Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Musings: Purveyors of Propaganda

Out last night at dusk, I looked up to see the thinnest possible sliver of golden moon emerge from the mass of gray hovering over Waialeale.

Out this morning at dawn, I looked up to see a riot of butterscotch clouds as the rising red sun tried hard to fight its way through a cumulus pile up over the sea.

I’ve been trying hard not to get irked at the local “news” papers because I know their reporters are largely inexperienced,new to the island and underpaid. Still, that’s no excuse for becoming blatant purveyors of propaganda. I’m talking specifically about The Garden Island’s totally bogus five-part “Seeds 101” series that gives the island’s chemical/seed companies the chance to shamelessly toot their own horns and sugarcoat legitimate health and environmental concerns, and MidWeek Kauai’s cover story on Grove Farm’s true believer, Marissa Sandblom.

The two are related, you see, because Grove Farm – a land development company — leases so much acreage to the seed companies, whose production practices includes the cultivation of seeds for export, including genetically modified crops, and the extensive use of chemical pesticides.

Given the inherently unsustainable nature of their businesses, it’s really hard to hear them not only touting the virtues of sustainability, but deceptively claiming they are committed to and actively engaged in it.

But it’s even harder to read the Dow flack uttering bald-faced lies like, “We support our local farmers 100 percent and never encourage anyone to do otherwise” as Sandblom claims, in reference to Grove Farm’s still-stalled 1,000-acre ag project at Mahaulepu: “The vision is to grow food for Kaua’i.”

In reality, Grove Farm has been quietly evicting ranchers and diversified farmers — folks who actually do produce food for Kauai — so it can lease that acreage to Dow and the other seed corn companies, which are willing and able to pay a lot more acre. We’re talking hundreds of acres here — choice land that comprised the heart of longtime ranching operations. But the ranchers don’t talk publicly about it because they’re afraid they’ll lose the rest. GF, for all Sandblom’s claims of corporate coziness to the contrary, is a bully and a tyrant.

Still, the ag community knows what’s going on, and that’s the reason why Grove Farm can’t find tenants for its big Mahaulepu project. The farmers are nervous because they’ve seen the shitty way GF has treated some of its other lessees. But that actually suits GF just fine, because despite the “green” rhetoric that Sandblom is paid to spout, it knows the real money lies in growing houses, shopping centers, gentleman’s estates, industrial parks and seed crops. So if it can’t make a go of food-kine ag, it gives them an excuse to say, see, we tried. Now let us develop.

But while the MidWeek story let Sandlom put a wild spin on Grove Farm, the “Seeds 101” series let the seed companies issue outright lies.

For example, it had Pioneer’s flack saying: “What makes us unique is evident in our…collaboration with the communities we serve” and “Environmental stewardship is a Pioneer core value” and “Biotechnology can positively impact the environment through fewer pesticides.”

Never mind that numerous studies have shown these crops have actually increased the use of pesticides and even led to the creation pesticide-resistant super weeds.

The topper, though, was the Syngenta shill saying: “Biotech or genetically modified crops are not new. The conventional crossbreeding technique farmers have used for thousands of years to develop new hybrid plants is a type of genetic modification. The process improves the genes of plants to make them more useful for humans.”

In truth, the genetic modification practiced today is nothing like conventional crossbreeding, and nearly all of the modification has been done to serve not the needs of hungry people, but the pesticide makers.

It’s irksome to see our local papers give GF and the seed companies extensive space to present their views unchallenged. Yes, there is a place for that kind of stuff in the paper, but it’s in the advertising section.

Grove Farm, as the largest landowner on Kauai, and the seed companies, as the largest ag enterprises, have tremendous impacts on the island and the people who reside here. It would've been nice to read some thoughtful, credible coverage of these important companies. Instead, we got the undiluted corporate line.


Anonymous said...

Right on Joan! I read those articles too and wondered why TGI gave free publicity for all these GMO monsters. So one sided! So distorted!

And your conclusion on Grove Farm is right on. Why don't we hear more about the massive housing development they're planning between Hanamaulu and the airport?

Anonymous said...

You all know the quote...."if you keep repeating lies long enough....people will believe them" using the media to propagate them like a virus into the community to infect ignorant or unknowing minds?

Politicians and Big Ag and Chemical Co, etc....know mind control and marketing well.
Many people will believe anything if it sounds good or they find it in the newspaper.

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the thoughtful commentary on these food security issues. GF perpetuates its legacy of disenfranchisement from the land of native people that first began w/ sugar and continues today in the form of development and corporate seed companies.

As for TGI...my distaste grows daily. Mouthpiece for the business community. No resemblance of investigative reporting, just regurgitated information.

Anonymous said...

Mahalo Joan, I read that crap and was utterly amazed that they are not planning a 6th one in the series, and more from the alternative point of agriculture. I mean if taking over the seed supply and concentrating all your eggs in one basket, and saying f u to diversity, and bring em on more and more to pesticides is sustainability, then we are in real trouble. The real facts are not hard to find, more tons of pesticides used, and of course, whaddayoukow, they sell the pesticides.
The real question is what pesticides are the multinational pesticide makers using here on Kauai, and where and next to what watershed, what drinking water sources, what schools. Oh please, they help the community, while they are poisonong the children withg their pesticides. Atrazine, chlorpyrifos(banned elsewhere), and countless others. Funny, the DOH is investigating old mill sites, old pesticide mixing sites, while the gov gives a free ticket to these companies to poison paradise. The land will not even be growable after they have grown endless crops of toxic corn and sprayed the sh-- out of it .
How did Kauai become the testing ground for the biggest chemical companies in the world? One way is cause there is no accountability for them. I really feel for the people of the westside, i really feel for the workers. Cancers from pesticides can take 20 years to form, leaving these workers sick long after the companies have existed the islands, long after any worker insurance covers them. In the long run, we should really have sustainability for the land, water and people. Seed corn on Kauai needs to go.

Dawson said...

How did Kauai become the testing ground for the biggest chemical companies in the world?

The same way that Kaho'olawe became the testing ground for the biggest armed forces in the world -- colonialism.

Anonymous said...

"that they are not planning a 6th one in the series,"
No credible source to rebut the seed boys...

Anonymous said...

TGI finally writes articles of balance and you anti GMO people cannot handle it. I haven't heard about Grove Farm kicking ranchers and farmers off of thier land. That is a huge exaggeration. I learned that one rancher chose to leave and work with the seed corn company. Besides, the majority of beef is exported to the mainland. So much for providing food for our island.
This is an article full of hatred towards the seed corn companies and you drag an excellent local company in to it. Your lack of knowledge is dangerous and if you claim that you have knowledge then you are flat out ignorant.
I am not a GMO lover. I just despise irresponsible people and irresponsible journalism or whatever you may call this blog.