It has been reported that General Dan McNeill, the new commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, has authorised the aerial spraying of poppy fields. This policy will have disastrous consequences for all Afghanis who live in or near sprayed areas.
No money is being provided to compensate farmers for their financial loss. The British have sensibly proposed that the poppies be purchased from the farmers and used to produce medicinal morphine. This proposal has been overruled by the Americans.
A similar fumigation policy has been tried in Colombia for the last seven years. The harm that the spray has done to those who live close to sprayed areas is well documented in the book, Chemical Warfare in Colombia, by Hugh O'Shaughnessy and Sue Branford.
The spray used to kill the poppies will contain glyphosate. This is the same chemical that turns a sixth of Britain's arable fields from a pleasant green to a dull orange in May. When glyphosate is sprayed from an aeroplane it is certain to drift. This means that crops in nearby fields may die and livestock may be harmed.
Humans exposed to the spray will suffer a range of adverse health effects, including, arguably, damage to their chromosomes. I doubt if a local warning will be given before the spraying starts.
The 4,000 British troops in the Helmand province have been seeking to win the confidence of the Afghanis. The implementation of this spraying policy will wreck any progress they have made in this direction. The policy will be the best recruiting agent the Taliban could hope for.
JOHN WILSON, Kingston Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
Story of a ship
REGARDING John D Nisbet's request for information on HMS Kay (Information appeal on HMS Kay, Voice of the North, February 16):
She was, in fact, called HMS Sir Kay, pennant number T241, launched on October 26, 1942 at Hall, Russell & Co Ltd of Aberdeen, yard number 768, and commissioned on February 8, 1943.
She was a mine-sweeping trawler, her measurements were 125ft 4in x 25ft 7in x 13ft 9in and she was 295 grt.
She was sold to Mercantile, decommissioned, in 1946 and became Star Of The North for Walker's S.F. Ltd. of Aberdeen. In 1956 she was sold to Crohn Ltd of Leith and renamed Robert Crohn. She was scrapped at Grangemouth in December 1961.
Hope this helps.
KEVIN BLAIR, Hebburn, South Tyneside
The nuclear world has changed
IAM tiring of reading pronouncements of yet another "expert" on nuclear safety (Evidence against the nuclear energy case, Voice of the North, February 16).
Countryside lovers object to wind-power, naturalists object to wave power and scientists worry about carbon emission. Everyone expects to get electricity and gas, and of course oil, without a thought for the exposure which already exists with supply highly dependant on imports subject to political control.
Technology is constantly advancing, with manufacturing and inspection controls way in advance of any that existed with earlier power plants. There are any number of willing industrial and national enterprises throughout the world who have been unable to demonstrate the ideal solution. The real issue is that status quo is not an option.
I worked in the power/nuclear industry for 30 years and feel safer with nuclear power than I do with international security, but I am of an age unlikely to benefit from any new nuclear power. We appoint a Government to resolve these difficulties and to take action on our behalf. They have access to the best technical advice in the country and if they have decided that the way forward is nuclear - as have other nations - then let them get started.
It is one weapon against global warming and at least a foreign power cannot turn off the supply.
RO BURTON, St Peter's Basin, Newcastle
Wind power can be a source of much noise
AT the request of the Department of Trade and Industry, a Wind Turbine Noise Working Group is currently investigating Amplitude Modulation of Aerodynamic Noise, a low frequency whooshing sound caused by air passing over the turbine blades.
Little is known about this phenomenon but bigger modern turbines are more prone to the problem. Unfortunately, this problem is not evident until after turbines have been erected.
Having visited the Crystal Rig and Black Hill wind turbine sites in the Lammermuir Hills, both of which can be seen from my home at a distance of approximately 20 miles as the crow flies, I can assure readers that these wind turbines create noise which can be heard from quite a distance away.
These turbines are set in upland moorland hills, well hidden from the local population. Those proposed for Moorsyde, Barmoor and Toft Hill would be within full view and hearing of local residents.
Those of us who are objecting to these proposals appreciate the need for renewable energy sources, including wind turbines. However, to quote a recent document produced by the Noise Association: "Wind farms can play a role in reducing global warming emissions. But there is a very real danger that in the enthusiasm to embrace clean technology, legitimate concerns about noise are being brushed aside." The same could be said about legitimate concerns over the cumulative impact of multiple sites.
It is also too easy to force through wind turbine developments using the global warming argument whilst ignoring the wellbeing of those close to the sites. Meeting Government targets should not result in causing people great distress and certainly not result in people being forced to leave their homes.
AC FERGUSON, Bowsden, Northumberland
Drop by to see these amazing birds of prey
IF you want to see the North-East's biggest, boldest and most spectacular birds, the place to be this week is a bus stop in Gateshead.
The Northern Kites project team are holding an afternoon event at the Sherburn Towers housing estate this week, where red kites are currently gathering for the night. Red kites, which have a wing span of up to 6ft, are gregarious birds and like to spend the night roosting together.
Up to 34 kites are currently roosting in woodland near the Sherburn Towers housing estate in Rowlands Gill and putting on a spectacular show as they gather before bed.
The Northern Kites project team will be on hand on Wednesday, February 21, between 3pm and 5pm at the kite viewpoint next to the bus turning circle at Sherburn Towers Estate (off the A694 in Rowlands Gill).
It's all free. Binoculars and telescopes will be available to give people a chance to see the stunning birds of prey.
Visitors travelling by car are asked to park in the car park at the Derwent Park (entrance opposite the fish and chip shop in Rowlands Gill) and walk up to the viewpoint.
DAVID HIRST, RSPB Northern England Region, 1 Sirius House, Amethyst Road, Newcastle Business Park, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 7YL
Pack of hounds gave me no trouble at all
IHAVE to write to support Lol Dunn of Blyth (I have never heard of hound attacking child, Voice of the North, February 15) regarding his remarks about the hunts' hound dogs.
I have had experience of being surrounded by hunt dogs while walking my own in local fields and to my embarrassment my own dogs acted crazy while the hounds ignored not only me but my loopy dogs who thought they were protecting me and acted aggressively towards them.
At no time did any of these 40-strong hound dogs show any aggression whatsoever, while my two tiny Bischons and two loopy Wiemeraners ran rings around me, howled and growled and almost pulled me over in their excitement of seeing so many other dogs.
We could all learn a lot from the training skills used to control these large, not so pretty dogs.
DEE HOWE, Darras Hall, Northumberland
Cow's milk is fine, if you can digest it
IN response to Carron Craghead's letter about cow's milk (Ill-informed comments over cows' milk, Voice of the North, February 17), it is only good for people whose digestive systems can cope with it.
I work as a kinesiologist, testing people for, among other things, food intolerances, and have found many people have a problem with cow's milk because of the lactose or milk sugar in it.
Nature never intended us to consume our mother's milk beyond the age of about three and consequently the production of an enzyme called lactase is switched off.
We weren't supposed to be resourceful human beings who tried the milk of other animals, which we aren't designed to consume.
This can lead to digestive problems, including bloating and diarrhoea which can be involved in irritable bowel syndrome.
Another potential problem with milk can be casein or the milk protein it contains. Milk protein molecules are larger than human milk protein molecules and are therefore also difficult to digest, but this tends to cause a true allergy rather than just an intolerance. The problems linked with casein allergy include asthma, eczema and rheumatoid arthritis.
I personally suffer from lactose intolerance and have semi-skimmed goat's milk, which is easily digested. Like most foods, cow's milk is only good for you if it suits your body.
KATRINA WOODROW, Ponteland, Northumberland
Benefit of fish oils is tempered by toxins
SO, new research in the Lancet says pregnant women should eat more oily fish to produce brainier babies. But just last year research from the Harvard School of Public Health showed that eating oily fish during pregnancy could raise the risk of premature birth.
This study followed a review published earlier last year in the British Medical Journal in which Dr Lee Hooper, from the University of East Anglia, reviewed the effects of fish oil on heart health and found one study that showed an increased risk of heart attack in men who took fish oil capsules.
The concern is that the harmful effects of mercury, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls found in fish may outweigh the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids. The good news is omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from safer plant-based sources such as flax (linseed) seeds and oil, walnuts and green leafy vegetables.
The public receive mixed messages about fish consumption because omega-3s are thought to be beneficial to health, but contaminants such as mercury are a hazard.
The Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation have been warning for years about the dangers of eating fish contaminated with mercury, dioxins and PCBs. To claim there is a `safe' dose of mercury for pregnant women is astonishing.
DR JUSTINE BUTLER, Senior Health Campaigner, Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation, 8 York Court, Wilder Street, Bristol BS2 8QH (tel: 0117 970 5190; email: email@example.com; website: www.vegetarian.org.uk)