Monday, May 23, 2016

Musings: Proud as Punch

Ashley Lukens of the Hawaii Center for Food Safety is so dang pleased with herself.
And why not? She's shown us, through the group's 2015 annual report, that she's a master at deception and spin. To wit:

I often wonder if our next generation were telling the story of the food movement in HawaiĘ» i, how they would tell it. I know that I speak for the entire HCFS team when I say we are honored to play a small part in this story.

Actually, HCFS has played a very, very big role, bringing in money, legal support, relentless PR, lobbying at the state Legislature, organizing tactics and some super slick propaganda, which it highlights in the annual report.

Their propaganda pieces include a fantasy-based, Makana-narrated animated piece that's just right for indoctrinating school kids. To wit:

[T]he video was a great learning tool, and the animation helped make the concepts accessible and understandable for our middle schoolers.” — Abigail Rotholz, Hawaii School Garden instructor

Then there's the oft-discredited, but never corrected, “Pesticides in Paradise” report, which has been unquestioningly quoted in anti-GMO media coverage and characterized by the misinformed as “educational tools.” To wit:

“These educational tools have played a key role in my efforts to bring pesticide and food issues to the fore with Hawai‘i health providers and early childhood professionals.” —Lynn Wilson, PhD, children’s health advocate

Ashley boasts that her biggest audience for the "Pesticides in Paradise" report was at Hoolehua, Molokai. You may recall that I wrote about that presentation:

Something monumental happened on Molokai last week. The people didn't get played.

Ashley Lukens, director of the Hawaii Center for Food Safety, brought her anti-GMO/anti-ag/anti-pesticide dog and pony show to Kaunakakai. And frankly, she got her ass whooped, metaphorically speaking.

Facing a crowd that included not her usual true believers, but folks who actually work in the seed fields, Lukens was peppered with questions she wouldn't answer and criticisms she couldn't deflect until she turned tail and ran.

“I'm gonna shut it down here because I don't see it going in a good direction,” she told a crowd that began calling out, “why won't you take all the questions?” and “why didn't you bring someone from the health department?” and “what kind of doctor are you?”

But in Ashley's world, that sincere, spontaneous expression of public outrage became “the industry’s use of intimidation tactics to discredit the report.”

Why, the incident, and her subsequent spin, even earned its own quarter-page in the 16-page annual report, where Ashley gushed:

“This incredible story earned national attention and was shared on social media by the Food Babe, Dr. Bronner's, GMO Free USA.”

Wow. The Food Babe AND Dr. Bronner's. Now that's saying something. Though nothing I'd want to be associated with.

Also interesting was the report's section on Partnership Development, which listed such echo chamber inhabitants as the AiKea Movement, Aloha Aina Project, Babes Against Biotech, Beach Road Farms, Down to Earth Hawai‘i, Earthjustice, GMO Free chapters on all islands, Hawai‘i Alliance for Nonprofit Organizations, Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action, Hawai‘i Farmers Union United, Hawai‘i Food Policy Council, Moms on a Mission (MoM) hui, Shaka Movement, Sierra Club of Hawaii and Surfrider.

Ashley also boasts that HCFS “hosted two powerful 'Movement Building for ea' Workshops in partnership with native Hawaiian organization Movement for Aloha no ka Aina (MANA).” 

In case you haven't heard of it, MANA was founded by Ikaika Hussey in 2008. Ikaika is also on the board of Gary Hooser's HAPA, and publishes the Hawaii Independent (an on-line website I wrote for some years back, until Ikaika failed to pay what was promised) and Summit Magazine.

One of those who participated in these “powerful” workshop trainings was Maui fashion designer and self-proclaimed ag expert Tiare Lawrence, who cites membership in the Aloha 'Aina Project — one of HCFS' new partners. In case you're unfamilar, it's headed by the Putin-friendly "man who would be king" Edwin de Silva, and his ali'i mana'o advisor, Lanny Sinkin.

Neither MANA nor the Aloha Aina Project are registered with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

But they do get funding from Common Counsel, a California-based foundation that also began giving money to the HCFS this year. And they're both active in the anti-Thirty Meter Telescope project on Hawaii, with Sinkin speaking for the “king.”

Yes, it's not just an anti-GMO, anti-pesticide movement. It's an anti-ag (except for organic), anti-science, anti-technology (aside from the kind that allows them to use social media) pro-independence movement.

All snuggled up together with overlapping members and funding. In short, it's a small, fringe group of people with some sizable dough trying to make their movement look a lot bigger — and a lot more mainstream — than it really is.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Musings: No Takers

Could it be that the rose is off the bloom? The dream of self-sufficiency is fading? The fantasy of feeding the world has smacked up against the reality of hard fricking work and weekend play time?

Gosh, you mean that guilt and shame aren't sufficient motivators? It sounded so good when they held the SHAME banner at the Lege. But hey, if all else fails, Dustin can always resort to intimidation and threats.
Sad indeed. Especially when these folk are claiming they're the ones gonna heal the aina and feed the planet, and they don't need no help from the stinking farmers or GMOs. Also sad are their piss-poor writing skills. The contraction of "you are" is "you're," Katie, not "your."

Equally sad are the misinformed folks who wasted a couple of hours waving anti-GMO signs in front of Safeway when they could have been helping Dustin plant mauka. 

They used to irritate me, but now I mostly just feel sorry for them, because it's clear they're missing a few screws. Like nurse Marghee Maupin, who has spread so much fear on the westside. (Thankfully, she is no longer working at KVMH.) Yet she still believes she's out there "raising awareness," even though it's clear from comments like this that she doesn't know WTF she's talking about:

“I used to work at the hospital over there on the Westside, where they’re testing between 70 and 90 pesticides every day,” Maupin said. “I got Guillain-Barre syndrome and I had to leave. When you look at the list of causes, the only one that fit with me was the pesticides.”

First, they aren't testing any pesticides, much less 70 to 90 per day. Where in the world do they come up with this stuff? As for G-B syndrome, a quick browse of the Mayo Clinic site turned up this:

Guillain-Barre syndrome may be triggered by:
  • Most commonly, infection with campylobacter, a type of bacteria often found in undercooked poultry
  • Influenza virus
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • HIV, the virus that causes AIDS
  • Mycoplasma pneumonia
  • Surgery
  • Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Rarely, influenza vaccinations or childhood vaccinations
There ain't nothing about pesticides — until you go to an autism-vaccine site. And this deluded woman is in charge of people's health?

Joanna Wheeler, another anti-GMO ignoramus, chimed in:

"Kauai is called GMO ground zero because they’re testing here and it affects us more than anywhere else. They’re testing chemicals here on Kauai that are banned in their own countries, where the companies are headquartered.” 
Again, they aren't testing anything. But this is what happens when Councilman Gary Hooser, Center for Food Safety, Hawaii SEED and GMO Free Kauai tell a lie loud enough and often enough: People who aren't too bright believe it, and crappy newspapers like The Garden Island reprint it.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Musings: Stupid or What?

From today's The Garden Island:

Councilman Gary Hooser believes the Planning Department overreacted when it issued cease and desist orders to homestay operations operating outside the Visitor Destination Area.

“I don’t know what the problem is,” Hooser said. “If it’s parking, we’ll deal with parking. If it’s noise, we’ll deal with noise. But we can’t solve the problem with a sledge hammer because that will hurt people and ruin their lives.

Uh, hello! The people had no permits. They were operating illegally. They were given an opportunity to come in and get permits. But some were unable to qualify, either because they had zoning violations or were operating on ag land. Others were denied, but are in contested case hearings to appeal that denial.

Come on, Gary. Are you really that ignorant of this issue? Or are you just playing dumb to cater to the TVR/B&B crowd? Or are you simply taking your usual approach, which is to spread lies and misinformation?

In any case, to answer your question, the problem is clearly YOU.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Musings: Sharp Contrast

I continue to be impressed with the thoughtfulness and common sense displayed by Kauai County Councilman Arryl Kaneshiro. He's also shown he's not afraid to go against the grain.

In recent weeks, he's expressed an unwillingness to legislate every aspect of people's lives and a desire to focus on education rather than criminalization. He accepted the reality of imposing a very small tax increase to help improve the island's rotten roads, rather than pandering to voters in an election year. He's never thrown a pencil, talked beyond his allotted time or created an outburst that prompted a recess.

And he recognizes the pitfalls of a county manager system — especially in the hands of the dysfunctional Council.

Yes, that badly flawed concept is still alive. Even though the Council's own legal analyst, as well as the county attorney, have told them the county manager they wish to control would have to go through the civil service process, the Council refuses to give it up. Now they want the AG to weigh in. Meanwhile, The Garden Island still has not revealed the full scope of this power grab, including longer Council term limits and giving the manager authority over the police and planning commissions.

Arryl stands in refreshingly sharp contrast to his colleagues, some of whom can barely articulate a coherent thought, or are so immersed in their own narcissism that they are incapable of seeing the big picture or the public good. Truly, this is one of the worst Councils I've seen in nearly 30 years of following county politics.

While we're on the topic of incoherent narcissists, I see the annual March Against Monsanto is set for Saturday. I just had to laugh at the way it's billed as “a chance to educate.” Mmm, since when has carrying signs with simplistic slogans and falsehoods been educational?

Similarly deluded is Jeri Di Pietro, president of Hawaii SEED, who said the group's strategy is to increase education and awareness on genetically modified food in general. But how can they do that when they themselves are so woefully — even willfully — misinformed? To wit, Jeri's claim that “they shoot in the foreign DNA randomly. Depending on where that viral promoter of the foreign DNA lands, it can turn on dormant cancer genes.”

WTF? Where do they come up with this stuff?

Not to mention the willingness of some, like Councilman Gary Hooser, to flat out lie: “The high volume of restricted use pesticides necessary for the development and production of both parent seed and the experimental test fields too often drift into neighboring communities and sensitive ecosystems such as streams and nearshore waters.”

Shoots, even tests conducted by the antis themselves don't bear that claim out.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health has released the scores of applicants who were awarded medical marijuana dispensary licenses. Unfortunately, they have yet to release the scores and rankings of the folks who didn't get it, because they're still in the process of notifying them. Talk about slow. It's been three weeks since they announced the winners.

At any rate, Green Aloha, the Kauai licensee, got the lowest score in the state. Yet another example of Kauai bringing up the rear.

And Politico has an interesting article about the downside of the Colorado legalization: the smell of production and processing facilities, many of which are located in Denver's poorest neighborhoods. The complaints of activists there are not unlike those leveled at the seed industry here:

Mayor Michael Hancock views the neighborhood outcry as unsurprising. City rules required grow operations—which favor warehouse-like structures—to locate in industrial-zoned areas. "Certainly, nobody wants to live under the clouds of those odors everyday," Hancock said, adding that it’s incumbent on the marijuana industry to work with communities to reduce the negative effects of their operations.

In recent weeks, Hancock signed off on an ordinance change that will require businesses seeking new licenses or renewals to submit "good neighbor" outreach plans. And next year, grow operations, which take widely varying approaches to reduce the smells they emit, will have to present odor-control plans to the city.

Elyria-Swansea was among a few neighborhoods identified by the Denver Post early this year as having roughly one marijuana business for every 91 residents—a clustering that intensifies problems like smell, but that also claims precious real estate.

"We have people who have tried to start businesses, and they weren't able to lease the spaces because the marijuana industry came in and could make a higher offer—and do it instantly," said [community activist Candi] CdeBaca. "We've borne the burden of the state and city's growth at the cost of our residents."

What's the old saying? Oh, yeah: one man's meat is another man's poison.

And finally, I ran across this cartoon, which I dedicate to all the folks who bitch and moan when I don't print their comments:

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Musings: No Defense

The Kauai County Council yesterday passed a bill limiting homestays/B&Bs to the visitor destination area (VDA), where other resort uses are allowed.

It also limits the number of homestay applications that will be considered to 10 per year in 2015 and 2016, with the cap expiring at the end of 2016. Other restrictions include no more than three guest rooms in any house. 

The owner must live on the premises and be “physically available for the needs and concerns of their respective homestay guests.” Each bedroom must have a paved parking spot and the house must be on a septic system.

The bill effectively halts the legal proliferation of homestays on ag lands and in residential neighborhoods, as many residents requested. It was opposed by Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura, Gary Hooser and Mel Rapozo.

“This is my fourth year and I don't believe I ever advocated on enforcement against homestays and B&Bs, it was more TVRs,” Hooser said.

So tell us, Gary, how can you possibly justify enforcing the law against some people, but not others?

And Mel, since you “feel sorry for these people” operating without permits, and are “so conflicted” about how the Council never dealt with the B&B issue back in 2009, why didn't you act to address the issue in the seven years since? Why wait until now to whimper, when the public is finally fed up and the situation is out of control? Worried about re-election?

Alexis Boilini and Lorna Hoff, who are operating B&Bs in the agriculture district, argued for relief, claiming their rights had been violated when the planning department moved to shut down people who were operating B&Bs and TVRs without permits. 

Hoff and her husband John, along with Bill and Cathy Cowern, Darcy Summer and Patricia Enderlin, are facing misdemeanor criminal charges for zoning violations and unsworn falsification stemming from their unpermitted accommodations.

Councilman Ross Kagawa asked whether the Council could consider amendments that would grandfather in existing unpermitted B&Bs.

“There's nothing this body can do to grandfather them in,” said Kaaina Hull, deputy planning director. “If they don't have a use permit, they're not operating legally. And if they're not operating legally, they can't be grandfathered in.”

Such uses on ag land also require a special permit under state law, he said.

County Attorney Mauna Kea Trask also spoke of the challenges that arise when the law is changed while his office and the planning department are in the midst of litigation and contested case hearings on homestay applications.

He also said the Council cannot pass a law that exempts certain individuals, such as those who claimed they didn't know they needed a permit. “Ignorance of the law is never a defense.”

So what is the defense, other than self-righteousness, of those who took it upon themselves to illegally erect signs, impersonating the state Department of Health and embedded in concrete no less, on the public beach at Mahaulepu? 
Bridgette Hammerquist and Jay Kechloian, two vigilantes from Friends of Mahauelpu, don't seem at all bothered by the fact that it's illegal to post signs on state land without permission. They've vowed to keep posting their “contaminated water” signs because they think the public has a right to know.

Is anybody even swimming in that murky little trickle?

Robert Zelkovsky, membership coordinator of Surfrider, thinks the illegal signs are just fine, too. Because Surfrider, with its publicity-seeking water testing program, knows more and better than DOH, doncha know? And since they declare it contaminated, then it must be so.

DOH has already said it's going to conduct a study of the area, at the urging of the EPA, to determine whether people, or plants and animals, are the cause of the high bacteria counts. The agency only posts when the e.coli comes from a human source.

But FOM and Surfrider can't wait for that. They have to drum up some publicity, and keep sticking it to Grove Farm and the proposed dairy, by posting their illegal signs.

Well, here's the end result: DOH wants Grove Farm to close access to Mahaulepu for four months this summer so the agency can study the stream.

Good work, Surfrider and FOM. I'm sure closing down Mahaulepu will help you win a lot of converts.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Musings: Finger on the Pulse

It's been a rough week for anti-GMO activists.

First, the World Health Organization came out and said — contrary to a report issued by another WHO agency last year — that glyphosate (Roundup) poses no cancer risk. This Wired article does a great job of explaining the brouhaha.

Then an Oregon judge rejected GMO bans passed by two counties there, using the same pre-emption ruling that knocked out three anti-GMO ordinances in Hawaii. The judge based his decision on an Oregon Supreme Court ruling that found state law pre-empts local law when they are incompatible.

Babes Against Biotech quickly posted this meme, proving the gals — and the rest of their crowd — still fail to understand that the rule of law is the cornerstone of democracy, and laws have to be legal.
They're just worried, because it's not looking so good for the appeal of the overturned Big Island, Kauai and Maui ordinances when other states use the same legal reasoning as Hawaii. But hey, that doesn't stop them from doing what they do best: begging. In this case, it's to raise money to send Lauryn Rego to the Intermediate Court of Appeals hearing in June so she can denigrate participants and create a wild spin, just as she did with the Maui moratorium ruling and Pioneer-Waimea dust lawsuit.
It brought to mind the petition drive to get Sabra Kauka on “Oprah” so she can pitch the anti-GMO propaganda piece “Aina: That Which Feeds.” I never cease to be amazed at the PR machine behind these guys — and they way they blatantly use kanaka, keiki and kupuna to raise kala.

And just yesterday, the National Academy of Sciences issued an evidence-based report that found, among other things:

On the basis of its detailed examination of comparisons between currently commercialized GE and non-GE foods in compositional analysis, acute and chronic animal toxicity tests, long-term data on health of livestock fed GE foods, and epidemiological data, the committee concluded that no differences have been found that implicate a higher risk to human health safety from these GE foods than from their non-GE counterparts.

Before the report was even released, the antis were out in force, claiming all the scientists and the NAS were biotech shills. Sheesh. Talk about sore losers. It reminds me of Vandana Shiva's wild claim that Monsanto controls all the scientific journals in the world. Uh, if they wielded that kind of clout, do you really think they'd be in the middle of this shit storm?

Of course, the antis will never be assuaged, so no need bother with them, other than to poke fun. But the report will be very useful in helping all the reasonable folks in the middle who want to gain a scientifically-based understanding of both the technology and the controversy that surrounds it.

Because in the real American world, folks are happy with modern agriculture. A new survey found that 86 percent of registered voters polled view farmers favorably, while just 3 percent did not. Some 81 percent said that, “a strong and thriving American farm industry is critical to American national security,” with 92 percent supporting federal spending to help farms and farmers.

And in the other real world — the poor, hungry one — folks want and need biotech, even though well-fed Western elitists tell them they shouldn't have it. 

In Bangladesh, for example, Bt brinjal (eggplant) has so greatly reduced the use of insecticides that an entire village raising the crop was declared a pesticide free vegetable growing area. 

As Arif Hossain Romel, an Alliance for Science fellow from Bangladesh, noted in his Facebook post on the topic: “Surely a good development for better future.”

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Musings: Sneaky and Cheeky

Every year, the Kauai farming community gets together and hosts students for an Agriculture and Environmental Awareness Day at the UH experimental station in Wailua. Kids and adults alike always seemed to enjoy the opportunity to talk story and learn.

This year, however, things took an ugly twist when Hanalei School fifth graders combatively questioned Syngenta and Pioneer employees — and secretly videotaped the exchanges.
Really? Is this what we're teaching kids these days? That it's OK to violate someone's privacy and record them without their permission? That civil discourse is not valued? That adults don't garner any respect? That an agricultural process they don't understand is something to be feared and reviled? That there's only one acceptable way to grow crops?

Not surprisingly, the adults who love to fill kids' heads with poisonous platitudes and devious deeds were quick to weigh in:
Oh, yeah, it's funny, alright. Funny as a heart attack to brainwash young kids, turn them into mini-demagogues, inspire the next generation of ignorant punks to follow in the footsteps of Dustin Barca.

The brainwashing continues this summer, with Malama Kauai offering paid agricultural internships at places that know a lot about scoring grant money, but zilch about producing a successful commercial crop. Because doncha know that farmers aren't supposed to make money? Perhaps that's why previous internships and woofer jobs have attracted only mainland kids, who are keen to surf and see Kauai.

So this year they're limiting it to Kauai residents. Says Megan Fox, the non-farmer who runs Malama Kauai: 

The purpose behind offering these kinds of internships is to infuse the knowledge and love of agriculture into the next generation of the island’s leaders.

Funny, how that runs so counter to the stunt pulled by the Hanalei School kids. They could have learned a lot if they'd approached the seed company reps without their smug know-it-all attitudes. Because face it, those kids don't know shit about GE agriculture.

Though Malama Kauai is desperately seeking to “localize our ag workforce and increase our own food production,” there's no escaping reality: farming, even when it's the free ride kine practiced by Malama Kauai and Waipa, is hard work with limited economic returns.

Why, just the other day, Punaluu farmer Dave Burlew took to the comment section in Civil Beat to defend the tax credit that slipped through the Lege via the repugnant “gut and replace” process:

This tax credit is for a very few number of farmers who are ( or want to be) "certified" organic by the USDA. Most of us organic farmers in Hawaii are not certified (myself included), so this may be an incentive to follow through with certification. Organic certification (and organic farming) is expensive and certification carries an arduous amount of paperwork and a legal oblication [sic] to follow the rules. Most farmers may have marginal success running a certified organic farm, let alone be profitable at it.

Gee, he makes it sound so appealing. But hey, if the anti-GMO activists and farm idealists have their way, that's the only kind of ag that will be allowed in Hawaii. And when it fails, as it will, houses and hotels will quickly take its place.

Speaking of farm idealists, I see that Surfrider once again was featured in The Garden Island. It seems that reporter Jessica Else has embedded herself with the group and thus feels compelled to report its every move, even when it's a couple of self-proclaimed non-experts telling people how to create ocean-friendly yards.

Curious, how Surfrider isn't taking on the oceanfront resorts, golf courses and TVRs, with their pesticide-intensive landscape practices. But then, those guys are allies now, united in their fight against agriculture.

And while we're on the topic of TGI, could they please stop printing letters from Glenn Mickens extolling the virtue of the county manager concept? Though TGI has yet to cover it, that proposal is dead, and will be duly buried on Wednesday. Time for Mickens to let it go and spare us all his tiresome tirades.

Maui has also been infected by the county manager bug, spread by the same transplants who are convinced Hawaii could be better, if only it became more like someplace else. By which is meant a place where they might gain some power. Hopefully the Maui Council will be similarly apprised of HRS 76-77, which would require the manager to go through the civil service process, thus keeping the appointment out of any Council's power-hungry grasp.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Musings: Sweet and Sour

Just as HC&S is shutting down its Maui plantation, sugar is becoming more profitable.

Ironically, that profitability is linked to the anti-GMO movement, whose members include some of the very same anti-ag activists who worked so hard to kill HC&S with their unceasing complaints and litigation about cane smoke, water diversions and herbicides.

In the bizarre new world of activist-driven agriculture, the twisted chain of events goes like this:

In their quest to destroy agricultural biotech, anti-GMO activists stimulated irrational health fears, particularly in moms, who began clamoring for GMO-free candy.

Big candy-makers like Hershey's, one of the nation's top sugar-users, listened. According to Deborah Arcoleo, director of product transparency at the Hershey Co.:

In 2015 we started reformulating Hershey’s Kisses, Hershey’s milk chocolate, and Hershey’s milk chocolate with almonds, to move from beet sugar to cane sugar, and that’s complete. Now we’re looking to do that across the rest of our portfolio, to the extent that we can.

As a result, NPR reported, the price for beet sugar — much of it produced by genetically engineered Roundup Ready sugar beets — dropped below the price for cane sugar. Buyers are now paying 10 to 15 percent more for cane sugar, an expense that no doubt will be reflected in the price of candy.

So now sugar beet farmers are faced with a choice: go back to conventional beets, or get a lower price — or perhaps no buyers at all — for their GMO product.

The anti-GMO activists no doubt consider this a success, having employed fear-driven consumer pressure to bring Hershey's — and the beet farmers who supplied it with sugar — to their knees.

But is it really a win? Consider that beet farmers embraced the GMO variety because it helped them reliably produce a crop with fewer herbicides. Duane Grant, a sugar beet grower in Idaho, described cultivation in the pre-Roundup Ready days:

It was a nightmare. We had failures all the time — fields that would become unharvestable because of our failure to control weeds. We had an army of people applying herbicides around the clock or just at night. We did micro-rates, we did maxi-rates, you name it.

We had one sprayer for every 500 acres, so eight sprayers running around.They would work whenever they could. It might be all night long; it might be 24 hours straight because they had a window.

It was a horrible life.

The herbicide regimen used to include 4 to 6 different herbicides applied between 3 to 6 times per year, at 5 to 10 day intervals. Even after this much herbicide spraying, around 40 to 60% of sugarbeet fields had to be hand-weeded because the herbicides rarely provided complete weed control. Compare that to the Roundup Ready (GMO) system, where 2 or 3 applications of glyphosate have replaced the many herbicide sprays that were used previously, while providing better weed control.

By 2009, only two years after widespread adoption of GMO sugar beet, over 50,000 acres of sugar beet fields were converted to some form of reduced or conservation tillage practices in Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming. That number is probably much higher now. Conservation tillage practices improve soil health, reduce soil erosion, and preserve soil moisture. Conservation tillage simply wasn’t possible in sugarbeet before the introduction of Roundup Ready varieties, because intensive tillage was needed to obtain adequate weed control in the crop.

OK, so we're seeing clear environmental and social benefits from GMO sugar beets — gains that will be lost by a return to non-GMO beets.

Meanwhile, the Maui elitists who felt sugar cane production was incompatible with their desired lifestyle are helping to encourage that crop in places like Central America, where the harvesting is done by migrant workers who have a high incidence of chronic kidney disease due, it's thought, to laboring in the hot tropical sun without sufficient rest, shade and water.

This reality is totally lost on anti-GMO activists, who have absolutely no grasp of the consequences of their actions — even as they claim to be motivated by concerns for farm worker health and environmental contamination.

As sugar beet grower Andrew Beyer told NPR:

To me, it’s insane to think that a non-GMO beet is going to be better for the environment, the world, or the consumer.

But Beyer says he’ll do it if he needs to.

Yeah, if the insanity of the anti-GMO movement keeps driving the market, farmers will respond.

But activists should stop pretending that they're doing any of this for benefit of the environment or the farmers. Because clearly, they're not.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Musings: Dead on Arrival

The Kauai county manager proposal is finally dead.

Councilmembers on Wednesday voted to receive a proposed charter amendment that would have stripped power from the mayor and given it to a Council-hired manager, while also broadly expanding their powers and extending their terms.

Why? Not because it's an inherently bad and expensive idea promoted by a few disgruntled nitpickers, and a wild power grab by the Council. No. That makes too much sense. It was nixed only because state law would require a manager be selected under the full civil service selection and hiring process.

Which means the Council couldn't hire/fire the manager and control him/her.

So of course they're not interested, with Councilmembers saying, in effect, if we don't get to do the hiring, what's the point?

Meanwhile, as Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura and Gary Hooser attempt to legitimize unpermitted homestay operators who have already been told to pack it up, some of those folks are now facing criminal charges.

The Office of Prosecuting Attorney yesterday filed cases against homestay/B&B owners Bill and Cathy Cowern, Darcy Summer, Patricia Enderlin and John and Lorna Hoff, charging them with zoning violations and unsworn falsification, both misdemeanors.

Over on Oahu, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has appointed mediator/facilitator Peter Adler to that city's ethics commission, pending approval by the city council. I mention it only because Peter is the guy who is running the Joint Fact Finding Group on Kauai pesticides, a process fraught with questionable ethics, bias and the resignations of a third of its members.

But hey, it was awfully smart to release the JFFG's bloated “draft report,” with its many references to activist-funded unpublished studies and unsubstantiated health claims. Even though the final report, due out later this month, is supposed to be revised to reflect the many concerns raised by the public and seed companies it targets, it will be hard to dial back the misperceptions perpetuated by the draft. It's gotten tons of publicity — most recently in the Hawaii Business magazine article on pesticides, which gives much ink to the proposed recommendations and says the report “suggests a way forward on the issue.”

Oh, yes. A way crafted by the very same people who pushed the anti-GMO legislation through in the first place. Because even though the discussion is now framed as “concerns about pesticides,” let's not forget it's all based in an attempt to destroy GMO agriculture in the Islands.

I thought about the Hawaii anti-GMO movement as I cruised around the fertile Willamette Valley in Oregon yesterday, enroute to a string of waterfalls that rival those in the Islands. We passed fields full of Christmas trees, nursery plants, grass being grown for seed. But nobody in Oregon is bitching about using farmland to grow non-food products.

It's only in Hawaii that you hear that sort of nonsense, thanks to non-farmers like Councilman Hooser who try to claim that growing seeds somehow isn't really farming. Oregonians are smart enough to recognize that non-food crops are valuable agricultural exports, and a desirable alternative to urbanization.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Musings: Here and There

It's ironic that I'm here in Portland, land of big rivers,
near vertical tumbling streams,
windswept beaches,
and clear-cut hillsides,
at the same time that Portland activist Paul Cienfuegos is on Kauai, touting an admittedly illegal ordinance that would allow the county to “expel any corporation that threatens the health and safety of the community.”

By which is meant any industry they don't like — anti-ag activists Bridget Hammerquist and Gary Hooser joined Cienguegos — but not those providing conveniences they do like, such as gasoline, electricity and airport trips from Portland.

Cienguegos is a member of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which uses a strategy similar to the one employed by the anti-GMO movement: target small, easily manipulated, rural communities and dufus politicians and enlist them as pawns in a national political strategy:

We are not a typical environmental organization. We assist communities to develop first-in-the-nation, groundbreaking laws to protect rights – including worker, environmental, and democratic rights, and rights of nature. CELDF provides free and low cost legal services, grassroots organizing, and education, to communities, states, and countries facing injustice.

It's exactly what Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice did with the anti-GMO bills. While these strategies benefit the "nonprofit" groups that push them, both in legal fees and fundraising tools, they also cost taxpayers big money and create significant community polarization.

We see Hawaii Center for Food Safety director Ashley Lukens trot out that same “injustice” claim in an article on pesticides published in this month's Hawaii Business magazine.

The story ends with Ashley saying Malia Chun's undocumented claim that seed crop pesticides gave her asthma “illustrates the class issue raised by pesticide exposure in Hawaii. It's significant, Lukens notes, that it's been places like rural Kauai where the debate has been focused, and where pesticides continue to be prevalent even after apparent exposure at local schools.”

Uh, the debate has been focused on Kauai because that's where CFS and Earthjustice found a chump politicians (Hooser and Bynum) willing to carry their flag and an anti-GMO group willing to stir up fears in the populace and a bunch of newbies willing to jump on the bandwagon so they could feel like they belong on the island.

Meanwhile, state tests found the highest level of pesticides in streams on urban Oahu, in upscale Manoa, not rural farm communities.

But hey, since when have the facts, or logic, ever had anything to do with what is at heart a blatant attempt by non-Hawaii folks to wrest political control of the Islands — at any cost? 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Musings: Power Mad

In what reads as a blatant power grab, the Kauai County Council is proposing sweeping changes to the County Charter that would extend their terms, install a county manager and strip the mayor of all administrative authority.

Uh, why? Because the Council is doing such a great job that it should be given even more control over county government?

The Council will take up the proposed changes in the form of a resolution at Wednesday's committee meeting, where it will also consider two bills regulating homestays/B&Bs. One measure would prohibit them outside of the Visitor Destination Area.

Council Chair Mel Rapozo introduced the charter resolution, which was opposed only by Councilmen Ross Kagawa and Arryl Kaneshiro. The others justified it as a way to take the politics out of county government. Mmm, like the Council — and this very proposal — isn't uber political?

If the resolution is approved, the proposed charter changes would go before the voters in the November election.

The proposed charter changes would eliminate the current checks and balances in the county system by giving the Council authority to hire and oversee a County Manager, who would handle all the administrative duties now allocated to the Mayor. The Mayor would become a voting member of the Council, preside over meetings “and perform other duties specified by the Council.”

The changes would give the Council power to “appoint a county manager for an indefinite term and fix the manager’s compensation.”

The county manager would have broad powers, including to appoint and remove the police chief and planning director — authority now held by the police and planning commissions, respectively.

The county manager also would be authorized to propose salaries for all elected officials and non-civil service employees — a duty now held by the salary commission.

Furthermore, “all rules and regulations having the effect of law adopted by any board, commission, or administrative head of a department, must first be approved by the county manager prior to going into effect.”

The resolution also proposes:

At the 2018 general election, six Councilmembers shall be elected at large: the three (3) candidates receiving the greatest number of votes shall serve for four-year terms, and the three (3) candidates receiving the next greatest number of votes shall serve for two-year terms. Commencing at the 2020 general election and at all subsequent general elections, all Councilmembers shall be elected for four-year terms. No person shall be elected to the Council for more than two consecutive four-year terms.

This would allow Rapozo and Councilman JoAnn Yukimura, who are ready to term-out, to serve another eight years.

The mayor also would be elected to a four-year term, with the Council picking “a deputy mayor who shall act as mayor and chairperson during the absence or disability of the mayor and, if a vacancy occurs, shall become mayor for the remainder of the unexpired term. No person shall be elected to the office of mayor for more than two consecutive four-year terms.”

The changes also state:

The Council shall be the judge of the qualifications of its members and for that purpose shall have power to subpoena witnesses, take testimony, and require the production of records.

Though Council members and the mayor would have to be residents of Kauai for two years before seeking office, the county manager wouldn't even have to live in the state at the time of appointment so long as he/she established residency within 90 days of being hired.

Meanwhile, the Council will return to the contentious issue of homestays. Bill 2916 would set up a permitting process for the uses and restrict them to the VDA.

Bill 2609 also sets up a permitting process. It allows homestays outside of the VDA, but prohibits them in the open and agricultural zones. The 10-per-year cap proposed by the planning department has been removed. Yukimura is expected to introduce further amendments that would allow those who have been operating without a permit to get one.