Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday, March 19 2013

The battle over labeling of genetically modified foods (GMOs) is currently being fought in Connecticut and thirty other states. At issue is whether those foods sold to consumers must be identified on the packaging. Sixty countries now require such labeling, but there is no national mandate in the US.

In Connecticut, the Public Health Committee heard arguments from both sides in the dispute last Thursday.

Testifying in favor of labeling, Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream told the group that ““This is not about whether you can use GMOs or not. It’s about telling people honestly, openly, and transparently what’s in food so they can decide.”

Vermont is closer to passing such a bill, but Monsanto, which developed the technology and holds patents on the process, has threatened to sue that state if it is adopted.

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture is against the bill. They testified that  Connecticut’s farmers would be placed at a competitive disadvantage if it passes. They said, “A national policy is necessary to keep the playing field level for Connecticut farm families”.

However, many believe it may be too late, as 70% of all foods in grocery stores contain GMOs which aid in reducing losses from insects by making the plants immune to herbicides. But heath risks are still unclear.

Two speakers brought the fight to end mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia to students at the Quinnipiac University Law School on Monday. WPKN's Melinda Tuhus reports:

The struggle is part of the bigger fight to end coal extraction altogether, since it is the most polluting fossil fuel both in terms of greenhouse gases and in its devastating health and environmental impacts. In the past decade coal has dropped from providing 50 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. to a little over 35 percent, but blowing the tops off mountain ridges to get at the coal seams beneath continues unabated, mainly in West Virginia. 

Elise Keaton is with the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, based in Charleston, W.V. She described the forces that are arrayed against residents' efforts to shut down this form of mining.

The two are also speaking at Fairfield University and Southern CT State University this week.

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News

Suffolk County has launched a new pilot program with the goal of helping veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

The county is one of four municipalities in the state to launch a peer-to-peer program that allows veterans, active duty reservists and National Guard troops with PTSD to speak with trained veteran facilitators. The facilitators provide comfort and familiarity to those seeking assistance. 
The program is named in honor of PFC Joseph Dwyer, a Suffolk County Iraq war veteran. Dwyer suffered from PTSD and later died.

The pilot program holds seven weekly meeting groups across Suffolk County with more than 78 veterans. All meetings operate under anonymity. The Suffolk County Veteran's Service Agency has oversight of the program. State Senator Lee Zeldin, of Shirley, has secured $200,000 to fund the pilot phase of the program.

The Southold Town board took steps last week to support a state bill aimed at creating long-term transportation solutions for the East End.

The bill would create the Peconic Bay Regional Transporation Authority, to provide transportation alternatives to the Long Island Railroad.

The vision for long-term transportation alternatives began in the 1990s by the East End Transportation Council. Lack of reliable public transportation has long frustrated residents of the twin forks.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said the original plan favored the South Fork because it has the infrastructure to support trains throughout the entire town. Russell said "Here, the train stops at Greenport, before the end of the town… It's not conducive to hamlet growth."
Instead, Russell said, a request was made for an alternate plan for a "hybrid" system including trains and shuttle buses that would more adequately suit the needs of the entire East End, including the North Fork.

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