It's a new moon today, the last moon cycle of 2013, a good time to reflect on the year thus far and set intentions for the dynamics that will shape the year ahead.
I'd like to believe the Ulupono Initiative has all the best intentions in starting up a demonstration grass-fed dairy farm at Mahaulepu, on land Grove Farm initially slated for the cultivation of taro, a tried-and-true, high-demand crop. Still, I can't help but wonder if it will become a bargaining chip in the hotly-contested Hanalei Ridge resort project. Because, you see, Ulupono is a philanthropic endeavor of billionaire Pierre Omidyar, a major investor in the plan to build a resort and 36 houses on the ridge above Hanalei Bay.
I've always had a hard time reconciling Pierre's interest in promoting both sustainability and the inherently unsustainable ultra-luxe travel market, but he has apparently found a nexus, as in how can you deny me that resort when I've invested $17 million in a dairy farm experiment on the other side of the island?
And nobody has put that kind of money into Kauai ag except for the reviled five — Sygenta, BASF, Dow, DuPont/Pioneer, Kauai Coffee — targeted by Bill 2491.
I'd like to believe the folks behind 2491 and the Big Island ban on new GMO cultivation had the very best intentions in promoting that legislation, but I've been rather disturbed to discover that Monsanto — poster child for bad agricultural practices and the evils of corporatism — emerged from the fray not only unscathed, but in an advantageous position.
That's right. Monsanto quietly negotiated a memorandum of understanding with the Maui Mayor's office that is even more slack than the limp Kauai Agricultural Good Neighbor Program negotiated by the state. And its extensive Oahu operations remain untouched.
So while its competitors — DOW, Syngenta, BASF, DuPont/Pioneer — will be required to disclose pesticide use in great detail, pull land out of production to create buffer zones, and either fight a lawsuit or try to convince the state to do the suing, with all the subsequent bad PR, Monsanto will be enjoying business per usual.
Curious, how prominent Maui County anti-GMO activists like Walter Ritte and Courtney Bruch were fighting so hard for the Kauai and Big Island bills, even as Monsanto was weaseling out in their own backyards. Where was the fury, the outrage, at Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa for negotiating that wimpy MOU, which effectively headed off legislation? I mean, if people are getting sick and dying from biotech pesticides on West Kauai, wouldn't folks living near the fields on Molokai, Maui and Oahu be similarly suffering? So why is Monsanto alone given a free pass to continue as it has?
Meanwhile, I'm sure Monsanto has only the best intentions — as in ensuring steady profits for its shareholders — in launching a new “charm offensive” to improve its tarnished image. As Politico.com reports:
Focusing on serving the agriculture industry with high-yield crops, feeding the world and making a steady profit for its shareholders has served Monsanto well in recent times. But the ostrich approach to public relations has not yielded dividends for the company’s image.
Monsanto was declared “the most evil corporation of the year” in early 2011 by NaturalNews.com. Earlier this year the company confronted an international “March on Monsanto” Facebook campaign.
Such negative attention, the company observes in a recent Securities and Exchange Commission report, could influence future policy decisions: “The degree of public acceptance or perceived public acceptance of our biotechnology products can affect our sales and results of operations by affecting planting approvals, regulatory requirements and customer purchase decisions,” Monsanto says.
Aaron Perlut, a founder and managing partner of Elasticity, a St. Louis-based consulting firm specializing in reputation management, still thinks Monsanto’s shift toward engaging in the conversation is an important development.
“Typically when I counsel large companies in crisis I would suggest having a reasonable discussion because public opinion tends to side with reasonable parties even in a challenging argument,” Perlut says.
So if you can sufficiently infiltrate and disrupt a well-intentioned movement to make it appear unreasonable.....
And finally, I'd like to believe the University of New Haven has only the best intentions in developing a process to detect possible contaminants in cannabis — except, as the Associated Press reports, the project “is an extension of the law enforcement-related marijuana DNA profiling the school has done over the past five years under a $100,000 grant from the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program. The school created a marijuana DNA profile database that has helped federal authorities determine where illegal pot growers and dealers got their product.”
Which master is the school serving?