Legacies left behind and the importance of Initiative 2012-4 | Guest column

By Ken Akopiantz

Special to the Islands’ Sounder

Our generation inherited a world contaminated with PCBs. They were considered as safe as mineral oil and table salt. PCBs were used in hundreds of applications from insulating fluids, plasticizers in paints, pesticide extenders, caulking, adhesives, to carbonless copy paper.

We now know that PCBs are toxic at extremely low levels. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PCBs are a known carcinogen and cause a variety of adverse health affects on the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems. They are an “environmental hormone” entering into the network of natural hormones and disrupting critical stages of embryonic and immune system development. PCBs can cross the placenta into the growing infant and be stored in breast milk.

PCBs do not readily break down. They bioaccumulate and work their way to the top of the food chain stored in fatty tissue. Ninety percent of our exposure to PCBs is from our food. Most people have detectable levels of PCBs. Our present levels of exposure to PCBs are expected to cause a number of the health effects mentioned above.

As early as 1937 it was apparent that PCBs “were certainly capable of doing harm in very low concentrations.” By 1966 PCB contamination of the worlds food supply was documented. It was not until 1979 that the production of PCBs was banned by the EPA. PCBs still and will for decades contaminate the environment from improper disposal and hazardous waste sites. The Monsanto Company, the primary producer of PCBs in the U.S., maintains that “it acted responsibly in the manufacture of PCBs”.

Like PCBs, there are many “technological advances” today. One of these is genetically modified organisms. Monsanto the leader in this field says that GMOs are “as wholesome, nutritious and safe as conventional food” and that they are “acting responsibly” with this new technology. Like PCBs in the 1930s, the human and environmental effects of GMOs are not understood. The unintended consequences of forcing DNA to combine from unrelated organisms have raised concerns with geneticists around the world. Independent studies have linked GMOs to immune and digestive disorders, food allergies, cancer and antibiotic resistance. Independent studies have shown that claims of, greater yields, profitability, and reduced pesticide usage, with the adoption of GMOs, are false. Unlike PCBs, genetic contamination from GMOs does not break down. Small amounts of genetic pollution from GMOs have the potential to grow exponentially.

Compared to previous generations, we have easy access to this information. It is this information that we must act upon. It is time that we allow human interests (not corporate interests), common sense and sound independent scientific research determine the legacy which we leave. Vote Yes! Initiative 2012-4.

Initiative 2012-4 will make our county a GMO-Free growing region. It will not affect what is sold in stores or the raising of hybrids. Only those who knowingly violate this law will be responsible for abatement costs. Approving this initiative will show that the residents of our county are united with concerned citizens around the world, believe in appropriate uses of technological advances, and care about the planet and its inhabitants. For more info, visit gmofreesjc.org.