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Response to 8/12/00 Op-Ed Item

Hi, Folks!

Okay, I got inspired and I wrote my letter.  The op-ed piece that got us all
so mad is

The e-mail for the Philadelphia Inquirer Letters to the Editor is
<inquirer.letters@phillynews.com>  You are supposed to only use 300 words
(okay, overdid it there, but I was mad!) and include your full address and
phone number.

So, does anyone know the guy who wrote the piece?  At the end it says:

John Meredith is a member of the African American leadership network Project
21 of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a nonpartisan think-tank. 

I'm working at the ACGA office tomorrow -- if anyone knows where this place
is, I'll send him a letter on ACGA stationary, refer his to his local ACGA
board member/community garden and ask for both a personal check from him AND
from his organization -- considering how he just re-stated the entire
biotech position, I bet he's WELL funded.  Well, he can just share some of
that funding with ACGA -- I will not be insulted in this manner!


August 14, 2000

Dear Inquirer Letter Editors:

As a member of the American Community Gardening Association (which provides
inner-city residents with resources to grow their own food) and a Listed
Member of Seed Savers Exchange (which preserves heirloom seeds which produce
harvests under local conditions)  I was outraged by the inaccuracies of
Meredith's 8/12/00 op-ed piece "Misguided anti-biofood campaign a dangerous
obstacle to progress" in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

While many gardeners in the Delaware Valley are staring in dismay at their
green tomatoes, I'm harvesting ripe red tomatoes for dinner. Why?  Because I
don't grow "one size fits all" (an impossibility in nature anyway!)
commerically-tinkered seed -- I grow several different open-pollinated
tomatoes that have been bred over the years to adapt and produce in our
local conditions.  So, I'm eating tomatoes (and saving the seeds) while
others bred for commerical use stare at green globes. 

If Meredith wants his tomatoes with extra Vitamin A, extra disease
resistance or pest resistance, etc. he doesn't need to wait for the Biotech
industry to save him -- these tomatoes are already available in common
heirloom seed catalog as well as the hundreds of varieties available for
every local condition in the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbooks.  Unfortunately,
growing out, then selling a seed that customers can easily save for
themselves doesn't improve the profit margin for the biotech industry -- the
industry has to convince us somehow that only they can provide such
marvelous seeds.  Join Seed Savers Exchange <http://www.seedsavers.org/> and
find out what's *really* out there!

The issue of Vitamin A and other nutritional deficiencies in Sub-Saharan
Africa is not only a function of civil war and poor transportation, but, as
outlined by Vandana Shiva, a function of broad-based pesticides (like
Round-up) which kill all the weeds in a field, including traditional leafy
green "wild foods" that were served with rice and provided the meal's
vitamin content.  For instance, in the community garden which I run in
Phoenixville, I teach the children to pull the barnyard grass out of our
squash patch, but to keep the purslane for use in salads.  (Actually, most
of the purslane isn't making it to salads -- the kids are steadily muching
through it or absently chewing on the thick, red fleshy stems as they wander
through the garden looking for vegetables more suitable for showing off to
their friends!) These children may be minorities that live in a housing
project, but they'll never have to get their nutrition from either purchased
supplements or a fast food restaurant!  

I'm hardly alone in spending my days teaching minority children to identify
useful plants or providing the space so that those who do enjoy growing can
share their bounty with their neighbors.  There are over 700 community
gardens in Philadelphia alone and thousands of us in the American Community
Gardening Association <http://www.communitygarden.org>. If Meredith is
truely cares about the nutritional plight of who he says are his brethren, I
expect either his check in the mail to this organization or his political
backing when the community gardens (and the plural is the reality!) in his
city are threatened by developers.

Finally, Meredith begins with the biotech industry's favorite example of the
vaccine genetically engineered to produce itself inside a banana. However,
as any regular listener of NPR knows, the poor scientist trying to develop
this technology hasn't been able to get it right for the past 5 years
because he doesn't have sufficient funds for his research.  If the biotech
industry is going to use this man as their "premier example" of
biotechnology's benefits, the least they could do is fully fund the man so
that his example can become a reality!

Meanwhile, I'll be "saving the world" as Meredith puts it, by teaching
minority children how to grow their own vegetables so they don't have to
visit either Wendy's or Fresh Fields and saving tomato seeds that will ripen
in Pennsylvania no matter what the weather throws at them.


Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden

cc:  Sally McCabe, Board Member, American Community Gardening Association
     Philadelphia, PA

     Duane Perry, Director, Farmer's Market Trust
     Philadelphia, PA

     William Woys Weaver, Food Historian and Listed Member, Seed Savers Exchange
     Devon, PA

     Rev. Linda Gruber, Pastor, St. John's United Church of Christ
     Phoenixville, PA

     NorthEast Community Food Systems Internet Mailing List

     American Community Gardening Association Internet Mailing List

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