copyright Bill Widener 2000

The Record Straight
Dear Mr. De Grand, I was surprised to learn, from your recent article GREEN ACRES [April 26], that the transgenic "flavor-saver" tomato, in the course of its development, was demonstrated to make force-fed rats sick. Presumably, organic farmer Bill Best was referring to Calgene's Flavr Savr tomato. As I am trying to keep current with developments in transgenic crop technology, I have searched for a source that would verify this assertion. However, even with the aid of the National Institutes of Health PubMed literature database search, I can find no such records. I am sure that in the course of fact checking your story, you did find this information, else Mr. Best's statement would not have appeared so prominently in bold type on page 15. I would hope that you could point me in the right direction to finding it.

In addition, the first paragraphs of your story, if not read carefully, might lead one to believe that genetic engineering was the cause of the genetic uniformity that led to catastrophic crop losses in the early 1970s. It has been my understanding that this uniformity was the result of employing cytoplasmic male sterility, a naturally occurring mutation, in the construction of hybrid lines through traditional breeding practices.

Genetic transformation of plants, or "genetic engineering" as the news media often call it, was not possible until the mid-1980s. I am not a plant breeder, so I could be mistaken. But I suspect that it is Mr. Best's unqualified and unchallenged statements that are mistaken. Please clarify.

Mark Schoenbeck
via email

Alex DeGrand responds: Bill Best is not an organic farmer, and was not identified as such in the story. If you want to read more about the rats that became sick eating "Flavr Savr" tomatoes, please take a look at the Environmental Health Perspectives article "Debatable Edibles: Bioengineered Foods" from August 1994. As for your concern over the first several paragraphs in the story, you are entirely correct: one should read them carefully.

Alex De Grand did a concise and accurate job of pointing out many of the virtues of the Lexington Farmers' Mkt [April 26, Green Acres, cover story], as well as some of its drawbacks. As ever, it pays to be a knowledgeable consumer, and, wonder of wonders, at the market you often can speak to the actual grower to learn specific varieties, as well as how they were grown, and why the grower selected them. Corporate grocers had nearly beaten that out of us, giving us adjectives rendered meaningless [luscious] rather than information.

Alex is correct concerning most folks' concept of the meaning of the word "organic", good, but...? In Kentucky, produce that is certified organic must be grown on ground that has been free of petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides for at least three years. Organic farming is a system of ecological soil management that relies on building the humus level in the soil through crop rotation, incorporating compost, and applying a balanced level of mineral amendments. Those of us who use this system believe that well balanced soil grows healthy strong plants that taste better and contain more nutrients. The ultimate goal is to produce food while not trashing the water, air and soil.

While I did share with Alex the quote,"Good food ain't cheap, and cheap food ain't good," I must attribute it to it's rightful originator, David Stern, a long-time organic grower from upstate New York, and a mentor of garlic growers all over the U.S.

Leo Keene
Blue Moon Farm
Richmond, KY.

After enjoying your recent articles on the farmers market and the food we eat [Apr 26], I saw with interest that the Clinton administration has identified the "biotech" industry for "further study."

Further study isn't enough. Mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food is called for. If Europe won't eat this garbage, why is it good enough for us? Or do we just hope to export it all to lands where "life is cheap"?

I'm unconvinced that All Organic is the solution, not after the worm-infested, bug-bitten sad little produce I've sometimes paid top dollar for, but I'm not so high on being poisoned by the gunk at the grocery either. Maybe there's a middle ground, and maybe further study is part of the program, but in the meantime, I'd like to know what I eat.

Label it.
Sammi Daniels
via email

A Master Plan?
In accordance with all the hoopla about "do the downtown thing," I feel compelled to rebuke the LFUCG's scare tactics. The opinions of the residents and moreso, the small business owners in downtown Lexington seem to have little impact on the decision making or the consciences of council members.

As a lifetime resident and small business owner in downtown, I am for the first time ashamed of this place I call home. Perhaps I am one of the naive that actually believed that we wanted to make this a user-friendly town that put hospitality at the top of our list of necessities. The recent approval vote to raise parking meter fines is not only a scare tactic, but a detriment to the very small business owners the council and the DOWNTOWN LEXINGTON CORPORATION (who claim to be our advocates) say they are trying to help. Now that I have seen our system at work I cannot help but believe the public is being deceived. To say there is a master plan for the revitalization of downtown is a farce. Our city officials seem to be merely ad libbing to cover up the fact that this is solely a city revenue issue. And the most shameful part of it all is that the DLC is the only concerned citizen group with enough power to get the council's attention.

The facts here are that if there was an actual plan, the parking issues would have been addressed before now, and the unpaid fines that have embarrassed the system would not be a basis for imposing a 400 percent increase in fines. This whimsical approach to growth will ultimately be the downfall of this downtown.

Robin Feeney

Hey there! I must say that I really enjoy your site! I also enjoy the fact that you even have links for the Kentucky Headhunters and Greg Martin. My family are good friends with the KY Headhunters as Fred and Richard used to help my aunt and uncle with their tobacco crop down in Knob Lick, KY. My dad and Fred have even traded ole John Deere tractor stuff throughout the years. I also like the fact that you have a listing of shows for each of the clubs up in Lexington. It really keeps me up to date when no one else does. Thanks a lot and keep up the good work!!

Jessica Blankenship
via email

Letters Policy: Ace LOVES to publish our mail; please include name and daytime phone. First come, first served - with preference given to letters that comply with the 250 words or less guidelines. We may edit for space and grammar; we will limit frequency; and we reserve the right to limit commentary on a given topic when it runs the risk of choking out all other opportunities for dialogue (e.g.,oh.... say... "creationism?").

Mail: 263 N. Limestone, Lexington, Ky 40507

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What Lexington Needs

I've lived here ten years, and most days I feel like a cartoon dog in a kennel. -Nick Hornby

There's a moment in Broadcast News where Joan Cusack tells Albert Brooks, "You think anyone who's proud of the work we do is an ass kisser." He respond s, "No, I think anyone who puckers up their lips and presses them against their bosses' buttocks and then sssssmooches is an ass kisser," prompting her to confess, as she stalks away, "my gosh, for a while there, I was attracted to you," in turn prompting him to chase after her, pleading, "Well wait a minute. That changes everything."


What does that exchange say about the new Ace Weekly and our new owners at Village Voice Media and our mission and our ruthless aspirations to climb to the top of a steaming media heap? Hopefully... absolutely nothing.

This issue is about looking back as much as it is looking forward, however, and for most of us, it's been an admittedly long strange trip.

Founding editor/publisher Jennie Leavell contributed one of the last installments of "What Lexington Needs," in 1994 (reprinted on p. 20). She extolled the virtues of small businesses and neighborhoods and lamented the emerging homogenization of Lexington. What she wrote then is mostly still true today, for better and for worse.

We invited journalism professor and author Maria Braden to be ACE's guest media critic this week, and her column justifiably lauds the early contributions of Leavell ("Every issue was my gift to the community"), but we would be remiss if we didn't thank the many other people who made substantial sacrifices to make the "gift" of ACE possible over the years - writers, photographers, artists, and subsequent publishers and editors - who not only went without pay, but endlessly dipped into their own wallets to keep the doors open and the presses rolling. What ACE has lacked in capital, we hope we've made up for in what Braden characterizes as "passion" and "energy."

We also need to thank the dedicated group of freelancers, staff members, and interested bystanders (with an encyclopedic institutional memory of this town) who pitched in to put together this "retrospective". It would be impossible to assign bylines for all the snatches of conversation, emails, inspiration, and ideas that landed in this edition.

On a personal level, as for what ACE has meant to me, as an editor, these many years? Well, there's another moment in that movie where William Hurt asks Albert Brooks, "What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?" Brooks's snide recommendation? "Keep it to yourself." So I will.

But if I had to sum it up in a word? It'd be "Thanks."