Letters

Dear Editor


A future in South Africa
J M Coetzee’s Disgrace is not a biblical prophecy about the future of our country (Chris Meares, Letters, nose164); it is a story, a dark tale, in which – given the crime and graft of our tin-pot kleptocracy – prophetic overtones lurk.

Dark novels do not necessarily foretell the future and historically South Africa has never been predictable. I don’t see whites flocking to other countries; I see people committing themselves to a future in this country, even with the current disastrous leadership, gross inequality and grinding poverty.

Many have learned that the grass can be pretty sere on the other side, and we believe that we are quite capable of reinventing ourselves yet again. Our leadership will either do the same or collapse beneath the weight of its own incompetence and greed.

Rosemund Handler
Cape Town

Driven to golf
Commenting on Rob Sowry’s letter  (nose164), you say that “if those guys in Pollsmoor Prison and their buddies had had the good fortune to earn enough to be able to afford to experience the game of golf, they would probably not have ended up there anyway”. This suggests wealth is created by good fortune and poverty is the cause of crime. These are factors but they are clearly not the root causes.

Anyone in the townships will tell you that the worst criminals there are the wealthiest. These gangsters practise their trades for expensive cars and flashy lifestyles including the most expensive drugs – not “to be able to afford the experience of playing golf” or to feed hungry children. Most people who enjoy the luxury of playing golf have worked hard to do so.

Andre Jensen
Port Elizabeth

Anyone in the golf-playing suburbs of, say, Houghton, Bishopscourt or Kloof will tell you the worst criminals in their communities are the wealthiest and that they use their ill-gotten gains for expensive cars and flashy lifestyles including the most expensive drugs – and lawyers who keep them out of jail. Golf doesn’t swing it either way. Ed

► Further to Tom Eaton’s article on golf (nose163), including his point about the courses needing vast quantities of water, it’s worth noting that, according to the UN, America is the world’s most inefficient water user. The reason: its love of golf (news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2857587.stm ).

David P Kramer
Killarney

Spinning a yarn about turbines
Noseweek has swallowed a lie, hook, line and sinker by quoting one Terry McKenzie Hoy, commenting (in Engineering News) on wind farms in California: “…over 14,000 turbines are simply abandoned; spinning post-industrial junk which generates nothing but kills birds” (nose162).

You failed to check your source. The phrase quoted was taken from blogger Andrew Walden (American Thinker). There is one grain of truth: the total number of wind turbines in California is around 14,000 but they are not abandoned. Four thousand of them, installed 30 years ago at Altamont Pass are of a very old design, with towers attractive to birds. These are being replaced at a rate of one new efficient mega-turbine for each 20 of the old type.

Wind-generated power provided 5% of California’s electricity in 2012. This could not happen if the turbines had been abandoned.

As for the matter of the true cost of wind power – subsidy or no subsidy – the Noseweek article has not even dipped into the topic. Research it, but don’t rely on the opinions of bloggers.

Rod Gurzynski
Kommetjie

Strip down to the belt
This broken cam belt story (Letters, nose163) is causing a problem for workshops. If a cam belt breaks, the engine suffers bent valves etc and the repair ultimately becomes expensive in relation to the cost of replacing the belt alone. Though called a belt, it is actually an internal part which can only be inspected by stripping parts of the engine. Without knowing the belt’s age or how the car has been driven, no judgement on the belt’s health can be given. If in doubt, change it.

Engineers at Toyota and the Motor Industry Ombudsman both disagree with Mr Makin. He is unable to accept these judgements and is now trying to get a non-technical court to find for him – and he may succeed on a technicality. It’s a waste of everyone’s time.

Aivars Priede
Subaru, George

Wrong way round, Down Under
Anne Susskind gives an extremely one-sided view of the reception given South African immigrants in Australia (nose164).

As one who has lived in Australia for over 36 years, I refute many of the allegations. Interacting with locals of all types I have honestly never come across a single instance of anti-South African feeling. Similarly I have yet to meet an ex-South African who has even contemplated returning.

Your article mentions (opposition leader) Tony Abbott in unflattering terms: no mention of the fact he is a Rhodes Scholar and an Oxford Blue with degrees in Economics and Law, is a volunteer firefighter and a surf lifesaver, or that he spends one week every year living and working with Aboriginals in the outback. God willing he will become our prime minister on 14 September. If I had a choice of leader between Abbott and Jacob Zuma, it would not be a difficult choice.  

Finally, ask yourself: How many Australians have emigrated to seek sanctuary in South Africa?

Mike Greenberg
Sydney

Anti-GMO horror stories are just mumbo-jumbo
Your article on GMO and Monsanto is superstitious mumbo-jumbo based on horror stories by inferior “researchers”. Why is the anti-GMO stance not witnessed in the mainstream community? Simple: peer review literature does not support the outrageous claims of the “activist” scientists. [Really? See Rogue wheat imperils US exports in this issue. Ed]

In properly constructed feed trials, when testing balanced “first limiting amino-acid” rations on animals, they showed no difference in animal welfare between rations that incorporated GM maize or soya, and those that used non-GM. These trials have been replicated and published in many countries. [Over what period of time were the trials run? – ­Ed]

Linear programmes used by animal nutritionists do not differentiate between GM and non-GM feedstocks. Empirical evidence in the poultry and pork sectors that have used GMO feedstocks for about 20 years, confirms there is no negative difference in performance.

When I read in your article that the rodents had fared poorly on Monsanto GMO potatoes,  I was outraged. I checked the literature and found that the experimenter had abused the test animals.

When animal nutritionists check a new ingredient in their compound feed, they make a partial replacement in a formula. In this way they can determine if the new ingredient affects growth, mortality or fertility, at different levels of inclusion. A test where only GM potatoes are fed to rodents – wanton cruelty – is guaranteed to result in an unhappy outcome. Anyone restricted to a diet of potatoes – GMO or not – would suffer their teeth to loosen.

Biologically, people are little different from chickens or pigs. We may confidently allow humans to dine on GMO maize as part of an amino acid balanced diet and expect them to flourish.

Rainbow Chicken nutritionists constantly check and calculate their mix of raw materials for poultry rations, to ensure efficient, safe production. If non-GMO gave better results, they would be buying it. Every single hen laying eggs commercially in South Africa eats GMO. The “pulses” fed to fowls producing “free range” and “organic” eggs are nothing less than meal from Roundup Ready Argentinian soybeans. If GMO had any deleterious affect on the fowls, Rainbow (and its competitors) would be buying non-GMO feedstock.  

In the USA, over 200 million eggs are placed in incubators each week. Over the past 10 years, despite the “parent flocks” eating ever-increasing amounts of GMO feeds, the egg-hatching rate has improved. That is quite a data set to argue against: over 20 billion eggs hatched, with the trend for the number of addled eggs down.

The researchers who claim that GMO causes stillbirth or birth defects are wrong. GMO maize and soybeans do not have a deleterious effect on the creatures which consume them.

Your attack on genetic engineering is closer to an “ad hominem” than an exposé. Genetic engineering is not without risk nor controversy, which is why Noseweek should not cry wolf. We rely on Noseweek to do a solid job of its exposés. We need to be able to trust the content so that we can widen our knowledge and our grasp of the issues.

If Noseweek readers tend to be in left field, it is because the facts inform us to take that position, rather than any pique or defiance.  

David de V Murray
Grain Merchant, Stellenbosch

Thank you for your considered and well-crafted letter. We have always seen ourselves as only one half of the conversation. But the conversation continues.

You seem to have missed the main point of our GM/Monsanto article: it is the secrecy, paranoia and aggression of the GM industry which raise questions about the safety of its products, rather than the conclusive results of any research. The fact is, there has been a piffling amount of independent research into the long-term health effects of GM food, even on rats, and the industry has done everything it can to hamper potentially critical science. The impact of GMOs on biodiversity and the effects on food security of patented crops are two more reasons why the precautionary principle should apply.

Monsanto and its brothers-in-biotech are very powerful organisations that spend fortunes on persuading politicians and the public that GM is safe and the answer to world hunger.

As a N
oseweek reader, you are expected to retain a grain of healthy scepticism – yes, even about GM feeds.  What do Japan and the European Union know about Monsanto’s GM crops that Rainbow Chicken perhaps doesn’t care about? Ed

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Submitted by : Pete Swanepoel of MONTCLAIR on 2013-06-30 12:02:54
Anyone who says "Your article on GMO and Monsanto is superstitious mumbo-jumbo based on horror stories by inferior "researchers" is SUSPECT. Either he doesn't know of Monsanto's methods, its political connections (think Rumsfeld & Cheney) or he is invested in the GMO juggernaut (in deV Murray's individual defence, grain merchants would be very hard-put NOT to be). He uses Monsanto methodology of using anecdote and bluster while ignoring the main charge: Monsanto wants to patent things that should be in the public domain. THAT's the main problem. Monsanto SUES farmers who end up - even inadvertently - with "Monsanto-owned" DNA on their farms. Decent governments would NOT enable Monsanto - in fact decent governments would specifically enact laws AGAINST Monsanto.

Editor's Note
And not to forget the involvement of Bill Gates and his Microsoft billions...

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