Letters to the Editor

Dangerous seed On December 10 in the legislature, the government responded to a petition signed by more than 1,500 people calling for a moratorium…

Dangerous seed

On December 10 in the legislature, the government responded to a petition signed by more than 1,500 people calling for a moratorium on the planting of genetically engineered seed in the Yukon.

In turning down the petitioners’ request, Archie Lang, the minister responsible for agriculture, ironically said, “We will take into account the views and interests of Yukon farmers and consumers and the public.

“We will work with our federal counterparts to learn more about this technology.”

If the department wants to be informed about genetically engineered seed, it must go beyond the scope of agriculture department scientists serving agribusiness.

The Report of the Royal Society of Canada’s Expert Panel on the Future of Biotechnology (published February 2001) noted with concern the growing evidence of university researchers building “unprecedented ties with industry partners” and the “profound impact” this is having.

A scientist at Health Canada filed a grievance against a food safety gag order: Dr. Shiv Chopra, a drug inspector with the department, was ordered not to speak at a community meeting on genetically engineered foods.

A few weeks ago the Yukon Agriculture department invited two scientists from out of town to talk about the technology.

The facilitator opened question period with the request that we not talk about Monsanto — the company that has a monopoly on genetically engineered seed.

It is impossible to have an informed discussion about this technology without including the corporate interests that promote it.

Genetically engineered technology originated from a corporation, not from a human need.

Humans have been successfully feeding themselves for millennia.

Agriculture did not suddenly need to be re-invented.

Starvation in our world is most often a result of poverty — macro-economic distribution systems create it.

Genetically engineered technology is not a sustainable agriculture. It is not helping farmers grow food for their communities.

The greed behind genetically engineered technology is demonstrated by the fact that farmers cannot save seed for the next planting, they have to buy new seed each crop, and the seed is the intellectual property of Monsanto.

Talk about unsustainable! African countries experiencing famine have refused aid that is genetically engineered.

Genetically engineered technology has been around for 11 years or so.

In that time there has been a drastic reduction in the number of seed and pesticide companies in the world.

There has also been a drastic reduction in the number of family farms.

Where genetically engineered foods are labelled, consumers do not want to eat it. Where they are not labeled — as in North America — people just don’t know what they are eating.

Genetically engineered corn, which is heavily subsidized by the American government (think billions annually), is in close to 4,000 products on store shelves.

There are many concerns about safety testing.

How much of that testing is done by the companies themselves?

Is safety testing ongoing? Is it designed to detect unexpected substances arising out of the technology? How are effects being tracked through generations?

Which brings us back to the scientists, the importance of consulting independent (non-government and non-corporate) scientists.

“We have monitored and reviewed extensive scientific literature and empirical evidence around the world on genetically engineered crops and livestock over the past 10 years, the sum total of which indicates that they may well be inherently hazardous to health and the environment,” writes Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, director of the Institute of Science in Society.

A precautionary approach, such as the petition requested, is warranted.

Tory Russell, GE-Free Yukon


Savage people

Wolves and other animals are once again in danger from government-set snares.

The opportunists (department of Environment) are once again using the predation of dogs by wolves as a reason to kill wolves.

Dogs on chains, and or running at large are vulnerable to predators.

Is anything being done to deter the wolves from coming into areas of conflict? Where are the bait and snares being placed? Setting snares, which are indiscriminate (non-selective), shows a total disrespect for any wolves and many other types of animals that are attracted by the bait (i.e. dogs, coyotes, bears, eagles, ravens, etc.)

Don’t the “conservation” officers have anything better to do, like maybe protecting wildlife, instead of looking for excuses to destroy them?

With all their knowledge, can they tell us how many wolves they have killed over the years — including wolves that weren’t bothering anybody?

There is always an excuse to persecute wolves.

Who needs trappers when you have the Environment department to supply furs to the Yukon Trappers Association?

The savagery of humankind continues!

If wolves are not viewed as a threat to people’s dogs, they are viewed as a resource by hunters, trappers and government.

If they are not viewed as a resource, they are considered competition by hunters harvesting ungulates.

If they are not viewed as competition, they are viewed as pests.

Wolves, like all life, play an integral role in the ecosystem (like it or not).

The savagery of ‘humankind’ continues!

Mike Grieco


Howling response

This is in response to the recent letter to the editor by Chris Caldwell, regarding her perceived “public bullying” of Yukon dog mushers by local animal advocates like myself, and by Judy Stone at the Animal Advocates Society of British Columbia.

I had given serious thought to the fact that Caldwell’s numerous poorly substantiated statements were not worth a response, but due to her accusations that dog mushers were being “slandered,” I must take issue and respond.

With regard to the infamous photo I took of three scared-looking Yukon Quest dogs chained to a dog truck shortly before the start of the 2007 Quest, the man’s (musher or handler) identity is not distinguishable because it was taken from behind and only the right side of his body can be seen.

However, were I a participant in a race in which three dogs were killed and many more were injured, run while ill (and run past the point of exhaustion), I would have wanted my face blurred out or to have been wearing a balaclava in order to mask my identity.

Let us remember that the Yukon Quest is a professional event that receives public money and if these people need to conceal their involvement, they should stop participating and volunteering.

I must also inform Caldwell that if she dismisses at hand, allegations of cruelty in the dog mushing/sled dog racing industry from animal rights people, perhaps she will pay attention to the few ‘industry insiders’ who have bravely made their own criticisms.

I speak of Yukon Quest veteran musher Frank Turner who, immediately prior to the 2007 Quest, brought up the issue of dog culling by Quest mushers.

I speak of “four-time Iditarod finisher” John Suter, who widely circulated letters to the editor about Iditarod musher Remy Brooks “beatin’ the livin’ daylights” out of his entire dog team in the 2007 Iditarod (http://www.animalperson.net/animal_person/2007/10/chime-in-regard.html).

Suter wrote his letter in specific response to the “much-needed equal run/equal rest” rule, stating that Brooks “did not do anything differently (using corporal punishment on his dogs) from all the other top (Iditarod) mushers” — only that Brooks was caught “motivating his dogs,” in order to be competitive.

Caldwell should also read the hard-hitting criticism of the Quest (http://news.seppalasleddogs.com/blog/2006_02.html) from the people at Seppala Sled Dogs, and also an elegantly written treatise about “responsible sled dog breeding, training and ownership” (http://www.seppalas.org/responsible.htm).

I also question Caldwell’s claim as an animal lover.

I thumbed through her recently published book and saw a cartoon depicting two huskies whose bums were stuck together on a Whitehorse street.

The cartoon shows a couple of “Townies” as she calls them, being concerned about the situation, while “real Yukoners” snicker in the background (irresponsible dog breeding is not very funny, Caldwell).

I also saw a cartoon that was apparently done for a retiring conservation officer, showing the officer throwing a wolf (with all kinds of monitoring equipment attached to its collar) out of a Piper Cub.


Caldwell, your love toward animals, like most Yukon Quest supporters, ends at the hearts of your own dogs (if you have any).

I thank the editors of the two (very fine) Whitehorse newspapers (by far the best and most responsible media sources in the Yukon) for publishing public comment from both sides of the dog-mushing debate.

To all Yukoners, if you are thinking about getting a dog, please give thought to giving a good home to retired sled dogs and shelter dogs.

In the words of my good friend Mike Grieco, “Praise all the animals!”

Terry Cumming, SledDogWatchdog.com