The wind picked up suddenly and a shower blew through just as the eastern horizon was streaking pink. It was a light rain, and Koko and I were nearly home by that time, so we didn’t get wet. But I wouldn’t have minded, anyway, because I love the rain.
A friend told me he prays daily for rain. “I have to pray extra hard,” he said, “because so many people curse the rain.”
It’s a strange world when people are cursing that which is the source of life, just like it’s a strange world when scientists are busy tweaking the genes of our basic food crops —before they really understand the full environmental and health ramifications of their actions.
I was disappointed to read in today’s Garden Island that the Council yesterday deferred action on a resolution supporting a Senate bill that calls for a 10-year moratorium on research into genetically modified taro.
Most telling were the comments made by what appeared to be the only two persons who spoke aganst the resolution.
Pioneer scientist Sarah Styan said none of the seed companies with research fields on Kaua‘i are doing anything with taro or plan to do anything with taro, but she was there to oppose the proposed resolution.
“We don’t mandate genetic engineering is the solution,” she said, but it is a tool to be used.
University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources County Administrator Roy Yamakawa agreed.
There are definite benefits to organic farming, he said, but genetic engineering is a specific science.
“We’re trying to take technology and trying to make it useful for the people,” he said.
What they are essentially saying is they don’t want any restrictions of any kind placed on this technology and industry. Why? Well, for the University, because that’s where the research money is these days. And for the industry, well, they’ve managed to fight off all controls — even provisions that would allow the public to know where they’re growing crops with experimental biopharmaceuticals. They’re not about to give up an inch for fear they might have to give up a mile.
I like Roy; he's a smart man and a friend of mine. I believe he is genuinely concerned with trying to help farmers. However, I don't believe his employer is operating out of altruism.
It’s disturbing, but not surprising, that UH and the biotech industry have become so close. The college wants money, and the industry has it. According to UH professor Hector Valenzuela, the College of Tropical Agriculture made a decision years ago to embrace biotech at the expense of organic, sustainable agriculture.
A similar pattern has occurred in other universities. So what we’re seeing is a push to develop more genetically engineered crops, which universities can patent and make money from.
Never mind that charging farmers for patented huli — the part of the plant used to grow taro — totally flies in the face of traditional practices of sharing and trading huli among families and farmers.
Never mind that Hawaiians consider taro a sacred plant that is a crucial element of their culture, and they don’t want its genetics messed with.
Never mind that Hawaii's one big GMO crop — papayas — has already cross pollinated with other papaya varieties and even contaminated UH's papaya seed stock, proving that the technology can't be contained or controlled.
There’s money to be made. And it seems that once again, that’s all that matters.
This issue will be still be battled out in the Legislature, where a hearing and rally are scheduled for next Wednesday on the GMO taro moratorium bill. It would have been nice if Kauai County had gotten on board with a resolution in support of that bill, as the Big Island and Maui already did.
But then, it's impossible to fathom the actions of our County Council — a strange body in a very strange world.