The Great Debate of GMO Ethics

A group of local scientists gathered at UTK on Thursday night to dispute the positive and negative implications of using GMOs.

According to Elena Shpak, Dr. of Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology, “GMOs are plants that may have been genetically generated…a gene is taken from some place else and placed into bacteria, they multiply, and then it is put inside of the plant.”

 As a self-titled advocate of GMOs, Shpak feels the reason GMOs have a bad reputation is the lack of public support due to grocery stores beginning to label their produce if GMOs were used in the growth process.


Board of speakers at GMO discussion

GMO-labeled produce inflicts fear upon shoppers who often interpret the sticker as warning not to buy the labeled items.

Shpak told a story of the once-diminishing papaya population in Hawaii, and how she felt GMOs were beneficial in resolving this issue. The papaya population in Hawaii was attacked by a virus that was killing off the native plant when scientists decided to genetically modify the papaya. Following the modification, the genetically modified papaya was resistant to the virus and is now thriving. 

In dispute, UTK Graduate student David Garcia spoke about people who are fearful of GMOS, and how we should focus on learning how to destroy them. “We don’t really know what GMOs can do to our body or biodiversity, so one of the better advancements that have come out in the last two or three years have been systems that attach survival mechanisms onto the transgenic DNA, such that if it gets out in the population, it immediately kills it.”

Garcia also spoke how he feels how the studies that are finding ways to destroy GMOs act as a safety net for the general public.

Another speaker at the event, botanist Dr. Wusheng Liu, mentioned what he felt are the benefits of using GMOs in the agriculture industry. Liu stated that GMOs have both increased the amount of people fed and decreased the cost for farmers who grow the crops.

In response to the discussion, Dr. Amy Wolfe, leader of the Society-Technology Interactions Group at ORNL stated how she felt about GMOs by saying, ” I think its wise not to think of them as accept or reject…in my experience over the years looking at a variety of different emerging technologies that could be controversial, one of the immediate responses you hear among scientists and federal agencies is that we have to educate the public, but that is not the only way to get you from extreme rejection to happy acceptance.”



Two former professors of Anthropology at UT give insight into Knoxville’s history

Charlie Faulkner and Timothy Baumann spoke Tuesday night about finding a Masonic watch fob and a tinkling cone which they believe once belonged to James White.


Faulkner, left, lecturing with Baumann, right

Charlie Faulkner, a retired Distinguished Professor of Humanities in UT’s Anthropology Department, was one of the two lecturers who spoke about James White and the archaeological site of White’s homestead.

Faulkner began the excavation at the original site where White’s log cabin fort once stood in current-day east Knoxville. According to Faulkner, this fort was one of first buildings in Knoxville.

Initially, the dig was part of a road development project for the Department of Transportation, which limited the amount of the site that could be excavated by Faulkner.

A Masonic watch fob was found at the dig. James White was a part of the Masons, and  Faulkner stated that he is “pretty much convinced” that this fob belonged to White.

A tinkling cone was also found on the excavation site, which was an ornament made of metal that Native Americans would attach to their clothing and weapons which made a “tinkling” sound when moved. Faulkner said that this find, “..indicated that Native Americans had visited White, there’s no question about that because he was known among his settler friends to be very,very friendly with the Indians.”

According to Faulkner, White actually died on the plantation where his fort stood, but not inside the fort itself. This structure was occupied for quite a period of time after his death in 1821, which caused overlap in the different features and artifacts found at the site.


Most of the dinnerware found on the site was of orange and green colors, which was common in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. According to Faulkner, a fragment of a Chinese porcelain plate was also found that indicated the wealth of those living in the home.


Faulkner displaying White site artifacts

Faulkner stated that the British were the largest distributors of dinnerware until the late 19th century. When speaking about the dinnerware found at the site he said, “They came all the way from the coast in here, they were setting the same kind of table here in Knoxville that they were setting in Charleston or any port city.”

Timothy Baumann, current Curator of Archaeology at McClung Museum and the other lecturer present, spoke about a few of the artifacts found on the site and how they showed evidence of the cultural diversity in historic Knoxville. “The buttons are British made, that coin is Spanish…and the one thing that’s not on here are actual French gun flints that were found here, so just thing about all the material culture interaction in early Knoxville that people had access to.”









City Council Approves Increase of Grant for N. Knoxville Renovation Project

Knoxville City Council approved a $16,300 increase of the redevelopment grant for the renovation of a former North Knoxville laundry site.

The city is giving an extra $16,300 to the site’s renovation project for structural engineering service and assessment, with the budget for the renovation standing at a total of $47,862.

The increase in the grant will help to fund both the resolution of the environmental issues left behind by the chemicals used at the laundry, and the roof that has not been well maintained and has deteriorated due to weathering over time.

After sitting vacant for about a decade, the building will require both structural and architectural updates. 

The site of the former laundry also has environmental concerns that must be addressed before it is converted for further use. Deputy Director for the Office of Redevelopment Anne Wallace said, “We did receive $240,000 of grant money to be able to clean the property, it’s $200,000 from the EPA and $40,000 from local match.”

Wallace said, “At this location we are set up to expend about $800,000 dollars on the roof and we’ve leveraged the $200,000…it is at a critical location right at the intersection of Broadway and Central.”

Located at 625 N. Broadway, the site of the renovation is in the growing “Happy Holler” district of downtown Knoxville.

The vacant building was an operating laundry beginning in the early part of the 20th century, and it closed its doors sometime around 1990. Wallace said that, “Unfortunately it was left vacant..and of course that leaves the roof and other elements of the building in disrepair.”

The roof repair will cost around $800,000, while the environmental cleanup will cost around $240,000.

Once the building has been repaired, Wallace and the Office of Redevelopment plan to put the building on the market for request for proposals. This will allow new businesses to  have a possible opportunity to move into the renovated space.

The building is projected to be around 30,000 square feet and it sits on a lot that is located between Downtown Knoxville and Downtown N. Knoxville.

Wallace said that she and the board are “looking to find the most beneficial both economically but also to the general community as a whole, use of that structure.”

The project could take up to three years to be completed.




















The Fight for the Unseen

City Council meeting exposed discrimination against Knoxville’s homeless.

Peggy Sue Morrow, a current homeless resident of Knoxville, made her way to the podium and began to directly address the City Council Board by reciting the Bill of Rights. Following her introduction Morrow stated, “The police have been harassing me, moving me everywhere, and taking all of my belongings…the police told me I have three choices: to go to KARM, to go to jail, or get a ticket out of the county.”

Morrow went on to explain her personal experience with KARM anIMG_6120d how those who stay there are not treated like human beings. She then addressed how those getting tickets “out of the county” are only sent back to Knoxville upon their arrival to these new cities.

Once living on a now-raided piece of land beneath a wooded area, Morrow gave insight into what it is like for Knoxville’s homeless population to fear authorities on a day to day basis. When speaking about commuting to her then home, Morrow said, “I had to crawl up a hill to hide from the police, and when it rained, I had to crawl through the mud just to get up that hill.”

Even those who are not homeless have noticed the maltreatment of Knoxville’s homeless population.

Becky Swanson, a housewife, held the four children of her friend Jennifer Graves as she began to speak on Graves’s behalf at the podium. Soon after Swanson befriended Graves, Swanson found out that Graves was homeless and was living in a car with her four children.

When speaking about the homeless population of Knoxville Swanson stated, “These people affect me and I want to see them helped, but I see that there is no help. I’ve called shelters and they are full…we need a place for these people to go where they will not be harassed.”

According to Swanson a few hundred people do not make it into the shelters each night and Graves’s children are still spending the night in a car. Due to the lack of space in shelters, Swanson fears that Graves may have to send her children to a foster home.

Swanson closed the City Council meeting by emphasizing that the homeless are people who once had lives, and that they are working to get their lives back one day at a time.