It's election season, which means it's time for another round of fear-mongering. And Hawaii SEED/GMO Free Kauai is only too happy to oblige, this time hosting a statewide tour of anti-atrazine researcher Dr. Tyrone Hayes.
In an amazing stroke of coincidence — if you believe in such things — the tour is being held this week, when the state Department of Health is due to release the results of its statewide samplings for pesticides. I've heard that atrazine was found in Kekaha and glyphosate in Hanalei, though the exact locations and quantities have not yet been publicly disclosed.
Still, the discovery of any amount is bound to illicit fear, especially when Hayes so expertly fans the flames. I can still recall the Facebook response of a peroxided, chain-smoking “A'ole GMO” activist when I pointed out the atrazine found at Waimea Canyon School was in the parts per trillion, well below federal standards:
“There shouldn't be any amount allowed,” she snarled.
I agree completely on the desirability of a pristine planet, and understand that folks want the freedom to choose their poisons.
Still, we must face the reality that we are all responsible for the toxins generated in delivering a lifestyle that allows people to drive diesel-powered school buses for a living, buy health food shipped in from California, fly/drive to Lihue for a “let the people decide” charter amendment rally, engage in social media on smart phones that use toxic heavy metals, and plug into electricity generated by burning oil so they can watch the well-funded Vandana Shiva utter a videotaped message on the “power of money to destroy a democracy.”
Vandana also blithely delivered this line:
There is no excuse for a birth defect rate that is 10-fold more than the national average and for cancer rates to be higher.
Except cancer rates in Hawaii are declining, as is typical across the nation, and Kauai rates are significantly lower than the statewide average. As for birth defects, the most recent report — which is definitely out of date, ending in 2005 — shows Hawaii either on par with or below the national average. It also shows there are many factors associated with birth defects, including meth use, which means it's not so easy to finger just one source, like pesticides, without extensive epidemiological studies.
I keep hearing that Kauai pediatricians have observed an elevated incidence of rare defects here. Who are these doctors? Where is their data? Has it been forwarded to the DOH? Please share it with all of us if it exists.
Of course, keeping it all shadowy makes it ideal for the fear-mongerers.
Speaking of shadowy, it seems the state Ethics Commission is checking into “grassroots” groups like Hawaii SEED, which may have violated the state law requiring “organizations that spend more than five hours lobbying in a six-month period to submit a report listing their expenditures and contributions.”
Jeri Di Pietro, president of Hawaii SEED, is one of those who has failed to submit a disclosure form, though her group certainly devoted far more than five hours to lobbying the Council for Bill 2491 last year and lobbying the Legislature on labeling and other issues this year. I guess Jeri just can't see the glaring disconnect between her actions and her group's repeated demands for disclosure and transparency by others.
Meanwhile, anti-GMO activist Dustin Barca has announced he's running against Bernard Carvalho Jr., giving us a choice between a singing mayor and a surfing-fighting mayor. If that choice is still too hard, consider this: who would you rather have as managing director, Nadine Nakamura or Fern Anuenue?
As the Hawaii Independent reports:
For Barca, this means moving towards greater economic self-reliance and regenerative agriculture especially; addressing land-use policies that have driven kama`aina families from their homes and blocked local access to important cultural and recreational areas; and developing new policies that limit growth while ensuring that dollars spent locally benefit local families.
Like any candidate, he's got some great rhetoric going. Still, in all the years we've been dealing with tourism, access, agriculture, iwi kupuna and land use issues I've never once seen or heard Dustin chime in, though he claims he's been involved in politics for his entire adult life.
But hey, it's more media publicity for Dustin, just like the anti-GMO fight, which garnered him a few write-ups in the surfer mags. Oh, and gee, whatta ya know, he already got coverage in Surfer Today, which offers this quote:
"I see Kauai as a farming epicenter, where food production is number one. By reversing our 90% food import with 90% food production, I envision local agriculture and access to healthy foods for all of our island's residents," adds Dustin.
Visions are great, Dustin, and we all especially love that one. But what are your actual solutions for reversing that trend? Please outline how you plan to achieve this when it has eluded minds far better than yours for decades.
I'm not sure why folks are so keen to turn the election into a referendum on the GMO issue when they don't have the votes to pull it off. But maybe it will take a stunning, crushing defeat to deflate some of the giant egos in the movement.
Unfortunately, they're squandering the movement's momentum and enthusiasm on unelectable candidates, flawed laws and unconstitutional charter amendments. Which means there won't be any juice left for actually embarking on meaningful, legal solutions to the environmental problems facing this island. Much less addressing the issue of pesticide use, as some of us would like.
And so, ironically, they perpetuate the very same status quo they seek to change.