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Emory Ford: Ward 7 not well served by Tacy

To the editor:

On a recent night I attended the City Council candidate debate for Ward 7 in Leeds. Councilor Tacy confidently assured the attendees that the use of Roundup at the newly constructed athletic fields in Florence posed no threat or potential danger to people or the environment. Tacy asserted, “I look at Roundup as pretty damn near inert.” Roundup is an active, potent, effective herbicide and is not used because it is inert. It is used because it is a powerful agent with the capacity to kill plants.

As a chemist with a graduate degree, I question both the councilor’s technical judgment on Roundup and his confidence in that judgment. The potential for unintended negative consequences in the application of or misapplication of Roundup has been well documented.

While exhibition of an air of confidence can be an asset, unwarranted confidence in a judgment about a technical matter for which one has a limited skill set can lead to serious errors in decision-making as a city councilor.

The Northampton City Council will be facing some critical decisions. The citizens of Ward 7 will not be well served by a councilor who is confident but who is not careful and knowledgeable in the details of a complicated issue.

Emory Ford


Legacy Comments11

Yes.. "Inert" is sometimes used as a noun, but it was not used as such by Tacy, who is quoted as saying, “I look at it (Roundup) as pretty damn near inert...”. I'm not a chemist, but I am an English teacher and that looks to me like an adjective..., sweetie....

Fair enough, and I owe you a longish answer, so bear with me. Yes, darling, in that sentence, "inert" is an adjetive. But we've all been in conversations where people react to the associations of a particular lexical item rather than the actual grammatical context in which it was used in a sentence. Since I have no idea what the actual conversation at the meeting looked like, I have to speculate about why Tacy used the word "inert" as opposed to just "non-toxic" or "not harmful to humans." I have to guess that it is because that word was already tossed into the conversation. In this case, the adjectival (sp?) use of "inert" was unfortunate in two senses. For one, as Ford points out, the idea that roundup is "inert" is sort of silly, because it is clearly not "inert" insofar as it kills weeds. Was Tacy trying to say that it's "inert to humans?" Maybe, though it would be an odd choice of words. In any case, assuming that Emory Ford is into chemistry, i bet you that he bristled at the fact that the word "inert" is one that he associates with the noun "inerts," which are the things that some people think are toxic. Hence, of all of the things that Tacy said, he probably chose to use that one. But if I'm going to be completely honest, I was just responding to jdurf1's anti-intellectualism. If you disagree with someone who is an expert in something you're not, just say that you do. There's nothing wrong with that. If you believe in democracy, then you should be able to say, "maybe it is potentially toxic, but I believe that the benefits of weed control with roundup outweigh the potential for risk." But it seems that that's not enough for people anymore. It seems that too many people just want to get rid of expertise all together, so that they can feel more empowered in their opinions. It's just naive to assume that the common sense that is accessible to any non-expert by looking up the MSDS for roundup or the definiton of "inert" automatically trumps someone who claims to have academic credentials. That attitude is dumbing our society down in a scary way.

Also, I am a little intolerant of jdurf1 because once he insulted my mom. :-)

She didn't say anything about it last night.

Thank you, Emory, for your letter. For those people who think Roundup is inert, you obviously have not been reading scientific reports to the contrary (by "real" scientists, even).

Limited skill set? Are you related to Mary? Over complicating everything is much like a virus. Is there an app for that?

Why am not surprised that the person who raised the TEA party banner on another thread is whining about people "over complicating everything"? You people won't be satisfied until you can send some idiots to congress who will rewrite the constitution in crayon for you. Take out all be big words, maybe add some pictures...

Mr Chemist read the MSDS before you speak. http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/fletcher/programs/xmas/pesticides/labels/Roundup-orig-max-msds.pdf

I can't speak for this person's credentials, and frankly am not all that scared about the toxicity of roundup. But as I understand it, the stuff that people think is toxic in roundup are solvents and fillers called "inerts," which are not regulated and monitored in the same way as the active glycophosphate, and can be legally listed on the MSDS as "other ingredients." I know that criticism of OSHA or whoever monitors MSDS contents has involved the effects of chemical additives not being included in the manuals. Mr. Ford probably also thought that Tacy was misusing the word "inerts," which people who think there is an issue with roundup understand as "other ingredients that are less regulated" than the active ingredient. So, if Mr Ford really is a chemist, it's pretty obvious that he's referring to sources that do not have to be listed and discussed in detail on the MSDS.

Inert. 1. Unable to move or act. 2. Sluggish in action or motion; lethargic. See Synonyms at inactive. 3. Chemistry Not readily reactive with other elements; forming few or no chemical compounds. 4. Having no pharmacologic or therapeutic action.

Awww, nice work hitting the "free online dictionary" sweetie. I'll try to explain this with short words. When grownups use words, sometimes these words have meanings that aren't included in your favorite free online dictionary. "Inert" is sometimes used as a noun (an intert or inerts). This is a special way of using the word by people who make and sell and buy chemicals, what grownups call an "industry term." It means "non active ingredient" which are essentially solvents and preservatives that aren't supposed to affect the work that the active ingredient is doing. Apparently, the mean, mean government has less rules about how these inerts are regulated than it does about how active ingredients are regulated. People who think roundup is dangerous--and remember, I am not sure that I am one--think that it is those "inert" parts that are dangerous. See link below (Yay! I can cut and paste too!). Now, the people that make roundup don't agree with this, and maybe they're right. But remember, I'm just trying to clear up the silly ol' ideas about the meaning of words that are rattling around inside your little head cause you're so much smarter than those mean noho librals. I was not at this meeting, but I can guess that if Mr. Ford is someone who knows about chemistry and cares about those things, this is what he was worried about. And Mr. Ford probably understands "inert" in a different way than Tacy, who probably didn't study these things in school like Ford did. But way to show us all that you know how to use the dictionary. Have you discovered thesauruses yet? You'll have lots of fun with those. http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/roundup-weed-killer-is-toxic-to-human-cells.-study-intensifies-debate-over-inert-ingredients

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