Thursday, January 19, 2017

Musings: Roses and Thorns

Seems the bloom is off the rose....
Of course, the "con artist" bit is what I've been saying for years now, though Dustin Barca and his gang denounced me for “talking shit” while they rode the cash cow of false glory. Now even they have seen the light.

Well, kind of. Because Dustin still suffers under the delusion that it was a “homegrown movement” and a “revolution.” No, you guys were Center for Food Safety/Earthjustice pawns from the start.

Meanwhile, Dustin's busy shilling for OluKai shoes (click image to enlarge): 
You know he didn't write the promo copy because it contains no random capitalizations and actually makes sense. But no, money hasn't affected his morals.

So Hawaii Dairy Farms has finally submitted its final EIS for the Mahaulepu dairy, which says it will cause no environmental harm. And though Friends of Mahauelepu demanded the document, it has — as expected — summarily denounced it.

This is what happens when you cave in. The antis remain opposed and HDF has hopefully not set an unrealistic precedent by doing an EIS for an agricultural enterprise when it wasn't triggered by the law.

Of course, HDF can afford such exercises because it's bankrolled by Pierre Omidyar's deep pockets via the Ulupono Initiative.

Rabid dairy hater Ronald John, who has written numerous letters to The Garden Island attacking the Mahaulepu proposal and dairies in general, recently claimed that HDF “received a $3.1 million tax write off for the year 2014 alone.”

While I wouldn't put stock in anything John says, it might be interesting for Civil Beat to do a bit of digging into just what sort of tax breaks Omidyar enjoys by funding the utopian ag vision of Ulupono Initiative (as well as his vanity press). Seems a fitting enteprise for a website that claims to be devoted to "in-depth reporting and investigative journalism” — despite never looking critically at the social engineering plans of one of the Islands' wealthiest citizens.

But then, I can understand CB's reluctance to even nibble on, much less bite, the hand that feeds it.

I mean, it's become apparent that Civil Beat “reader rep” Brett Oppegaard is never going to do the expose on Omidyar's role on the editorial board of CB that he addressed in a July 2016 email to me:

You are concerned about CB's potential conflicts of interest. I agree, that is an important topic for me to address (at some point). I am looking into this issue for future columns. It's not that I don't want to touch it; it's a complicated subtopic (within the topic I'm addressing) that is beyond the scope of what I want to deal with in this particular column (which therefore would muddy the theme of the piece), about commenting systems and disclosures of commenters. There's always another column, for something like that. …

Yeah, sure, Brett. Not holding my breath....

While we're talking about rich people, it's interesting to see the different angles taken in reporting the news that Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg is taking quiet title action to gain ownership of some kuleana parcels within the North Shore Kauai land parcel he bought two years ago.

The Star-Advertiser noted that “forcing people to sell land that has been in their families for generations can be off-putting — especially when it’s driven by the sixth-richest person in the world.”

But The Garden Island shared the perspective of Carlos Andrade, whose family owns a share in one of those parcels. As Andrade noted, some of the heirs wouldn't otherwise be able to afford the legal action required to clear, or “quiet,” the outstanding ownership issues on their own, and thus would be precluded from selling and collecting their share of the proceeds.

No doubt the court proceedings will shed more light.

Btw, if you haven't yet seen the wall that fronts his property on Koolau Road, go check it out. It's beautiful and fits right in to the landscape.

Meanwhile, there's been a pesticide incident at Syngenta, which the Hawaii Department of Ag and EPA are investigating. Seems that on Jan. 12, the driver of a van carrying contract workers stopped to consult with the driver of another van, which resulted in him rolling down his window while a spraying operation was occurring in an adjacent field. 

A worker in the van expressed concerned about possible exposure, and sought medical attention. He was given a clean bill of health and returned to work the next day. Syngenta  contacted HDOA, which immediately launched an on-site investigation. EPA officials arrived on Jan. 16 to do their own investigation.

The two agencies have not yet released their findings. But this again underscores that the regulatory system does work, and that enforcement agencies take their roles seriously, with EPA showing up on a federal holiday, no less.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Musings: Real Issues

What does it say when two people who failed dismally at the polls — Gary Hooser and Fern Rosenstiel — are now hoping to push the overturned Kauai Ordinance 960 (Bill 2491) through the state Legislature?

It says they aren't listening to the will of the people.

It says they think they know best, and damn the rest.

It says they just can't bear to step out of the spotlight — even though voters summarily rejected their platform and agenda.

Besides Fern and Gary, the “go Ordinance 960” rallying call has been picked up by two groups that benefit financially from keeping the conflict over GMOs and pesticides alive: Hawaii SEED and Hawaii Center for Food Safety.

Though Jeri Di Pietro has yet to file the 2015 tax return for Hawaii SEED, the 2014 return shows the group pulled in $229,894 — up from $167,973 in 2013. In 2010, Hawaii SEED brought in just $266.

But that was before the mainland anti-GMO groups decided to try and set a precedent on Hawaii, and started funneling money to the Islands.

Though Hawaii SEED's stated mission is to “inform and educate the public on food security, genetic engineering and health,” they didn't actually offer any educational programs. Instead, they spent $48,230 on unspecified travel, gave $8,588 to the MOM Hui, funnelled $8,329 into a Molokai “benefit” concert, expended $12,291 on a mysterious “Patagona grant” and blew a whopping $8,259 on the opening of the Legislature.

In the five years between 2010 and 2014, Hawaii SEED has taken in $801,174. Yet what do they have to show for it? What meaningful contribution has this taxpayer subsidized “charity” made to the Islands?

Hawaii Center for Food Safety, meanwhile, just posted this on Facebook:

Our opponents call us fearmongers, but we are focused on solutions and know you are, too.

Solutions to what, exactly? The fears that they have mongered? Like Hawaii SEED, CFS hasn't actually come up with any ideas, much less “solutions,” for achieving their oft-touted goals of increased local food production and reduced pesticide use.

We actually would love to see them come up with something other than dinging farmers who are actually are trying to pull off a crop.

Gary, Fern, Jeri and CFS are demanding the state adopt the buffer zone and pesticide disclosures contained in the now-dead Ordinance 960. But the state already announced that seed companies statewide have voluntarily agreed to adopt those measures. 

When the state is already facing budget problems, why spend more money to require something that is being provided voluntarily? Especially when there's no evidence that companies failed in that voluntary compliance during the three years that the Kauai Good Neighbor program has been in effect.

Though the fear-mongerers keep claiming that people are “unprotected” and pesticide regulations aren't being taken seriously, the facts are this: people are protected because state and federal pesticide laws are strict. When operators make mistakes there is enforcement. 

Shoots, Syngenta is already facing a nearly a $5 million fine for a January 2016 pesticide violation, which shows the system is working. Heck, the EPA is salivating at the chance to bust these guys, especially with Earthjustice and CFS egging them on. 

As the state Legislature opens today, it needs to focus its time and money on real issues that truly affect people's lives, like traffic, rural health care, education, affordable housing — not those manufactured to keep demagogues in the limelight and anti-GMO groups in cash.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Musings: On Archetypes

Flipping on the radio, I heard the unmistakeable voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., delivering his famous “I've been to the mountaintop” speech just a day before he was gunned down.

What struck me in particular were these words:

We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God's world.

And that's all this whole thing is about. We aren't engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people.

His words about people just seeking to be — not tear down or destroy others, but simply be — stand in such sharp contrast to the polarization that now grips our nation. Though King's movement, and the era it dominated, fostered the tolerance that made desegregation, women's rights, gay marriage, environmental protection and animal welfare possible, it seems the pendulum is swinging back again, to a place where we won't let others be — unless we 100 percent agree.

It made me think of a retreat I attended last weekend, where a woman who has long been a student of Buddhism spoke of the need for “radical inclusivity.” She then went on to tell of how she felt sick to her stomach after the election because she'd never realized how many racists and misongynists live in this country.

So what happened to the radical inclusivity, which would necessarily include those whose views and values differ greatly from our own? What made anyone think that racism and misogony had somehow disappeared from our society, even as so many signs point otherwise? And does anyone truly believe that everyone who voted for Trump is a racist misogynist?

All the pronouncements and judgments we see on both side of the political spectrum are couched in sanctimony, self-righteous smugness, complete disdain for the other, who in actuality isn't all that different than the we.

King then told the story of a priest and a Levite who failed to render aid to a man on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho:

And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the "I" into the "thou," and to be concerned about his brother.

Seems to me like we're all – myself included — far too wrapped up in the “I” at the expense of our compassion for the “thou.”

King went on to say:

We don't have to argue with anybody. We don't have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don't need any bricks and bottles. We don't need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say,

"God sent us by here, to say to you that you're not treating his children right. And we've come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God's children are concerned.”

Though his words were offered in the context of applying economic pressure, his core message was about fairness.

And that's the crux of our deep polarization now. People on both ends of the political spectrum believe they've been treated, or are about to be treated, unfairly. They're digging in, and they ain't gonna budge an inch. 

It's so much easier to think about what's unfair, than what is fair. The former focuses on the “I” while the latter addresses the “thou.”

So we're stuck — until both sides set off in pursuit of common ground.

Although my parents were fond of saying, in response to my railings about this or that, “Who ever told you life was fair?” their words didn't deter me. I've been driven all my life by the need to find what's fair.

It's what motivated me to speak out against the anti-GMO movement, even though it put me on the side of multinational agrichemical companies whose practices I don't fully embrace. I'm not a pesticide lover. I don't get paid to espouse pro-seed company views. I don't think biotechnology is flawless, or that every GMO is good.

I just hate lies and fear-mongering, because they're the antithesis of fairness. And yes, I know the agrochemical companies do it, too. But they weren't deliberately using those tactics to tear apart my community.

It may s‬eem odd for me to preach the “come together” message. I readily admit that I've engaged in ruthless, intentional polarization aimed at marginalizing the anti-GMO movement, exposing it as the loud-mouthed, ignorant, intolerant fringe that it is, its leaders motivated at worst by financial self-interest and at best by a lack of introspection, as characterized so well by this recent Facebook post directed at Trump, but also true of the poster, if she'd just hold up a mirror:

Karen Chun   while you’re busy picking his lies apart, he’ll spit out another mountain of bullshit and you’ll be buried under it.
Like · Reply

But I'll be the first to acknowledge that not every person concerned about GMOs fits the above description — just as not every person who supports Trump is a racist. And that's what happens when we generalize: we lie. Which also means, we're unfair.

At the workshop I mentioned earlier, we walked around a mandala that had images depicting four common archetypes: teacher, healer, creator, warrior. Like most people, I've got aspects of them all. But for a number of years now, I've been assuming most often the role of warrior. And as I stood there and looked at the images, I felt the pain inherent in that ancient archetype.

Sometimes we need warriors. But that role requires one to pick sides, identify an other to oppose. There has to be someone or something to fight, which pretty much ensures polarization, guarantees that the conflict will never be over.

As a species, we've been dominated by that particular archetype for quite a long time now.

What sort of world might we build if we allow teacher, creator, healer, to shine? 

The choice, as always, is ours.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Musings: From Oneness to Nonsense

Just when I was about ready to write off the human race, I saw this headline

Humans really are made of stardust and a new study proves it.

Yeah, I know there is no such thing as scientific proof. But you get my gist. There's something kinda cool about recognizing that we really are one with the universe, in terms of sharing the basic building blocks of life with stars.

It got me thinking again about the miracle of creation that is Earth and its inhabitants, a topic I began pondering while reading “A Short History of Nearly Everything” last year. Yet we take it for granted, wantonly and deliberately destroying so much.

And then there's all the unconscious and often inadvertent destruction caused by the profileration and rapid international spread of invasive species. Our global economy and transport system has made it easy to introduce pests and pathogens to new habitats lacking protective defense mechanisms.

Island nations, whose ecosystems have tended to evolve in isolation, are particularly vulnerable. While visiting family in New Zealand last month, I was struck by all the focus on biosecurity measures. These included showing us an inflight video about the impact of invasive species on native ecosystems and agriculture, and spraying the overhead compartments of the aircraft with pesticides upon landing.

Signs posted throughout the Auckland airport warned passengers of a “$400 instant fine” if they didn't declare prohibited items in their possession, and the flanks of biosecurity inspectors we had to pass through asked tough questions and searched baggage. It was quite a contrast to the whatevahs approach when I returned to the Honolulu airport.

And while we were out hiking, we encountered frequent signs advising us about biosecurity issues, as well as a boot-cleaning station intended to slow the spread of kauri dieback disease, which is having an effect on a keystone native tree similar to what we're seeing with ohia wilt in Big Island forests.
Hawaii has a serious invasive species problem, but the state has long taken an underfunded, reactionary approach to dealing with it. The state is now trying to get out in front with a new interagency biosecurity plan. Though it's led by the Department of Agriculture and Department of Land and Natural Resources, the real driver is the state's $14.9 billion tourism industry, which is increasingly concerned about the introduction and spread of stinging ants, biting flies, snakes and other pests that don't fit the heavily-marketed theme of “paradise.”

Still, the state's $600 million agricultural industry should benefit, and not a moment too soon. The DOA just announced the coffee berry borer, already common on Oahu and the Big Island, has made its way to Maui.

Meanwhile, the devastating citrus greening bacteria that has bedeviled Florida orange growers has been detected in California — which means Hawaii, with all its backyard citrus trees, likely isn't far behind. The disease reduces yield, fruit size and quality, and increases tree mortality and production costs.

These are just two of the many plant diseases and pests that farmers face, prompting them to use integrative pest management, cover cropping, crop rotation and pesticides. And as was noted in comments recently, conservation groups also use pesticides to eradicate invasive plants that threaten watersheds and the integrity of native ecosystems.

Once a pest species gets established, it's very difficult to eradicate, as recent news reports on the spread of the rose-ringed parakeet point out. A Kauai friend offered his take on this travesty:

Invasive rose-ringed parakeet show starts promptly at sundown at Hoa'i Bay in Lawai Kai. See hundreds of these colorful Brazilian birds coming to roost for the night at and near the place where Prince Kuhio was born. See the local businesses' futile attempts to thwart them off with hand held laser beams and drastic pruning of all the trees. Imagine the ire of farmers and orchard owneers upon seeing the havoc they wreak during the day. Remind yoursel of the parallel parable of the multitude of tourists, drinks in hand, gathered at the same spot to view the mesmerizing setting of the sun! Barely hear them ooh and ahh under the cacophony of their cawing!

Yes, the best approach is to prevent a pest from becoming established, and that's where biosecurity comes in.

The question now is whether the Hawaii Lege is willing to kick down the serious cash to bring it to fruition.

Meanwhile, President-elect Trump is considering appointing Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to a committee on vaccine safety and "scientific integrity" and/or autism, depending on whether you listen to Kennedy or Trump. Kennedy has been a prominent voice in the anti-vaxxer movement and repeatedly raised the discredited claim that vaccines are linked to autism.

Simultaneously, a new fear-mongering“docu-series” on vaccines is being aired on-line. It employs many of the same tactics as the anti-GMO movement — and even uses some of the same “experts,” like Stephanie Seneff and Sayer Ji.

Seneff is responsible for promoting a graph that supposedly documents a link between glyphosate and autism. Of course, the correlation between the rise of organic food sales and autism is even stronger, but she conveniently ignores that.
If we think invasive species are spreading fast, just wait until folks start opting out of immunizations.

Of course, to hear some tell it, vaccines, like chem trails, are part of a giant government plot intended to weaken the populace and sell more pharmaceutical drugs:
Think chemtrails are only sprayed from high altitude? WRONG!
Check out these LLCDWT, or low-level chemtrail delivery wind-turbines, specially engineered for low level cloud-seeding and chemical dispersion.

Yeah, we may be one with the universe, but some of us are clearly still in outer space.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Musings: Fake News, False Promises

Fake news has been much in the news lately, which is why it's not surprising to see the Honolulu Star-Advertiser publish a piece proclaiming (falsely) that failed politician Gary Hooser is a member of the state Senate and a fashion trend-setter.
Yes, he of the long-sleeved, tucked-in, garish-print aloha shirts, accented by jowls and a pot belly, no less, is a fashionista, according to (who the hell is?) Erin Smith. She also incorrectly identified Hooser, who got his ass kicked despite spending more money than any Kauai County Council candidate in history, as “now in the state Senate.”

Well, that might be accurate if Erin had inserted “persona non grata” between “now” and “in.”

But hey, in the best tradition of fake news, Hooser was able to to plug his Hooser hats and his HAPA organization. Which is what fake news is all about: self-promotion, creating a false narrative and conferring credence and credibility where there is none.

Most telling, however, was Hooser sharing his “best moment professionally,” which had nothing to do with actually serving his constituents. Instead, it was all about grandstanding and furthering HAPA's interests by crashing the Syngenta stockholders meeting in Switzerland — a trip whose funding sources he has never disclosed — while wearing his “mana shirt.”

Too bad he used up all the mana on that kind of bullshit, instead of his re-election.

Ya know, somebody oughta trot Hooser's "SHAME" banner over to the Star-Advertiser.....

And then there's real news countering false promises. Like Trump intoning his “drain the swamp” rhetoric as he appoints Wall Street attorney Jay Clayton to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. As the Washington Post reports:

As chairman of the SEC, Clayton would help police many of the same large banks he has spent decades representing, including Goldman Sachs and Barclays.

As The Week reported:

Goldman Sachs' stocks soared 33 percent this year [2016] —including a 75 percent gain since its low in June. Analysts credit President-elect Trump's nomination of several current and former Goldman executives to key roles in his administration and his planned deregulation of the banking industry.

Not that we should be surprised. Heck, Trump turned his election bid into a money-making enterprise, with his campaign spending $11.4 million at business he and his family own, like Trump Hotel, Trump Air, Eric Trump Wine, etc.

Which leads us to an old Style Council classic:
It's no good praying to the powers that be
'cause they won't shake the roots of the money tree
No good praying to the pristine altars
Waiting for the blessing with holy water
They like the same old wealth in the same old hands
Means the same old people stay old people stay in command
Watch your money-go-round; watch your money-go-round
They got it wrapped up tight, they got it safe and sound
Watch your money-go-round; watch your money-go-round
As you fall from grace and hit the ground

But hey, Trump is the working man's hero, doncha know? He's looking out for your best interest. For sure he's gonna make America great again. Well, at least for the 1 percent he hangs with. He's got your back, which makes it so easy to stab it. 

There's a reason why people believe fake news and false promises. P.T. Barnum pegged it long ago: “There's a sucker born every minute.”

Friday, January 6, 2017

Musings: From Maui to Bangladesh

Poor Maui. Some of its Council members are so keen to force their agenda on the entire populace that the legislative side of its county government has come to a standstill.

Yeah, the minority anti-ag “Ohana coaltion” — Kelly King, Elle Cochran, Don Guzman and Alika Atay — has demanded a public hearing to decide what Council committees should be formed and which members should be on them. Until then, the Council's work is stymied.

Coalition members already tried unsuccessfully to exert their will by opposing Mike White's return to the role of Council chair. With agitators like SHAKA's Mark Sheehan gumming up the works, the chairman selection process took an insane “13 1/2 hours, 75 testifiers, five failed nominations and two hourlong executive sessions,” according to the Maui News.

Looks like it's gonna be a long two years, with the Council set up to split 5-4. This infuriates the Coalition and their supporters, who wasted no time in trashing the Councilmembers who wouldn't go their way:
You see, it's impossible to have different views and opinions. Those who think otherwise must be sell-outs and conspirators who are wed to "corporate agendas." 

So who are those pressing for change on the Maui Council? Besides failed Kauai politician Gary Hooser, who filed a bogus ethics complaint against Chairman White:
Hmm. Don't see many brown faces in the crowd.

Seems the “Ohana Coalition” members are such control freaks, and so paranoid that something might happen without their involvement, that they want to serve on each and every committee.

Can you spell power hungry?

Speaking of spelling, Lauryn Rego of Babes Against Biotech is proving that it's never too soon to start indoctrinating the keiki:
If A is for activist, then P is for poser:
Yes, that's Lauryn again, determined to make a statement — "Look at me breastfeeding!" — while making a statement.

And N is surely for narcissist:
Apparently she's not concerned about injecting the toxins in tattoo ink directly into her skin...

Seems the under-30 crowd in America has bought the organic industry's wholly undocumented claim that its products are superior.

According to a poll by the Pew Research Center, some 61 percent of under-30 Americans believe organic food is better for their health, while 48 percent think GMO foods are worse.

So they continue to live with their parents so they can spend an inordinante amount of money on the much higher priced organic groceries? Looks like corporate advertising and fear-mongering have successfully co-opted the younger generation.

In the United Kingdom, meanwhile, public opinion seems to be turning in favor of GM crops. The government is poised to approve field trials for a new type of GM wheat that represents the first crop genetically engineered to produce a higher yield by boosting the photosynthesis process.

And Bangladesh, the world's seventh-largest exporter of potatoes, is moving toward commercializing a blight-resistant potato. Potato farmers there are currently spraying 500 tons of fungicide to protect their crops from late blight, and this resistant potato could turn things around. That nation already has successfully adopted an insect-resistant eggplant that has dramatically reduced pesticide use by the farmers who grow it.

Despite its villification by anti-GMO groups, Monsanto is ramping up its research and development efforts. The company expects to spend $1.5 billion on R&D in 2017, up from $550 million 15 years ago.

Why? According to Hugh Grant, chairman and chief executive officer of Monsanto

Demand is real and productivity improvement is a key to their success. The USDA demand figures have indicated that over the past four seasons, world demand for corn grew by over 4 billion bushels while soy demand in the same timeframe grew by over 2 billion bushels.”

No doubt some of that research will be carried out right here in the Islands — despite attempts by the Ohana Coalition and other anti-GMO activists to shut it down.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Musings: A Hair-Raising Tale

Through fear-mongering, relentless social media and the complicity of lazy media, the anti-GMO movement has succesfully established this false narrative: Seed companies in Hawaii are using unprecedented quantities of pesticides in a largely unregulated, wantonly reckless manner that is poisoning the keiki.

A key messenger for this meme is Kekaha resident Malia Chun, who serves as the token Hawaiian poster child for the movement. She is regularly trotted out to tell her manufactured tale of woe to publications ranging from Hawaii Business to Truth Out.
Malia has even used her children to help advance these falsehoods. As the Natural Society website proclaimed:

She flew all the way to Switzerland to attend Syngenta’s board meeting to draw attention to the fact that corporations like theirs are poisoning her children. Recent tests revealed that one of her daughters was riddled with 36 different pesticides – the shocking discovery was found from taking a simple hair sample to a lab.

This claim was followed by a plea to sign a petition to “help Chun and other families defend themselves against biotech’s careless spraying.”

Malia also submitted that hair sample to the Joint Fact Finding Group on agricultural pesticides, which included it in its report, and she used it in a press conference demanding Gov. Ige adopt all the JFF recommendations.

Like so much of the tripe put out by the antis, the hair sample was accepted by many as gospel — “proof” that kids are being poisoned by seed company pesticides.

As the anti-GMO movement again ramps up its efforts to demand the state Legislature impose buffer zones around schools, longtime science reporter Jan TenBruggencate got to wondering about that hair sample.

So he spent hours over the New Year's weekend analyzing the report, and published his findings on his Raising Islands blog:

It turns out that most of the detected chemicals listed as the most dangerous are not agricultural but home-use chemicals—consumer products. And those are also the ones in the highest concentrations.

They’re the chemicals people use to kill fleas and ticks on their pets, that they drip into dog and cat ears to kill ear mites, that are used for roaches and ants, that people use in their gardens for weeds and insect pests and molds.

Why is this important, other than to prove the antis love to lie and make stuff up? Well, it shines a spotlight on the real cuplrit in childhood pesticide exposure: the home.

As Jan notes:

The hair study--to the degree that it has value--confirms what the National Pesticides Information Center, and the EPA, and American Academy of Pediatrics have found—that the most serious pesticide threat to children is found in and around their homes.

Government inspectors keep track of our farmers' use of chemicals, but nobody's checking you and your neighbors. And if there is any danger, that's most likely where the danger is.

This is borne out by the state Department of Agriculture assessment of school evacuations, which determined that not one of the 16 incidents reported between 2006 and 2014 was caused by seed company pesticides. Ten were caused by homeowners.

Meanwhile, state water studies detected only negligible amounts of pesticides in agricultural areas on Kauai, while urban Oahu had higher pesticide levels than any rural area in the state.

Though 293 pesticide complaints were made statewide between 2010 and 2013 — just 42 were from Kauai — “less than half are due to agricultural activities.”

According to a summary of calls to the Hawaii Poison Center:

Of the 4,800 human pesticide exposure calls, approximately 90% of the exposures occurred in a residence, 4.4% in the workplace and 1% in a school. The remaining 4% consisted of miscellaneous locations (i.e., other/unknown, public areas, health care facilities, and food service.) At least 90 percent of the exposures caused no or minimal health effects.

Even Surfrider failed to find a smoking gun in its own still-unpublished report of its two-year water study. All of the results were in the “no concern” parts per billion level — with termiticides the number one contaminant.

So what is the real problem here, other than groups like Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety, which are using pesticides as a guise to destroy biotech farming in Hawaii — and the politicians like Rep. Chris Lee and Realtors like Wil Welsh, who play along?

If we're going to expend time, money and political capital, let's make sure it's for something worthwhile — not a manufactured concern drummed up to the satisfy the anti-GMO agenda of activist groups.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Guest Post: Evslin Responds on Buffer Zones

Last week I wrote a blog post criticizing a commentary written by Dr. Lee Evslin calling for pesticide buffer zones around schools greater than the 100 feet specified in the state's "good neighbor plan." He responded in comments, and I posed additional questions, with the offer that he could respond in a guest blog post.  

I hope his response here will serve as a catalyst for continuing an informed discussion around the topic of buffer zones, which is almost certain to be taken up by the Hawaii Legislature this year. -- Joan

By Dr. Lee Evslin

Joan has continued the dialogue with me by posing several questions and then giving me the opportunity to respond in this guest blog. I have done my best to answer her questions and I also respond below to one of her comments from the original review she did of my column in the Garden Island.

My major point of contention with your writings has been over the question of whether people actually are being exposed to pesticides used by the seed companies, which you seem to accept as a given.”

In the JFF report we stated repeatedly that although we found some medical conditions associated in the medical literature with pesticides at higher rates on the Westside such as ADHD and developmental delay, because of the small numbers and the lack of any exposure data, we could not state what caused these problems. The American Academy of Pediatric Review article, the EPA Manual on Pesticides and more recent studies conducted by California universities (Berkeley, Davis) have found these same health effects associated with pesticide exposures among children living in proximity to agricultural operations. To understand the local health statistics requires more investigation, investigations similar to the ones used in the studies above.

I don’t accept it as a given that pesticides used by the seed companies have a negative health impact specifically on our communities or our children-- but the problem is that there isn’t nearly enough data to determine this.

Which is why the JFF report (and my three follow-up columns) recommended that the state test dust, soil, air, water and human urine to determine if people were being exposed to pesticides or not being exposed.

“I also question why you have focused solely on pesticides used by agriculture (the seed companies), with no mention of pesticides used near homes by golf courses, resorts, landscapers and termite treatment companies, as well as residential pesticide treatment performed by contractors and homeowners themselves. Are you advocating for buffer zones between schools and any pesticide user, or only the seed companies?”

These are good points. After the American Academy of Pediatrics took the pediatricians of America to task for ignoring the subject of pesticides, I routinely  (after 2012) included a talk on the home use of pesticides in my well child visits until I retired. I strongly encourage every family to take precautions in the use of household pesticides.

But, as you know, the JFF was tasked with looking at possible environmental and health risks associated specifically with large-scale agricultural use of pesticides. Only three of my TGI columns actually addressed pesticides and they reflected the fact that I continue to support the recommendations of the JFF and I continue to follow news concerning the RUPs we studied.

I address buffer zones below.

“And do you believe the state legislature, whose members largely lack scientific training, is better qualified than the EPA to establish buffer zones? What criteria should lawmakers be using? If it's not scientifically based, how can these buffer zones be defended against the inevitable "taking" lawsuits?”

My understanding is that the EPA largely leaves buffer zones for schools and other fragile environments up to the purview of the states. The label requires a varying buffer zone that is specific to the pesticide, but it doesn’t take into account the surrounding land use or uses that may require unique applications of pesticide combinations. A ten foot buffer zone may be appropriate for chlorpyrifos if the closest neighbor is a road-- but it is clearly not appropriate if the neighbor is a school with an open bank of windows.

California has given us a model for how a legislative body can enact science-based buffer zones. There is more on that in the next answer.

“If Evslin had taken even 15 minutes to research this issue, he would have found that California's proposal followed an appeals court ruling. The judges found that the EPA acted correctly in refusing to institute uniform buffer zones for all pesticides that are registered for application by ground sprayers, broadcast, or aerial application, and that may cause certain human health effects.”

As you mention, the buffer zone policy that I am suggesting Hawaii examine came from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) after the ruling mentioned by you. The newly proposed DPR buffer zones addressed the concerns of the EPA and of the court. They are not uniform. They propose varying the buffers according to risk by sprayer type, products used, and what the nearby land use is (i.e. a school).

The DPR proposal has 17 pages describing the science and reasoning behind their recommendations. 

I am also not recommending a uniform buffer zone. I am not even recommending that we follow the DPR policy exactly. I am simply recommending that we learn from the work and debate occurring in California to adopt a comprehensive statewide buffer zone policy. 

I think the following paragraph from the DPR proposal is important. One, because it highlights the potential danger to children presented by chronic low exposure to pesticides. And two, because it highlights the importance of taking surrounding land use (like schools and other sensitive sites) into account when setting up a buffer zone policy.

Nevertheless, concerns about the risks associated with pesticide use at or near schools and child day care facilities have persisted through the years due to children’s potentially increased sensitivity and exposure. The dose that may cause adverse effects in children may also be lower than adults. For example, based on current scientific findings some pesticides may cause effects to a child’s developing nervous system. Also, children may have higher exposure than adults due to their higher breathing rate relative to their body weight. While DPR accounts for these factors in its evaluation of potential toxic effects and exposure, there may be disproportionate impacts to children when unintended drift occurs. Moreover, schools and child day care facilities are considered sensitive sites because large numbers of children can be located there for extended periods of time.”

Thank you again for allowing me to answer specific questions. These are complicated issues with evolving science and do not have simple answers. A well-informed dialogue is always a step in the right direction.