Just two days after 1,000-plus Kauai residents marched in the rain to denounce GMOs and demand a hearing on a labeling bill, the state Senate honored mainland farmers who grow GMO crops and the man who invented Hawaii's GMO papaya.
Monday's presentation on the Senate floor was a full-on public relations ploy staged by the biotech-based Hawaii Crop Improvement Association and Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, with the assistance of Sen. Clarence Nishihara, chair of the agriculture committee.
Which explains why Nishihara hasn't scheduled a hearing on HB 174, the only GMO labeling law that is still alive, though a dozen or so good ones were introduced. It's a measly little crumb — or more accurately, a dingleberry — that the House has thrown to the vast majority of Hawaii residents who support labeling.
And even that crappy law is stalling in the Senate because Nishihara is tight with the biotech industry, which doesn't want any labeling at all.
On Monday, Kauai Sen. Ron Kouchi, vice chair of the of ag committee, joined his colleagues as the Senate recessed to “meet and greet our honored guests.”
The "honored guests" were farmers from Illinois, Oregon, Illinois, North Dakota and Washington who had won an essay contest. As I reported in both the Honolulu Weekly and this blog last November, the biotech industry invited mainland farmers to write about how they'd benefitted from genetically modified seed.
The prize: a free trip to Hawaii. The catch: they had to be shills for the biotech industry, sharing their stories with legislators and media.
That's what went down on the Senate floor on Monday, with Nishihara reading a speech — you can watch the video here — that expressed unqualified support for the biotech industry:
In trying to reach our state's goal of a secure, sustainable and affordable food supply, the agriculture industry will need to utilize all farming methods and technologies available, whether it's organic, conventional or biotech.
Nishihara went on to say:
There are over 5 million farmers on 1 million acres of land across the nation that grow GE crops such as corn and soybeans. Many of these crops can trace their origin back to Hawaii-produced seeds and farmers across the U.S. appreciate and acknowledge that Hawaii plays a vital role in production of seed for the entire world.
Nishihara then introduced the five winners, saying:
These outstanding farmers benefit from the use of seed crops developed and grown here in Hawaii. They successfully grow organic, conventional and biotech crops under family-owned farms and they traveled to Hawaii to share their stories about how biotechnology is helping real farmers deal with real agricultural challenges to ensure an affordable food supply.
The “story” got picked by KITV, which did a Tuesday morning segment that devoted 1.5 minutes to the anti-GMO message — photos of the Kauai march and an awkward pro-labeling comment from a Babes Against Biotech spokeswoman — and 3 minutes to the essay contest. It included an interview with a Washington farmer who grows Bt corn on his otherwise mostly organic farm, and spoke against labeling.
The capper? The farmer had brought in a plate of food that the TV hostess spun around on the table, as the cameras did a closeup. After saying that "a lot of GMO products are grown locally, too," which is not true, the hostess described the entree as sesame-crusted grilled ahi steak topped with a salsa made from pineapple and GMO papaya.
“It looks delicious and I'm sure it tastes good, too,” she gushed. “I'll be getting to that during the break.”