected to adopt a budget on April 22, with an additional
meeting added April 16.
In other business, the board passed a resolution to ask voters to free
up $350,000 that already exists in an appropriated fund balance to pay
for cost overruns on the auditorium project. Voters approved the renovation
of the auditorium in 2007, but construction costs have increased.
Related to the auditorium project, asbestos was found under the carpeting
from the old tile floor underneath. The project is scheduled for completion
over the spring break beginning April 6. The board also approved monies
not to exceed $10,000 for the removal of asbestos in the roof of the Middle/High
The school budget, as well as a new and strategic plan presentation for
the district, can be found on the district website at www.onteora.k12.ny.us.
Three seats are open for the Board of Ed. Petitions can be emailed directly
by contacting the District Clerk through the Onteora Website or picking
one up at the Central Office.
Resnick said she would not run for a second term by explaining how the
position took too much time away from her family, which includes two young
“I have enjoyed working with so many people these last few years,”
she wrote in an e-mail this week. “I have tried to be a thoughtful
and fair voice. I hope as we move forward that people come together in
deep discussion to advance a vision that many can embrace.”
Major droughts are hitting
the western United States and Argentina, coincidentally the world’s
largest producers of GMO crops (106 million acres in the US & 34
million in Argentina with third place China also facing drought), and
famine looms on the horizon, threatening hundreds of millions of people
with food shortages. As the Northeast is expected to receive above normal
rainfall, suddenly people who never dreamed of planting a garden are
starting indoor seed beds to shift outside when weather permits. The
local grapevine suggests that this grassroots organic impulse is also
While it isn’t possible to project the true dimensions of this
activity and there could be other reasons for reported lower than usual
levels of seed supply, it is not difficult to foresee a potential major
barrier to the home garden movement and to small farms and farmer’s
markets in general.
According to a legion of organic food associations and alliances, the
“Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009,” now being fine-tuned
in Congress under the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, could crush the
regrowth of local food markets just as they’re starting to bloom.
A “killing frost,” so to speak.
Called “GMO Proliferation Bills” by Stephen Lendman, a Research
Associate of the Center of Research on Globalization and prolific Chicago-based
journalist, HR 875, S425, HR 814 and HR 759 are batched bills, crafted
by the industry–not the politicians, which organizations like
the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and other critics
believe are “vehicles to let agribusiness control the entire US
food supply, destroy independent farming and end the production of healthy
organic food.” Citing PASA’s study of the bill, Lendman
notes that “code words like ‘traceability, source verification
and best farming practices with proven scientific results’ will
force farmers to tag every animal....and use drugs, pesticides and GM
Lendman and other analysts find the bills’ “deceptively
innocuous” text to be riddled with broad language which would
embrace NAIS–the controversial National Animal Identification
System– to tag domestic animals for monitoring by Global Positioning
Systems (as part of the “Trace Act of 2009,” HR 814, now
being reviewed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee) and provide
harsh penalties for conduct infractions to be interpreted by industry
“experts” (i.e., huge corporations like Cargill, Monsanto,
ADM, etc. who have a past record of attempting to suppress organic competition
to their GMO agenda.)
A careful examination of Section 103 of the sizable HR 875 bill suggests
that the perspective of company officials, appointed by the US Department
of Agriculture, would prevail in judging transgressions.
The large and complex bill would “criminalize organic farming
without actually using the word ‘organic,’ in the words
of one observer, and Section 206 is worded to include the produce from
backyard gardeners’ “food production facilities” as
subject to prosecution.. It will potentially effect even hunters who
process game for personal consumption and seemingly violate the 10th
Amendment by requiring individual state agricultural departments to
enforce federal requirements.
HR 875 is also about seed control, with the agricultural giants demanding
expensive storage facilities per line of seed, which organic farmers
cannot afford, and detailed records for vital seed cleaning operations
geared to regulations which don’t happen to include protection
from GM contamination. If your stock becomes tainted with their patented
pollen, you must pay them, of course.
Lendman observes that “reliable studies show that rats fed GM
potatoes had smaller livers, hearts, testicles, brains, damaged immune
systems and showed structural changes in their white blood cells, making
them more susceptible to infection and disease than other rats fed non-GM
potatoes. They also had thymus and spleen damage, enlarged tissues,
including the pancreas and intestines, liver atrophy and other serious
Such dire effects have been noted in numerous scientific studies and
scientists, individually and in groups, have denounced the massive use
of American consumers as guinea pigs to the extent that some 80% of
processed foods being sold in this country contain GM ingredients. Critics
point to a corresponding rise in health problems as the technology proliferated
since the 1980s due to the industry’s skill at political lobbying
They cite a 90% rise in diabetes within the last decade, the recently
emerged, mysterious and horrific Morgellon’s disease which has
halted song-stylist Joni Mitchell’s career, and numerous other
ills on the growth chart.
Although you’re more likely to read about it at the Institute
for Science In Society and similar websites rather than hear about it
in commercial media, biologists like the internationally known Dr. Mae-Wan
Ho and Dr. Joseph Cummins have long been cautioning about “a technology
that is widely acknowledged to be unreliable, uncontrollable and unpredictable”
having been set loose in the marketplace.
Scientists such as Dr. Richard Strolman, Professor Emeritus at the Department
of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California in Berkeley,
sees it as a “crisis” situation wherein we now know that
genes exist in “interactive networks which have a logic of their
own” but have unleashed a blind roulette food gamble with people’s
“Monsanto knows this. DuPont knows this. Novartis knows this.
They all know what I know,” he continues. “But they don’t
want to look at it because it’s too complicated and it’s
going to cost too much to figure out. The number of questions, the number
of possibilities for what happens to a cell, to the whole organism when
you insert a foreign gene, are almost incalculable. And the time it
would take to assess the infinite possibilities that arise is beyond
the capabilities of computers. But that’s what you get when you’re
dealing with living systems.”
(It is my own contention, impossible to detail in an article this size,
that we have already experienced a series of GM “mishaps,”
deftly disguised as something else to protect the hundreds of billions
laced into the industry).
Although spokespeople from government and the agricultural industry
deny that these bills are a deliberate assault upon organic farming,
the language in them leaves open that very possibility and the track
record of the Ag monsters, filled with fraud and deception, is not reassuring.
One prominent campaigner against the bill, Linn Cohen-Cole, expresses
direct and simplistic ideas about the timing of the legislation “...organic
food and a rebirth of farming were winning. Not in absolute numbers
but in a deep and growing shift by the public toward understanding the
connection between their food and their health, between good food and
true social pleasures, between their own involvement in food and the
improvement in their lives in general, between local food and a burgeoning
local economy... Slow food was right–limit your food to what comes
from your region and from real farmers and slow down to cook it and
linger over it with friends and family, and the world begins to change
for the better.”
In the next issue, we’ll take a closer look at the provisions
of the bills, their architects and implementers and how their potential
impact is being perceived locally.