As a descendant of Welsh ancestors who also have fought to retain their language and culture, I can relate to the Indian tribes’ concern about preserving their native languages via dual-language road signs (“Tribe wants road signs to reflect Ojibwe language,” Jan. 24). I also appreciate that Canada is overwhelmingly English-speaking, yet it provides bilingual signage throughout the country. Preservation of and respect for others’ cultures is a sign of an advanced society.

I just want the facts to be clear on who would pay for this additional signage: the taxpayers. The Star Tribune article stated that the Ojibwe tribe wants to pay for it with a $12,000 grant from the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council. I find that a tad misleading. According to the state’s website, the council is funded by the state government (including employee salaries) and reports to the Legislature. Thus, it would be the taxpayers’ role to fund this project, not the tribe’s. I think that should have been included in the article, and I think placement/style of the signs should be decided by the taxpayers’ representatives.

Donna Callender, Edina

 

NUCLEAR ENERGY

Safe? Efficient? That’s a letter writer’s hope, and that’s all it is

A Jan. 22 letter writer describes himself as a science-fiction fan, and true to his word, he goes on to describe nuclear visions that are closer to science fiction than reality. When nuclear fission was new, it was billed as a source of electricity “too cheap to meter.” Instead, it became too expensive to finance or insure. Actual buildable nuclear options are prohibitively expensive, cannot be insured, take too long to build to seriously address climate change, and still no safe disposal solution to the radioactive waste already generated is even on the horizon. There are no commercially viable fusion reactors on the planet.

Why not fantasize about solar? Installations are skyrocketing by orders of magnitude; costs have plummeted a hundredfold in the last 10 years, and we don’t have to bury used sunshine. If a few acres of solar panels are destroyed by terrorists or a plane crash, so what? At least we don’t have a Chernobyl or a Fukushima on our hands. Such a blow would not douse power to anyone for more than a moment, since solar panels will feed the grid at myriad points. Solar (and other clean alternatives) gives us resilience we’ve never had.

Terry Hokenson, Minneapolis

 

GENETIC MODIFICATION

A broader look at GMOs and consumers’ interests

Douglas Allchin’s Jan. 26 commentary (“Labeling for genetic modifications conjures an extremely slippery slope”) is clear science insofar as it recounts the virtues of conventional plant breeding, but it fails to address the central issue driving the debate about the safety of genetically engineered crops intended for human consumption. The issue is not whether or not it is safe to continue to crossbreed different varieties of wheat or corn, or any other plant, to yield improved traits. This is indeed botanical intervention that has been going on for centuries.

In recent years, companies like Pioneer and Monsanto developed the ability to introduce genes that were isolated from nonplant sources — such as bacteria — into corn, soybeans, cotton and other crops. Such genes impart properties to the “transgenic” plants, such as the ability to resist attack by the European corn borer or to be resistant to glyphosate (“Roundup”), a relatively nontoxic herbicide, so that it can be used to control weeds while not harming the cash crop. However, such genes are foreign to the host plant. This has led “green” organizations to oppose their use to produce “Frankenfoods” that raise human health issues, or at least have demanded that such food or food products be labeled as produced from genetically modified organisms (“GMOs), so that consumers can choose whether or not to consume them.

Allchin correctly notes that a requirement to label food products prepared from crops improved by conventional crossbreeding would be a massive task, but so would labeling corn or corn products, such as cornstarch or high-fructose corn syrup, derived from genetically modified corn. Corn genetically modified to resist corn borers — or to resist both corn borers and herbicides — now amounts to more than 80 percent of all of the planted acres in the U.S. Genetically modified soybean acreage is nearly 100 percent (http://tinyurl.com/9qm9ssv).

In fact, a shopper in a supermarket post-labeling would see almost nothing but GMO warning labels, and that is hardly a choice. The consumer determined to avoid such genetically modified foods would be better served by patronizing markets and farm stands that claim to market GMO-free produce. Of course, that will not help them locate GMO-free processed foods such as cornflakes, nondiet sodas or toaster pastries, but maybe that’s not entirely a bad thing.

Warren Woessner, Minneapolis

The writer is a patent attorney specializing in agricultural biotechnology.

 

INFECTIOUS DISEASES

Many risks in Minnesota, but winter helps, for now

As an infectious-diseases specialist, I greatly appreciated the Jan. 22 article alerting Minnesotans to the dramatic spread of Lyme disease (“Disease-carrying ticks spread across state, nation”). As the article pointed out, the epidemic of this bacterial infection coincides with the epidemic of black-legged ticks. In addition to carrying the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, this nasty tick carries another bacterium that causes anaplasmosis and a parasite that causes babesiosis. The reasons for the spread of the black-legged tick are complex, but climate change appears to play a role. The health impact of climate change not only includes tick-borne infections, but mosquito-borne diseases as well. Of course, we have no shortage of these insect vectors in Minnesota, but fortunately the species that are responsible for major pandemics of dengue, chikungunya and, most recently, Zika virus infection, generally (like many humans) can’t tolerate our winters.

Dr. Phillip K. Peterson, Minneapolis

 

PRESIDENTIAL PROCESS

Entertaining, for some, but of little benefit to the nation

As the media go crazy wondering if 2016 will be a battle between the one socialist in Congress and a TV reality star famous for his bad hair and bankrupt casinos, we tend to forget how utterly ridiculous the U.S. system for electing presidents is. In Iowa, the “winners” will be decided by a few thousand teacher union reps, vegan college students, ethanol lobbyists, home schoolers and evangelicals who speak in tongues. Then the race moves on to New Hampshire, a lily-white, tiny state full of crusty farmers and Revolutionary War re-enactors. This is not politics; it’s reality TV.

Ken Darling, Golden Valley

 

STATE BUDGET SURPLUS

If I’d been polled, I’d have said: I want my money back

A Jan. 26 headline about Minnesota Poll results reads: “State split over $1.2B surplus.” But, in fact, it is not a surplus, but an overcharge. People are opining on what to do with these funds currently in the state coffers. These funds are a result of incompetent or maybe deceitful forecasting of revenue. Either way, politicians are giddy with planning ways to take away my “rainy-day funds.” I do not want to see more spending on services I do not use, things I do not want or sports stadiums I’ll never see the inside of.

Dick Kuznia, St. Peter, Minn.