Venus was rising and Jupiter was snuggling up to a moon on the waning side of half when Koko and I went walking this morning. All the stars were gone, save for Antares in the west, and as the sun — blood red and bold — peeked up over the horizon, it and the planets were scrubbed from the sky, leaving the moon white and all alone.
Mist huddled densely over the pastures, drifting up to cling to the lower extremities of the Giant, and the craggy face and flat summit of Waialeale, buried in clouds for so many weeks, flushed pink in the dawn. Spider webs, some weighted at the bottom with a dead leaf or tiny stick, hung from utility lines or anchored on fences, their perfection back lit by the sun.
It was all so magnificent that when I ran into my neighbor Andy, and his dog, Momi, it was easy to extend the walk so we could catch up a bit. I haven’t seen Andy or farmer Jerry in a while, and I enjoy their take on things. We think enough alike that our conversations don’t turn into heated standoffs, yet we’re different enough that they always leave me with some new perspective on an issue.
Today it was GMOs. I related how a friend who works with UH-CTAHR had responded to an email I sent asking what type of genetic research was being done on taro with the information requested — no research is currently under way on taro in Hawaii, but one project had been looking at three different GE applications to confer disease resistance to Taro Leaf Blight in Bun Long (Chinese) taro — as well as his concerns:
….because funding ran out, these plantlets are sitting in suspended animation in the laboratory, and being maintained on a shoestring. If funding does not resume, and/or if the taro moratorium bill is passed in the legislature, then these transformed plants will, too, reach the end of the line.
The really sad thing about this is that this kind of research is simply that, research. This is not any sort of evil conspiracy. The vast majority of the anti-GMO/GE groups do not even know what is going on because they choose not to inform and educate themselves of what the facts are, and continue to perpetuate and fuel fear mongering. In my opinion, to stop research is akin to burning the books.
Andy said he doesn’t have any problem with research, either, but as I pointed out, once a lot of time and money has been invested into research, it becomes very difficult to prevent its application, especially if the work has been done by a private company with shareholders to satisfy.
As The Maui News reports today, the Lege has found a sort of middle path in this dispute, with the so-called “taro security bill” passing the Senate this past week.
Sen. Shan Tsutsui, D-Kahakuloa, Wailuku, Waikapu, Kahului, Lower Paia, said the bill was pragmatic since it allows the science to continue moving forward while respecting the cultural perspective.
"Wouldn't it be ironic if one of these genetically modified taro species saved Hawaiian taro someday from being wiped out," Tsutsui said.
Only Republicans Sam Slom and Fred Hemmings dissented, which tells you something, and I’ll let you decide what that is.
The House already approved its version, HB 1663. Now the two bodies have to hash out their differences, but the final bill will be something like this: a five-year prohibition on developing, testing, propagating, releasing, importing, planting or growing any genetically engineered Hawaiian taro varieties. Open-field testing on non-Hawaiian GE varieties also would be banned.
So it looks like the research my friend was concerned about can continue, if it gets funding. And considering that taro research is still in its infancy, all the bill really does is put the fight off to another day, giving both sides a chance to regroup and re-arm.
While the taro research is being done by UH scientists, the same isn’t true for the other GE crops. And as I told Andy, I’d feel a little more comfortable about the technology if it wasn’t being developed by the same folks who brought us Agent Orange and dioxin. It’s kind of hard to believe these guys when they say, “trust us, GMOs are completely safe.”
Meanwhile, Germany joined Austria, Hungary, Greece, France and Luxembourg in banning Monsanto’s GE corn because it is dangerous to the environment. But as Spiegel Online International reports, that claim may be tough to prove in court.
And the Union of Concerned Scientists this week released a report that contends that despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase U.S. crop yields and “is unlikely to play a significant role in increasing food production in the foreseeable future.”
So much for that oft-repeated industry claim.
With so much conflicting info out there, the question becomes, who to believe? Unless you’re doing the studies yourself, it’s hard to know for sure. But when you consider those with financial interests in the technology are proclaiming its virtues, and those without aren’t, it does raise a few doubts, at least in my mind.
It makes me think of a conversation I had the other day with my sister, who was stunned to discover that something she’d read in a news story was a blatant lie. “I realize that sometimes they might not tell the whole story, or maybe they spin it a certain way, but to present an outright falsehood as the truth, well, I just didn’t think the newspapers did that,” she said.
Ahhh, Grasshopper. It’s a shock, I know, but they don't call it the "corporate media" for nothing.
I think Pink Floyd had it right when they sang: “Haven’t you heard it’s a battle of words, and most of them are lies?”
Or as my philosopher-scientist friend from CTAHR observed: “Truth is simply one's perception.”
Hmmm. Is it?