Friday, August 2, 2013

Musings: An Opening

After I quoted Kepa Kruse in yesterday's post, he called me and we shared our dismay over the growing divisiveness and ugliness of the GMO-pesticide debate, the polarization of our island evidenced so starkly by the blue and red shirts at Wednesday's Council hearing on Bill 2491, the structure of public hearings, which more closely resemble a boxing match where people are issued gloves, but told, "don't fight."

So much energy has been expended trying to destroy and discredit the other side, and it's staged to continue as the Council begins to massage the bill in Committee. How can we marshall it into something more positive?

I'm interested in exploring solutions,” Kepa said. “I would love to hear what other people have in their minds. We should stage an open discussion where people could share ideas.”

As in ideas for developing good jobs on the westside, remediating the soil, generating products and/or services that directly benefit our island. In other words, if we don't want biotech, what can take its place and how do we get there?

Kepa is a thoughtful man with a lot of ideas, and one of them is a partnership agreement — as opposed to a lease — that has the Department of Defense financing a massive solar farm on Hawaiian Homelands. The system would generate enough power for PMRF's needs, while also producing electricity that could be fed into the KIUC system to produce revenues for DHHL and subsidize (lower) the cost of electricity elsewhere on the island. “The westside has 321 days of sun a year,” he said.

And with the ample water resources on that side, some of that energy could be used to pump water uphill during the day that would be released as hydro-power to generate electricity when the sun goes down. “That's being done all over the world,” he said.

We also need to have discussions about finding a process to clean the soil of pesticides over time,” Kepa said, noting that he'd read about the use of mushrooms and other fungi to remediate soil.

Unfortunately, a bill that would have authorized UH to establish a two-year pilot project to study the use of industrial hemp in soil remediation and as a biofuel crop got stuck in the last legislative session. All the Kauai legislators supported it, so perhaps we can urge them to move it through in the next round, with the westside as the test site.

I've heard some folks call for replacing the biotech fields with small farms, which is a lovely vision, and no doubt many of the green-thumb folks who now work in biotech would be very successful at running their own farms, which could feed us. But that requires the state and private landowners to bust loose with some affordable land — land they are leasing to the seed companies, sometimes displacing ranchers and small farmers in the process, because they pay top dollar.

Our discussions need to be broadened to include the landowners, who have been pretty much flying under the radar as the arrows fly at their biotech tenants. But let's be honest here. The biotech companies didn't just walk in, the door was opened. There are a few local companies — most notably, Grove Farm and Gay and Robinson — that should be thoroughly questioned about their long- and short-term goals for their land and the island. These companies love to claim they're good neighbors and good stewards, and they need to be held accountable.

I'm sure that other people have lots of great ideas,” Kepa said. “I'd love to hear more about Pat Gegen's plans for solar. I know we can come up with some solutions, but it will take open eyes, open ears and open hearts.”

I'm hoping those same open eyes, ears and hearts will come into play as the bill moves through the Council. Because if it's left solely to reds and blues with blinders on, we're going to end up with either nothing, or a piece of crap that the Council cobbles together in appease whichever side screams loudest or turns up the most heat.

It's not a pleasant arena, and it's no surprise that thoughtful, akamai people want to avoid it like the plague. But this is our home, and with an issue this emotional and divisive, it requires our best effort.

Let's start sharing ideas now for improving Bill 2491 — Councilman Gary Hooser himself called for suggestions on ways to make it better — and transitioning the westside into something beyond biotech.

But first, let's open our eyes, ears and hearts.


Anonymous said...

It is my understanding (from a credible source) that PMRF is in the process of or has already completed a huge solar farm that makes them totally independent electrically, much to the dismay of KIUC which loses a huge monthly payment. There already exists a hydro plant in the foothills behind the Mana Plain that supplies power to some of the ag people there. I've been there and seen it in operation. It is impressive. Pump water uphill ??? There is so much water flowing downhill already. It is ridiculous to not pursue that avenue for this island's electric needs. The people who piss and moan about the environmental impact are mental! it is done and can be done with very little effect. And as for the "sacred aina" criers, if the ancient or real Hawaiian culture still existed they would be all over that technology, what with their practicality, intelligence and self sustaining ways of living .

Anonymous said...

Joan, what a refreshing approach to a big problem. I like your reporting, as FOX would say > "fair/balance" reporting. But FOX has no idea what is really fair/balance reporting! Thank you for being here and helping us during this transition!

Anonymous said...

Maybe the buffer zones could be used to try out soil cleaning techniques. Is that something that could be added to the bill?

Anonymous said...

We need land reform. GF, A&B, KS, etc should give biotech workers cheap leases to small farm lots. Require a percentage of the biotech fields have to be for their workers to use. They could build up the farms in their spare time and grow real food. If the seed companies leave or get pushed out the workers would have something to fall back on.

Anonymous said...

There was an interesting article yesterday in the New York Times, where the GMO companies were saying that their new approach is to be all about disclosure and transparency ---- that's what they're telling the media. I find it difficult to reconcile that with what they are actually doing on Kauai, fighting disclosure at every turn. Here is the quote, and the link to the article....

"We have been accused of purposely hiding information,” Ms. Enright [GMO Exec] said. “We haven’t done that but now we will open the doors and provide information.”


Joan Conrow said...

Here's a link to a Hawaii Stream excerpt from the July 31 hearing:

I liked Councilman Gary Hooser's comment:

"At the end of the day, when this is process is done in a couple weeks from now, I'm hopeful that we'll have a bill, a new ordinance, that satisfies both sides."

Gotta love an optimist!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Joan you more than anyone should know that the people on Kauai aren't the most rational or sensible. You yourself have been guilty of whipping them up into a frenzy to go fight some cause or other on more than one occasion. Asking for everyone to calm down and talk it out at this point is a pipe dream

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the County could try to buy the big land owner's property.........maybe 10 billion would do it. The complexity of operating the roads, hana wai ditches, housing and weed control etc., might be challenging, but why not? The government is already doing a fine job of taking care of it's own roads, beaches and parks.

Anonymous said...

It's good to see Kepa stepping forward. He's a leader in his generation. The young people look up to him.

Anonymous said...

TO August 2, 2013 at 10:37 AM,
I was starting to read and agree with your post until you started putting down the culture.

Anonymous said...

Whatʻs wrong with Ross Kagawa?
I think he is mentally disturbed and pretty spooky.

Andy Parx said...

It would be nice to think there are really two sides honestly debating an issue. But the truth is there are corporate criminals poisoning people for profit vs regular folks who don't want to be poisoned.

Anonymous said...

I remember the plantation days when Kauai was filled with home grown foods. Waita reservoir was a place you could fish for tilapia and bass, there were gardens of vegetables in some areas of the sugar cane fields, there was also very delicious mushrooms growing in the dirt, bamboo could be picked and eaten, edible fern was abundant on Kokee, and people would wait patiently to harvest the Ono summer fruits.

The garden island is now a GMO chemical and biological test island. Where did it all go wrong?

Kauai could become the garden island once again. All we have to do is get to work and work together like we did in the plantation era. We have to start by passing bill 2491.

I agree with using the land for photovoltaic and hydro to reduce our dependency on foreign oil, to reduce electricity bills, and to provide jobs. I agree with providing plots of land to be leased for a reasonable rate so people can produce food that has little to no harmful chemicals. I agree with also providing plots for aquaponics so people can farm raise fish and vegetables at the same time. I agree with having a location for a chicken farm. Where once a year Kauai can have a best chicken dish competition. Kauai is a great vacation destination that people come back to visit time and time again so let's capitalize on that and build our own brand. there is so many products we could create right here on island and sell them not only to tourists but worldwide. We can create jobs that are safe and not harmful to our health.

Anonymous said...

Andy Parx -- I do not see honesty in the debate on either side.

Anonymous said...

August 2 9:40PM


Anonymous said...

I've appreciated the sincerity and balance in your last few posts. However, I do take issue with a couple of the assertions that are currently taken as truth in this debate.
1. The soil on the westside needs to be remediated. This claim has no data. If it were true, how would those companies be able to grow their crops year after year?

2. Small farmers/ranchers are being displaced or at least prevented from operating by the seed companies. In reality, there are tens of thousands of acres available but no farmers, or no farmers with the financial means to get the land up and running. And, the top-dollar paid by the seed companies actually subsidizes the small farmers that also lease from G&R or Grove Farm at much lower rates. The landowners still have to pay the county property tax after all.

Anonymous said...

250-500 jobs will be lost is the cry.
Blue shirts were handing red shirts notes to speak for them because they were afraid to speak out.

Check out the DATA BOOK:

Since gmo/chem/biotech corporations have been illegally occupying Hawaiiansʻ lands and poisoning the people - guess what?

Jobs in farming have actually been cut to less than half.

Anonymous said...

To: August 3, 2013 at 9:54 PM

If, as you say, the claim that the soil needs to be remediated is invalid, how can you argue this if there is NO data which you also admit?

Thatʻs the point of 2491-to get that data.

And how can they grow crops year after year? Those crops are not suitable for human consumption.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the taxes paid by the large landowners is among the lowest in real estate taxes paid as it is AG land, however these are biotech industries in the business of agronomics not just farming the land for food.

Joan Conrow said...

9:54 -- My comment regarding small farmers/ranchers being displaced was based on credible reports that Grove Farm had revoked the leases of several ranchers, including one who moved his operation to Maui, and some truck crop farmers when the chemical/seed companies offered to pay more.

8:47 -- I'm interested in learning more about your claim that "Blue shirts were handing red shirts notes to speak for them because they were afraid to speak out." Do you have anything to substantiate that, such as copies of those notes, or the names of "red shirts" who got up and read notes from "blue shirts?" I admittedly didn't hear all the testimony, but I don't recall anything like that.

Also, re: the jobs in ag being cut in half, I think you need to take into account that Kekaha Sugar closed in 2000 and Gay & Robinson closed in 2008, resulting in substantial job losses in ag.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but the numbers have not picked up and if agricorps has provided so many jobs then it should show significantly but it does not show anything anywhere.

As to the notes, I witnessed one note that was passed to a friend and believe she said the note spoke for a few people. After that happened, there was an effort to go around to the blue shirts and try to get some more to do the same. Hopefully if someone reads this that also knows about it, theyʻll comment. I will try to contact the person that told me.

Anonymous said...

I heard the testimony of a woman who was handed a note from a woman in a blue shirt to read. I was outside the building but was listening to the speaker system. I am trying to find the testimony. There are many hours. It was early evening when I heard it. Gary may know who read the note.

Anonymous said...

This bill is much about home rule. It could be titled the We don't trust Oahu lawmakers, corporate raiders and their assassin lawyers on Kauai" bill.

Maybe it's the Snowden thing, but I don't trust anything coming from government these days. I certainly don't trust these large "seed" companies to tell the truth. Lost faith that any politician is working in public interest and not playing corporate footsie. Lost faith in police and prosecutors to ever tell an unslanted truth.

It's so Orwellian. "Breathing the poison is good for you, it allows you to feed you family (who also has to breathe it)".

But I do trust the pediatricians who testified about the diseased and defective babies these companies have caused on Kauai so far.


Anonymous said...

Most of the locals who spoke may not be accustomed to speak publicly. The loudest voices are usually from new-comers. Such is life, we are all citizens. But, if you had any rally against any big business, against hotels, against anything associated with jobs for the locals or housing for the locals, it would be the same group, "I am here, raise the drawbridge".
There are laws on the books, get the politicians call for enforcement if there is wrong doing. Put up 40 foot high fugitive screens with knockdown water sprinklers for the the dust.
This is a first step to make Roundup difficult to obtain, anyone who has to take care of land, knows that either you hire a lot of people blazing away with (gas powered) weedwhackers and chainsaws, your land will be overgrown, in months.........or you spray, life in the country.
Many of us worked in sugar and learned to live with the ash/smoke, mud on the roads and the other aspects that come with CHOOSING to live in an an AG area.
There is NO proof that GMOs are bad for health......Your socialized and effete flagship country of France, just legalized GMOS

Anonymous said...

"There's no proof GMOs are bad for health"

a. What about when the plant is specifically engineered to withstand huge doses of hormone disrupting chemicals, then it's sold as cheap food?

b. What about the doctors who live here telling us what they are seeing? Are they wrong because they are "newcomers"?

Anonymous said...

to 11:05 am: there is no proof that gmos are bad for you. Maybe not for you, but there are many documented stories of people who were very ill, went to all kinds of doctors and then finally are told to stay on a gmo free diet----they get well doing the gmo free diet! And anyway, the bill 2491 is not about gmo (and the biotech companies on Kauai don't grow any edible food) it is about the 18 tons of pesticides used on Kauai by these companies!!!

Anonymous said...

Do any of you know that about 8 years ago the West Side corn was injected with a Herpes gene?

Anonymous said...

Is that true? Can you send Joan or post a document?

Lol, they probably have a side deal with the Phamaceutical company that sells a treatment for herpes.

Joan Conrow said...

I am not aware of any tests involving a herpes gene and no specific sites have been identified for biopharm crops. As I wrote for the Honolulu Weekly in 2009:

Some of Hawaii’s outdoor tests also involved biopharmaceuticals — plants genetically engineered to produce medical supplies, drugs, vaccines and industrial chemicals. According to court documents, these trials involved experimental AIDS and hepatitis B vaccines; growth hormones; enzyme production from human genes; and aprotinin, a blood-clotting cow protein that is also an insect toxin. Information about where these tests were done remains blocked by a court order.

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff, who brought a lawsuit seeking to halt these open-air biopharm trials in Hawaii until they could be assessed for environmental and public health risks, said the crops reportedly were harvested while the case was in litigation and it does not appear that any biopharms have been planted since.

Anonymous said...

Anr how would we know?
When we donʻt have the right to know?

Thank you, Joan, for the quick and well researched responses.

Anonymous said...

If you didn't know by now some if these GMO companies own pharmaceutical companies and have patents on prescription drugs.

The largest And most well known GMO company was founded by a person who had a background in pharmacy.

They were also the creator of many toxic chemical/biological compounds that were sold to the military.

Edumacate urself