Thursday, February 11, 2016

Musings: Stinky

It's hard to believe Donald Trump's candidacy endures. But as we've seen time and again, never underestimate the stupidity — and gullibility — of the easily led.

While on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Trump blamed Mexicans — such a convenient scapegoat — for the heroin problem there. Never mind that health officials say most people get started with over-prescribed, ready available painkillers like Percocet, OxyContin and Vicodin, then move on to junk. As the CDC reports:

Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills. The Northeast, especially Maine and New Hampshire, had the most prescriptions per person for long-acting and high-dose painkillers.

But that reality interferes with Trump's brilliant plan to wall off the border with Mexico, so he just ignores it. I wonder, is he planning a similar approach to end the ice epidemic in Hawaii? But if the Islands are sealed off, how will the food get in?

Speaking of walls, and bordering nations, Canada has again declared its candidacy for POTUS. My favorite part of its platform:

We'll open one free day care for every closed Planned Parenthood clinic.

Shoots, they got my vote.

Though Trump won't shut up, the state Department of Health is all mum. As in, it won't tell us who is awarding those lucrative medical marijuana licenses or even who picked the power-wielding panelists.

Civil Beat quotes Gov. Ige as saying it's important to keep it all secret “to ensure they can properly do their jobs.” Ya mean like award licenses to their friends before folks can cry foul?

Yet in the perverse world of politics, Ige's spokeswoman actually sees the secrecy as ensuring that the process “is perceived to be fair and objective.”

Oh, yes, I've always found secrecy, and the inability to scrutinize the qualifications of those doling out valuable contracts, as part and parcel of “fair and objective.”

From where I sit, it's all kinda stinky, especially when you see folks who are well-connected politically, like Charles Kawakami, Sen. Kalani English and former Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, submitting applications as principles or investors. It's really hard to believe it's going to be solely merit-based, especially given the minimalist application process.

Speaking of stinky, The Garden Island reports there was a fish kill at Sunrise Capital, the Kauai shrimp farm. It reports, too, that Carl Berg of Surfrider was out there, gagging at the smell. But also salivating at the prospect of being able to shut them down. Seems Surfrider fought the company's permit, just like it's fighting the proposed dairy at Mahaulepu. the seed fields on the westside, cattle most anywhere and Roundup everywhere.

But no, they aren't anti-ag. They fully support gentlemanly farms and the odd “yarden” or two, where bees are kept not for honey, but meditative purposes.

Meanwhile, Surfrider is running an anti-pesticide radio spot, and one of its members (and former Kauai mayoral candidate), Diana LaBedz, is doing the voice-over for GMO-Free Kauai's latest fear-fest.

Apparently, they aren't getting enough traction in the free echo chamber at KKCR, so they're actually buying 30-second ad spots to take their message of “Be afraid. Be very very very afraid, so fucking afraid you can't sleep at night” out to the rest of the island.

In one spot, she tells farm, landscape and government workers they should be “very concerned” about their health. “Your illness could be caused by the pesticides you are spraying.”

In another spot, she claims we're being “poisoned by Roundup” and then goes on to state, as it it were fact, that Alzheimers, Parkinsons, autism, miscarriages and brain, breast, lung and prostate cancer “are illnesses tied to Roundup.”

Curiously, this particular anti-Roundup propaganda campaign was preceded by the Surfrider-funded and directed study that found glyphosate (Roundup ) in honey. And it will be followed by release of the Joint Fact Finding Group's report on pesticides, which has a special section on glyphosate. My, what a set of coincidences!

As the liberal website Alternet reports:

What’s going on is Americans are endlessly being bombarded with media messages that are fearful and deceitful. The result not only affects our politics and policies, as we are insistently told to fear and respond to exaggerated or fake threats. But, going deeper, this onslaught literally shapes how brains work and what people end up believing, [linguist and author George] Lakoff and other astute observers have said. The result is many small problems get undue attention while widespread problems go unacknowledged and unanswered.

You know, like focusing on Roundup while ignoring the very real threats of meth, hunger, homelessness and poverty. But hey, “GMO-Free Kauai cares about your health.” That's why it feeds you a steady diet of fear. Because it's so good for you.

The article continues:

Repetition of fear-based messaging—without a steady counterpoint or context to stop that drumbeat—has been shown to affect the brain patterns that determine how people think.

Indeed. As I've pointed out repeatedly, the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii is predicated on fear-mongering. And in that, they have an ally in Donald Trump. 
[S]ince love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved. —Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, 1513

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Musings: As My Mama Used to Say

The state Legislature today will take up the topic of genetically engineered fish, considering a bill that would ban their cultivation, propagation or farming in state marine waters.

Though the Civil Beat editors displayed their bias in the headline — “No GMO Fish in Hawaii, Please” — reporter Chad Blair was even-handed in his brief coverage, noting:

HB 686 does not explain why GMO fish need to be banned from local waters.

That's because, as one commenter noted, “there isn't a good scientific reason. It's just a general fear of technology coupled with nostalgia for 'the good old days.'”

Guess sales of the cheesy chicks calendar haven't gone too well, as Babes Against Biotech admitted it doesn't have the dough to fund a fulltime fearmongerer lobbyist this year.

But no worries, since activism has always been second to self-promotion among the anti-GMO crowd. Which is why BAB's Nomi Carmona didn't post any testimony on the BAB Facebook page, just a selfie at the Capitol:
Uh, might wanna close your mouth before the flies get in, as my Mama used to say. Or as Mr. Rogers used to say, "Can you spell narcissist?" 

Nomi was very upset that Alicia Maluafiti, a woman who spends her free time and money rescuing abandoned animals, yet is nonetheless regularly maligned by the antis because she lobbies for Crop Life America, called out the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii for what it is: 

“Mainland activists trying to save us from ourselves” and “21st Century missionaries.”

Oh, such race-baiting, huffed Nomi, who hails from California. Nope. Just the truth. Which is why none of the anti-GMO groups can actually survive on local funding.

Alicia was testifying against HB 2564, which would establish a pilot project requiring certain agricultural entities to plant vegetative buffer zones around five as yet undesignated schools, one on each island. Though not Lanai, because apparently the activists don't give a shit about the keiki there.  

But then the bill goes on to specifically exempts treatments by termite companies.

So you can't spray ag pesticides in a field a mile from a school, but you can use pesticides directly on school grounds and buildings. But this is not about agriculture, it's about keiki health. OK, got it.

Speaking of keiki, Malia Chun – sister of Kauai Councilman Mason Chock and one of those suing to keep Bill 2491 alive – sent her mom to allege that Malia's kids are sick from pesticides. As "proof," she cited hair samples that showed exposure to 36 pesticides, eight of them restricted use.

Curious, I did a bit of research, and found this paper:

In order to identify associations between indoor air contamination and human exposure to pesticides, hair samples from 14 persons (9 adults and 5 children below 12 years) were collected simultaneously with the air of their 5 contrasted houses. Three houses were situated in Alsace (France), one in Lorraine (France) and one in Luxembourg (Luxembourg). Houses were located in urban (n=3), semi-urban (n=1) and rural areas (n=1). Twenty five (25) pesticides were detected at least once in indoor air samples and 20 pesticides were detected at least once in hair samples. The comparison between hair and air samples for the same sampling periods shows that pesticides detected in the two matrices were not necessarily associated. Exposure profiles varied from one home to another but also between inhabitants of the same home, suggesting that exposure can be different between inhabitants of the same home.

I hate to break it to folks, but pesticides are ubiquitous. You can pick them up even when you don't live anywhere near an agricultural field. Why, they're even found in — gasp — organic food. As Forbes reported, using the latest USDA-PDP (Pesticide Data Program) information as a source (emphasis in the original):

What that transparent source of tax payer-supported research indicates is that 40 different synthetic pesticide residues were detected on organic food samples at levels similar to what was seen for the comparable conventional food samples. In both cases the amounts are too small to be a health/safety concern.

For organic advocates and organic marketers this sort of information leaves one of two possibilities. They can agree with the EPA and other responsible agencies that consumers need not be concerned about the low-level pesticide residues found in either conventional and organic food. Alternatively they could choose not to believe those authorities and be forced to conclude that organic food is unsafe.

But then, that would require logic.

One of the things that irritates me most about the anti-GMO movement, especially now that it's broadening its message to include pesticides, is its total disconnect from the reality that many GM crops actually reduce pesticide use. This has been documented in Bt cotton, corn, brinjal (eggplant) and papaya.

Heck, even the anti-corporate spiel is turning out to be a crock, now that so many pure, altruistic, consumer-minded organic companies have opted for the big bucks and sold out to large corporations:
Yeah, that's the problem with the real world. Things just aren't so black-and-white, so cut-and-dried, as a Facebook meme. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Musings: The Beautiful Bozo

Gosh, things are getting serious on the Big Island, what with Mayor Billy Kenoi declaring a state of emergency around dengue fever.

Seems it's the largest outbreak in the Islands since the 1940s, with 250 confirmed cases.

As Reuters reports, in a story inexplicably accompanied by a photo of Waikiki:

As a result of [the emergency] order people on the Big Island will be allowed to resume disposing of old tires in landfills, since tires which are left lying around are a known breeding spot for mosquitoes.

Wow. Now that's some aggressive eradication action. For sure that's gonna stop the spread.


Looks like Monsanto is getting tired of being everybody's whipping boy. Today's edition of The Garden Island features a letter from Daniel Goldstein, the company's Science Affairs Lead and Associate Medical Director, who identifies himself as a pediatrician and a father before blasting the “incorrect and misleading information” about glyphosate (Roundup) contained in two recent letters to the editor. He goes on to say:

Contrary to unsubstantiated claims, often promoted by groups with political aims, it does not cause a litany of health harms.

Talk about a losing cause. Monsanto could have folks working round the clock, and they'd still never scratch the surface of all the “incorrect and misleading information” perpetuated by “groups with political aims.”

It brings to mind testimony submitted by Zachary Hitchcock, chair of the Oahu Surfrider chapter, on the pesticide disclosure bill:

Pesticides are dangerous. A combination of chemicals and pesticides is even more so.

Hmmm. Which chemicals do you suppose he meant? Hydrogen? Oxygen? Sodium? Chloride?

And this is the group that is conducting “scientific research” on Kauai and attempting to dictate agricultural policy statewide.


Speaking of groups with political aims, Gary Hooser's HAPA might want to check out the IRS rules a little more carefully. The group is hoping to develop candidates through its “Kuleana Academy,” which bills itself as “a non-partisan candidate training program” while offering workshops in “progressive values.”

According to IRS rules (emphasis added):

Training for political campaign workers; limited to one political party— An organization that operates a school to train individuals to fill responsible positions in political campaigns does not qualify for exemption under IRC 501(c)(3) where it fails to establish that it operates on a nonpartisan basis.

In American Campaign Academy v. Commissioner, 92 T.C. 1053 (1989), the court concluded that the organization, an outgrowth of similar training programs sponsored by the National Republican Congressional Committee, operated for the private benefit of Republican entities and candidates, who were not members of a charitable class. Although the organization had no formal requirement that candidates for admission be affiliated with any particular political party, the evidence suggested that most of its graduates went on to work in Republican campaigns, and the organization offered no evidence of a graduate who was affiliated with a domestic political party other than the Republican party.

Ain't no way HAPA can claim its Kuleana Academy is nonpartisan. Shoots, just look at its partners:

Community Alliance on Prisons, Hawaii Americans For Democratic Action, Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice, Hawaii Center for Food Safety, Hawaii People's Fund, Hawaii SEED, Hawaii Thousand Friends, KAHEA, Life of the Land, Maui Tomorrow, and UNITE HERE! Local 5. 

There's not a Republican within a mile of those folks.

But isn't that just like Gary, who believes the rules never apply to him.

Similarly, the Hawaii Center for Food Safety, which claims to be an educational nonprofit, just engaged in a blatant email appeal to secure $100,000 for lobbying:

HCFS is working hard on key food and agriculture legislation. To advance this platform, HCFS staff will collectively spend over 1,000 hours empowering our members to engage in the civic process. But this work costs money. The cost to develop educational materials and conduct trainings for grassroots advocacy during legislative session is nearly $100,000.

First, it's laughable to think they're spending $100,000 on “grassroots training” – more like fly people in to testify – or educational materials. What, they're printed with 14k gold ink? But they do need to pay the salary of Director Ashley Lukens, who is a registered lobbyist.

When I ran this by an akamai friend, he referenced IRS rules — here and here — before noting:

Ashley's operation is basically a branch office of the CFS national organization. So let's say she raises $100,000 to lobby the legislature ragged. I doubt that the Hawaii CFS office operates on a $500,000 annual budget. It would have to for the $100K to represent 20% of the overall budget in keeping with the IRS stipulation. But Hawaii CFS doesn't file an independent tax return. CFS in DC does. And the $100K for lobbying could easily fit their much larger expenditures.

Put it another way: For lobbying purposes, we're "ground zero" but for tax reporting purposes, we're incidental. Or, as W.C. Fields said, "the beautiful bozo, high and dry!" 

And yet we have reporters like Nathan Eagle blithely describing CFS as a "nonprofit" and the gullible, like Michael Bishop in his rant against "industrial ag," still believing that this mainland-driven and funded anti-GMO movement is all about "home rule." 

Ya, right.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Musings: Reconnect to Reality

I knew they were out there, that rare alignment of five planets, very visible on this moonless dawn, and I wanted to see them, but I was sleepy, snuggling in, telling myself, “maybe tomorrow.” But then Paele got up, and so we all did, which is how I found myself gratefully gazing up in wonder at that celestial arc of Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Mercury and Venus, sparkling silver against a backdrop of black-becoming-blue.

Now that's something special and thrilling, starring in a sky near you all month long.

Not so special was the state's recent clean up at Kalalau, which resulted in officers issuing 70 citations over the past few weeks to people who did not have camping permits. 

Though it's always sad to see kanaka arrested — Alekai Kinimaka was busted for four petty misdemeanors, including landing a jet ski with a passenger on the beach — he's been offering illegal transport services out there for how many years already?

The worst, though, was watching (11:16 on the video) the tons of opala being hauled out – full-size lounge chairs, surfboards, fishing poles, rubbish, bongo drums, full-sized coolers, a five-foot-long plastic table.

Oh yeah, they wanna be part of that “pristine wilderness” – but with all the comforts of home. And let someone else clean up the mess.

At the end of the video, there's a DOCARE guy (I think it's Kauai Branch Chief Francis “Bully” Mission) saying:

“It really upsets me, just to see a pristine area like destroyed with all the trash and illegal activity. It really saddens me... and more so the attitudes. They say they take care of the aina and clean up the area – but then we come back here and have to clean up the area for them. It's just really upsetting and saddening to see that sort of stuff going on.

Yes, so often we see that sad gaping disconnect between the rhetoric and actions of those who believe — and claim — they love the land.

Which brings us to HB 2574, the pesticide disclosure bill that passed out of the House environment committee Thursday afternoon. Maui Rep. Kaniela Ing wasted no time cashing in. That very same evening he sent out an email citing his vote and asking for contributions, with the message:

He has our backs, let's have his.

At best, that's blatant pandering. At worst, it's selling votes.

But hey, fear for sure sells, which is how Ing and the Center for Food Safety, which sent out its own “pony up now” email, cash in. First, they make you afraid. Then they promise to save you from the danger they've amplified. But only if you send enough money.

It's not unlike the people who used to prey on an elderly friend of mine, sending him letters asserting that he'd been cursed, but if he sent $5, they'd remove it.

Here's the biggest disconnect of all: Though they claim they are protecting the keiki, aina,  kupuna and other Hawaiian words, they only want agricultural companies to disclose. Yet as farmer Larry Jefts pointed out, ag accounts for only one third of all restricted use pesticides (RUP). Even the hated Monsanto uses just 1 percent of the entire statewide RUP total.

So who is using the bulk of the RUPs? You got it: Pest control and termite treatment companies. They are using the most, in structures inhabited by keiki and kupuna, yet state law explicitly grants them an exemption from disclosure. 

But somehow, this does not faze CFS, Councilman Gary Hooser, Pesticide Action Network and others who are demanding disclosure from ag under the guise of “our right to know.”

It's not like these pest control products — advertised as “Great for trenching, soil drenching and wall foaming” — never migrate off-site when applied in a residential neighborhood. And they're certainly not benign: Sulfuryl fluoride, commonly used in termite tenting, is described as a “toxic gas..Inhalation may be fatal due to respiratory failure.”

Shoots, these products are even produced by the same “corporate criminals” and “pathological liars” — to borrow phrases used by those testifying in support of the bill — who operate the seed fields.

But pest control is given zero scrutiny by the activists. Is it any wonder that so many of us see bills like HB 2574 as targeted attacks on agriculture?

Though some have urged passage, saying it would “ease the worries” of concerned citizens, Allan Parching used his testimony to point out the dark side of the legislation:

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this bill is the provision that would permit anyone in the general public to file litigation to enjoin use of pesticides in a particular location on a particular date and stack the deck against the agricultural entity seeking to use the pesticides—even with all appropriate and required state and federal permits and authorizations.

Both Parachini and Jefts said the bill should apply equally to all agricultural users of any pesticide, including so-called organic farms, and all other users of any RUP pesticide, especially golf courses and termite control contractors.

Or as Jefts elaborated, "If the true intent is to reduce pesticide exposure and increase the safety of families and community" homeowners should have to go through an education process akin to hunter safety training to show they know what they're doing before they can buy pesticides.

What struck me about about the testimony submitted in support of HB2574 was its sameness, as in 98 percent regurgitated the canned spiel that the activist groups had fed them. Which means they a) can't think for themselves, b) are essentially puppets, c) have insufficient grasp of the issue to craft their own testimony or d) all of the above.

I was also struck by how little of the testimony came from people who actually live near Kauai Coffee and the seed fields — the only entities that would be forced to disclose pesticide use. Much of it came from people living in Princeville — uh, go check out the poison closet there, guys — and Honolulu, which actually had the highest pesticide levels in the state, despite being devoid of agriculture.

Those who did go off script probably shouldn't have, like Rebecca Sydney of Makawao:

Do you not see that EVERYTHING on Maui is contaminated and potentially unsafe for its life forms? The soil is poisoned with chemicals! The water we drink is full of toxic chemicals! The air we breathe is still toxic with smoke and chemicals from agriculture and golf courses! The ocean is acidifying and dying from chemical runoff and the dumping of waste! The food sold in the stores is covered in chemicals (except organic) which can’t be washed off! 

Geez. Might as well slit your wrists right now. Or, get educated, alleviate your fears and reconnect to reality.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Musings: Get Real

As the Kauai County Council ponders adopting a county manger form of government, it might do well to consider the case of Darnell Earley.

If the name doesn't ring a bell, he was the emergency city manager when Flint, Mich., switched from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Karegnondi Water Authority — a move that prompted them to pump lead-contaminated drinking water from the Flint River in the interim.

But Earley is accepting no responsibility — and no blame — for the decision to use the Flint River as a temporary drinking water source. He claims the mayor and city council approved the action, though there is no record of a resolution or vote to that effect.

Earley initially refused to testify before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. That prompted Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz to call for U.S. Marshalls “to hunt him down and give him that subpoena.” His attorney has since said Earley will accept a second subpoena if issued.

In other words, a city manager is not necessarily infallible, more accountable, a cronyism-buster or a white knight. A city manager is simply a person who is as prone to incompetence, irresponsibility and self-serving actions as anyone else.

The position is not, in and of itself, the answer to Kauai's nepotism, cronyism, parochialism or any other ism.

Just a little something to think about as the County Council prepares to waste an entire day kicking around the concept of a county manager — a move that would require voter approval and substantial changes to the County Charter.

Come on, guys. Instead of trying to wrest power from the mayor — the Council would hire and oversee the manager, with the mayor relegated to a more ceremonial position — why not use the power you've got to actually do something?

Councilman Mel Rapozo has been chair of the Council for over a year now, with a majority voting bloc at his disposal. Yet so far, the Council has achieved nothing of significance, despite the many pressing issues facing Kauai.

So I'll offer a few words of unsolicited advice to the Council:

Put this idea on a shelf. Let one of the bigger, smarter counties try it first.

Prove to us that you can hire a qualified, effective county auditor — one who isn't a political crony; one who actually does the job; one who can be fired without it costing the taxpayers a pile of dough in a lawsuit. 

Pass some meaningful bills that address real problems, like affordable housing, substance abuse, traffic gridlock, climate change.

Conduct a meeting, and engage in respectful dialogue with one other, without it degenerating into a pissing match.

And then, once you've shown voters you can actually do the job you're elected to do, it might be time to begin considering whether Kauai would benefit from a total revamping of its administrative system to give the Council and its manager more power.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Musings: Dumb and Dumbest

Though you can't always tell it from the comments, I have a lot of really akamai, funny, thoughtful readers, who frequently share interesting tidbits with me.

I thought it was time to use some of their contributions to develop the theme of dummies who weigh in — adamantly, loudly and insistently — as if they actually knew what they were talking about. And sadly, they believe that they do. Though I've long been fascinated by this topic, it surged to the forefront of my consciousness following this recent Facebook exchange:

#1 I was just reading another post that said that polio was not caused by a virus but caused instead by a pesticide that was sprayed on fruit orchards in the summer known as lead arsenate.

#2 This is where you need to check your sources. What's your source for this?

#3 Polio is most certainly a virus. Pretty sure the science is in on this one.

#1 NO, YOU need to check your sources.

#4 If that is true, then why does the vaccine work? This sounds like a conspiracy theory on the credibility level of chemtrails.

#1 Hahaha, the vaccine did not work and so the medical system played a trick on us like they always do when they are trying desperately to protect their vaccine theory. They made up a new disease and began calling the non severe cases of polio, meningitis and that helped decrease the number of polio cases dramatically. Sound familiar? Because that is what they do when vaccines KILL babies, they call it SIDS.

Me: And this is where we hit the wall.
Sadly, ignorance is too often fostered in the classroom, as evidenced by this Facebook comment left by a Hawaii substitute teacher following news of the Syngenta workers seeking treatment following exposure to pesticide:

"If it kills insects, obviously it will kill man." 

Right. Like we have the exact same physiology! Yikes. And they wonder why the keiki are uneducated.

Which offers a perfect segue to a Psychology Today article that reports:

There is a growing and disturbing trend of anti-intellectual elitism in American culture. It’s the dismissal of science, the arts, and humanities and their replacement by entertainment, self-righteousness, ignorance, and deliberate gullibility.

Journalist Charles Pierce, author of Idiot America adds another perspective: “In the new media age, everybody is an expert.”

We’re creating a world of dummies. Angry dummies who feel they have the right, the authority and the need not only to comment on everything, but to make sure their voice is heard above the rest, and to drag down any opposing views through personal attacks, loud repetition and confrontation.

In fact, that need to weigh in on everything, even when you don't know WTF you're talking about, is so prevalent that Saturday Night Live turned it into a skit

“The game is simple: We bring out three idiots and give them hot button issues and ask them, 'should you chime in on this?' The answer should always be no. OK, now let's meet the idiots.”

The New Yorker's Andy Borowitz also found the phenomenon richly ripe for satire:

Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.

Of course, this particular strain has long been present in politicians, both locally:
And nationally:
Though I'm making light of it here, I worry about its implications for our society, especially since it's so often coupled with mind-numbing fear.

If only it were self-correcting:

Monday, February 1, 2016

Musings: Educated But Misinformed

It came as no surprise to learn that contempt of court, domestic violence and substance abuse are the top three crimes on Kauai.

But what do those stats, which speak to anger, depression, alienation, addiction, poverty and a lack of personal responsibility, say about the true state of our island? Especially since they stand in such sharp contrast to the popular image of Kauai as “paradise.”

Most troubling was Prosecutor Justin Kollar's shocking revelation that his office receives more than 500 domestic violence cases a year, with the majority involving alcohol or drug use. Sadly, many of the adults now abusing family members, drugs and alcohol were themselves victim of abuse.

In short, a helluva lot of folks are hurting on this little island, a tragic fact that's forgotten as people and politicians bicker about barking dogs, chimney smoke, traffic, TVRs and pesticides. Activists are totally freaked at the mere prospect of being exposed to ag chemicals, but say nothing about the real and documented harm being inflicted daily on folks by drugs, booze and their most intimate associates.

Though these cases are tallied as crime stats, they're not going to resolved by enforcement or incarceration. It's all about prevention, education and treatment at a personal and community level — something that's going to require a serious re-ordering of priorities.

On a brighter note, Lee Cataluna had a lovely piece on the HC&S workers in the Star-Advertiser this weekend. My favorite lines:

In today’s Internet-educated but misinformed world, people think of plantation workers as unskilled, mistreated and stuck in terrible jobs. That is not true, particularly in areas like the machine shop. Here, they are as skilled as surgeons and as courageous as warriors.

Speaking of Internet-educated but misinformed, three scientific papers that reported harmful effects to animals fed genetically modified (GM) crops are being investigated for data manipulation.

Italian Senator Elena Cattaneo, a neuroscientist at the University of Milan, found what appear to intentionally manipulated images. University of Georgia plant geneticist Wayne Parrot also spotted the doctored images, as well as one used in a 2006 paper. An investigation is under way, with results due out later this month. As Catteneo noted:

The case is very important also because these papers have been used politically in the debate on GM crops.

Then I saw this, posted by the Executive Director of the Pesticide Action Network on the group's website. following her participation in the so-called “Food Justice Summit” in Hawaii: 

Five of the world’s six largest genetically engineered (GE) seed and pesticide corporations field-test new GE crops on Hawai'i farmland. These seeds, often designed for use with specific pesticides, require repeated applications of harmful pesticides like atrazine, paraquat and chlorpyrifos. Farmworkers and residents of communities adjacent to the GE test fields — children, especially — are most at risk for health harms from drifting pesticides and contaminated water.

I went on a “toxic tour” of Waimea, on the west side of Kaua’i, and was stunned to see how close people’s homes are to some of the highest concentration of restricted-use pesticides in the whole country.

This is the kind of propaganda that is being intentionally disseminated about present-day agriculture in Hawaii, where there has in fact been no documentation of “drifting pesticides” or “contaminated water.” But through the use of manipulated language — “most at risk” — she creates fear without actually verifying any harm.

The group also published a statement on the Summit, which includes some blatant lies: 

These corporations are holding Hawaiʻi’s people hostage. [They] divert and contaminate this most precious and important common resource, leaving quality agricultural lands and key habitats without a source of water. Parts of the archipelago are sprayed as much as 250 days per year, or seven out of ten days year round. Companies have fought even basic notification rules so that families and schools are unable to protect their children from regular chemical exposure.

Come on. We have been over this same ground so many times, and all of these points have been shown to be false. Yet still these groups continue to perpetuate them. The statement concludes:

The fight to end the overuse of chemical pesticides and their increasing promotion through genetic engineering begins in Hawaiʻi, and extends around the world.

Now do you see what's at stake in the Islands, and how these groups will stop at nothing to achieve their goals?

Meanwhile, the lowly mosquito is gaining more attention with the “explosive” spread of the Zika virus in the Americas. As Jan TenBruggencate reports on his Raising Islands blog, the virus can be carried by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, and Hawaii has both.

A reader sent a link to a Reuter's article on how genetically modified mosquitoes are helping to reduce mosquito populations in Brazil with the comment:

Possibly of interest to who are against certain things however would like protection from other things.

Indeed. Insecticides are the primary tool used worldwide to knock back mosquito populations that carry such diseases as Zika and dengue. But researchers with Oxitec have modified the Aedes aegypti mosquito so that males die before reaching reproductive age. End result: fewer mosquitoes, reduced pesticide use.

These GM mosquitoes have proven successful during field trials in Brazil, though anti-GMO activists have rallied to prevent such trials in Key West, Fla. However, as Slate reports, while the transgenic mosquitoes are good at suppressing the wild population, they don't eradicate it entirely. The author of the piece, science writer Daniel Engber, advocates eliminating the disease-carrying strains completely by employing various biotech techniques now under study:

We’ve wiped out lots of species in the past, of course, through our blithe indifference to the natural world. It’s tragic that we have no more passenger pigeons, or Tasmanian tigers, or quaggas. But the sky has not (yet) fallen. No one bit their nails when we cleared the world of polio and rinderpest. Should mosquitoes get special treatment just because they’re insects?

Despite disease fears, Engber's idea isn't getting much traction from researchers. He quotes Oxitec field manager Andy McKemey as saying:

“I am enough of an ecologist to be queasy about the idea of eliminating a species.”

Even if it is a mosquito.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Yamakawa Quits Pesticide Fact-Finding Group

The Kauai Joint Fact-Finding Group on pesticides has lost a key member, with Roy Yamakawa quitting the appointed panel over disputed methodology.

Roy declined to comment and deferred questions to mediator Peter Adler, whose ACCORD group is overseeing the process.

Roy had differences of opinion on the methods by which we are working to complete the last legs of the effort,” Peter replied in an email confirming Roy's departure.

Roy, now retired from his positions as Kauai extension agent and county administrator for the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Ag, had an understanding of pesticide use and local ag unmatched on the JFFG. And since a majority of panelists hold anti-GMO sentiments, his departure exacerbates that imbalance.

Still, Peter is urging people to wait and see.

I like and respect Roy a lot and am urging he and everyone who contacts us to judge the JFF by the final product,” Peter wrote. “In the meantime, we are revamping our schedule to accommodate discussions on some additional data we have received. We hope to complete the effort by the end of March or as soon as possible after a public comment window and informational briefing inviting proposed factual additions or corrections.”

The JFF report was due out in early January. But it was lacking its crucial health section and the county and state, which are financing the $100,000 exercise, reportedly refused to accept the incomplete document. The health section reportedly is being vetted by an epidemiologist, and the state Attorney General's office is also reviewing the report.

Meanwhile, I've learned that a study on glyphosate in honey — recently submitted to the JFFG — was financed by Surfrider. The advocacy group has joined Earthjustice, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network and the county in appealing a judge's ruling that overturned Bill 2491/Ordinance 960, a hotly contested pesticide/GMO regulatory measure.

The ruling also invalidated a provision in the law authorizing an environmental and health assessment, prompting the state and county to fund the JFFG instead. The panel was charged with determining what is truly known about agricultural pesticide use on Kauai, and any associated environmental and health concerns.

The group was specifically directed not to conduct its own independent research, though it could make recommendations on studies and monitoring programs that should be pursued.

So it's extremely questionable that an advocacy group like Surfrider was allowed to finance new research — conducted under the guise of a high school science project — and submit the unverified results to the JFFG.

The study tested honey samples – some of them collected by beekeepers with anti-GMO views — and found glyphosate (Roundup) in about 35 percent. Surfrider's Carl Berg, who “mentored” the student who did the science project, said “the detection of glyphosate in honey does mean that it escapes from the point of application under current best management practices.”

However, since it's impossible to know where the bees collected the glyphosate, it's equally impossible to state that it was applied "under current best management practices” — especially since the popular weed killer is regularly sprayed by homeowners untrained in such practices.

Recently, the anti-GMO group US Right to Know made a huge stink about how Monsanto and other agrichemical companies were supposedly corrupting the scientific process simply by giving scientists money to conduct educational outreach programs. 

If one of the seed companies had conducted a study and given the results to the JFFG, the antis would be screaming bloody murder. Yet when it's done by an advocacy group, one with a dog in this particular fight, it's no problem.

Now that's the kind of duplicity and hypocrisy that really grates. 

As I suggested to Carl, if Surfrider is truly concerned about pesticides escaping from the point of application under current best management practices, it should test the air quality around a house undergoing termite treatments. The air should be tested again as the tent is removed. 

After all, pest control applicators use more restricted use pesticides than any other industry in Hawaii — and significantly more than agriculture. Why is the focus solely on farm pesticides, even as activists claim they aren't anti-ag and it's not all about shutting down the GMO crops?