November 8, 2012

Letters to the editor: Food column leaves sour taste

Yes, Avery Yale Kamila is right about her column being scary -- i.e., "Natural Foodie: Grim reapings from the industrial food system" (Oct. 31) -- but what's scary is that the Portland Press Herald would publish such a distorted and outlandish column.

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A boy eats a hamburger at a Burger King in Miami in 2011. In a recent column, food writer Avery Yale Kamila unfairly criticizes hamburger, chicken, eggs, peanut butter and myriad other foods as products of the “industrial food system,” a reader says.

2011 File Photo/The Associated Press

Readers should expect the Press Herald to publish columns that are reasonably objective and informative. Ms. Kamila's column is neither.

Instead, she condemns the food industry using distortions and downright misinformation. As the saying goes, she's entitled to her own opinions but not to her own facts.

Some of her distortions and misinformation in her column include:

She denigrated rice farmers as not being particularly bright and indicated that all rice may be poisonous.

She threw corn and soybeans under the bus as being unhealthy.

She targeted basically all fruits and vegetables as being toxic unless they're organic.

She intimated that all eggs and peanut butter are laced with salmonella.

She condemned all packaged chicken as being contaminated with feces and pathogens.

She told us that all hamburger is also laced with a variety of unhealthy stuff.

She's been on a binge to take genetically modified foods to task, despite the fact that the overwhelming scientific consensus is that these foods are inherently safe.

In fact, although Ms. Kamila professes to be a science major, there's no evidence in her writings that she has any concept of what science is all about.

Locally grown food is great, and we should all wholeheartedly support local growers. The industrial food system is certainly not perfect, and there are many opportunities for improvements. But without it, we'd have a lot of hungry folks.

The Food Safety Modernization Act, passed in 2011, is designed to improve our food safety system. The unscientific, biased and unfounded comments by Ms. Kamila only serve to misinform and mislead the public.

Bruce R. Stillings


Putting research contracts out to bid benefits Mainers 

Gov. LePage's request that cooperative agreements with state universities go out to bid necessitates that bidders offer the most strategic, creative and productive solutions to Maine's pressing problems ("Maine universities' role as research arm for state erodes," Oct. 22).

First, as these contracts are issued to Maine's nonprofit private universities and organizations, as well as to our public universities, these institutions are in turn hiring well-qualified people, often statewide; and because the bidding process favors institutions that contribute directly to the Maine economy, it is unlikely these funds will go out of state.

Second, states typically have established relationships with both their private and public universities, not restrictive no-bid agreements with a single institution. Fortunately, Maine has a variety of research and higher educational institutions, so all Mainers benefit if the door remains open to all.

For instance, at the heart of the University of New England's mission is our commitment to being a private institution with a public mission, so it is prudent that UNE and other such Maine institutions be permitted to compete for funds in areas in which we bring proven expertise.

Third, the public university system isn't losing its role as the state's research arm; rather, other institutions, like UNE, are investing in services and research that directly serve Maine's myriad needs. UNE is the leading educator of health care professionals in Maine, so public-private partnerships allow us to further leverage our ability to provide health science education to all parts of the state.

The bidding process has already resulted in improvements. New ideas have been generated and at lower administrative costs, often resulting in funds remaining within the University of Maine System. Putting taxpayer dollars through a competitive bidding process ensures bold, new and cost-effective ideas are systematically brought forth for the betterment of all Mainers.

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