Yesterday's post, where I asked why good people in the anti-GMO movement hadn't stood up against the jackboot behavior of their cohorts, prompted this comment from Ed Coll:
You say you have no soft soft spot for the chem/seed companies yet the bulk of your criticism is aimed at the anti-movement. Where is the balance? You decry “the promulgation of misinformation” by the anti-movement and do a great job pointing such misinformation out but fail to point out the misinformation of the chem/seed companies. Likewise you analyze funding sources and amounts the anti-movement spends but not the spending and lobbying of the chem/seed companies. No mention of the historical relationship between HICA and UH-CTAHR, the projects and research members of HICA fund at CTAHR or how such funding might influence what is researched, or how much HICA pays Becker Communications to churn out propaganda, or how much Jon Entine and Karl Haro von Mogel were paid and by whom. You also stress “voluntary disclosure” as if the fox guarding the hen house has ever been good for the chickens. No mention of how the FDA has been a captive agency since 1977 and has failed to regulate the use of antibiotics on feed animals perhaps resulting in antibiotic resistance in humans.
While it is valid to criticize the uncivil, stumbling, bumbling mis-steps of local "activists" and their "leaders" how about looking into the misdeeds of corporate and government actors as well. You seem to be always aiming at David and giving Goliath a free pass.
I want to respond to that comment in a post, because it's a criticism that others with ideological blinders and short memories have levied, too. And it's pure bullshit.
For nearly a decade I wrote frequently about the seed/chem companies in Hawaii, primarily for the Honolulu Weekly. I was the first journalist to cover the issue in any depth in Hawaii, and the first to write about it for a mainstream Hawaii publication — Honolulu Magazine. I wrote about biopharmaceuticals cultivated in Hawaii, minimal state oversight, federal dominance, the appointment of industry officials to federal agencies, the state's efforts to attract biotech, the industry's support for UH research.
My reporting earned me the ire of the chem companies, most notably Pioneer's Cindy Goldstein, who tried to publicly discredit me, rallying some UH biotech researchers to her cause. My work, which I thought was important for the public's right to know, cost me assignments with Hawaii publications that didn't want to risk alienating advertisers because I was too hot to handle. The general public, meanwhile, didn't seem much interested.
During the seven years of writing this blog, I've continued my research, writing extensively about pesticides and genetic engineering, the cozy relationship between regulators and all industry, the problems associated with using antibiotics on livestock, stressors on pollinators, etc., etc. I've covered countless local and international environmental issues, as well as the misdeeds of numerous “government actors,” most notably former Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri.
As recently as a year ago I was still castigating the seed/chem companies, though by that time I had begun to realize that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Or to paraphrase, I had come to understand that the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii — and pretty much all the environmental movements, too — was not a David fighting Goliath, not an underdog, not in any way pono.
My disenchantment began in early 2013, when the Vandana Shiva circus came to town, and I realized somebody was pumping a whole bunch of money into what had been a tepid, powerless movement. Simultaneously, but not coincidentally, Councilman Gary Hooser began drafting Bill 2491, ignoring those of us who cautioned against overreach and including GMOs.
Meanwhile, I was investigating and writing the Abuse Chronicles series, in which I catalogued the systemic failure of a Kauai County regulatory process involving vacation rentals. I saw clearly, as did the entire County Council and Administration, the problems that can arise when government is unwilling or unable to enforce the law.
So when I asked Gary about enforcement of his pesticide/GMO bill, and he replied that enforcement didn't matter, all that mattered was getting the bill passed, I knew that he and outside influences were using Kauai to wage a bigger battle, and that our community was going to suffer.
I began digging around with the help of an akamai friend. We soon saw how much of the environmental movement is funded by the same corporations they claim to be fighting. We saw the ugly totalitarian tactics embraced by people we thought were progressives. We saw reasonable folks embrace a wild disinformation campaign. We saw activists intentionally stir up fear with absolutely no basis in fact. We saw the movement swell with people who were either new to the island, or paid instigators, like Nomi Carmona and Jennifer Ruggles.
I saw the intense pain they were causing by the attacks they were leveling on longtime farmers and local people trying to work in ag, and how they were undermining all agriculture with their short-sighted stance. Sadly, I saw folks who I thought were good people either stand by and say nothing about the ugliness, or join in the fray.
After watching the mob action that resulted in the passage of a badly flawed bill, and the deceptive Council shenanigans that led to Mason Chock's appointment to override the mayor's veto, I realized I was covering what my journalism professors had termed a “man bites dog” story.
In other words, what began to interest me was not the usual bad deeds of corporations, but the bad deeds of the so-called “good guys” — the folks whose rhetoric speaks to love, peace, aloha and progressive tolerance, but whose actions reveal them to be rabid fanatics who will stop at nothing to promote their cause.
What's more, they were so deluded, or stupid, they didn't even know they were being funded by the heirs of big oil and manufacturing, that they were engaged in seed gathering activities exactly of the sort that had resulted in the collection of the Seed Savers Exchange being sent to the vaults at Svalbard — a seed bank funded by Dow, Syngenta, Bill Gates and the Rockefeller Foundation, with treaties that allow that genetic material to be patented — that they were pushing a bill that gave the industry exactly what it wanted: a clear court ruling that solidified the state's pre-emption.
They didn't even see they were being played as fools by Gary and all the other political ideologues who don't give a shit about what's right, but are driven instead by ego, power and their allegiance to forces other than their constituents.
As my friend wrote in comments yesterday: "When the anti side achieves what the chem corp wants, we need to question."
I began to question all the premises I'd previously held, all the slack I'd previously cut activists because I believed them to be on the side of good. Because when the “good guys” are using the same tactics as the “bad guys,” they can no longer claim moral superiority. With the sympathetic blinders off, I began to see that many of the activists I'd been covering for years are narcissists who love conflict and drama, and have no desire to solve problems or reach resolutions. I came to realize that lawyers I'd previously admired, like Paul Achitoff of Earthjustice, lie and deceive just like their opponents, and have a financial incentive to keep the litigation going.
Along the way, I also began to change my views about biotech. It isn't all evil, all bad. Decent people with lofty aims are devoting their lives to this research, believing it can do good. It shouldn't be shut down because of the false beliefs of ignorant fanatics. I've come to suspect that GMO labeling initiatives aren't driven by the "right to know," but an attempt to instill fear in order to build market share for organic producers. And I've learned that organic farming isn't environmentally benign, and it has its corporate backers, too.
It's all very complicated, and it's all intertwined. What's more, we're all complicit. It's mad foolishness to be blaming the corporations for our woes when we're all buying their products, helping their bottom line. And there isn't one activist, one true believer, who can honestly claim he or she is pure. I'm sick and tired of watching phonies claim the moral high ground.
So don't be dinging me for not bashing the “bad guys” enough. Been there, done that. There's a reason why I'm now banging on the “good guys." I'm hoping that some of you in that camp will open your eyes and see. But given the response to yesterday's post, denial and self-righteous is still rampant.
This is where I'm at these days, with a nod to Dave Mason: There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys; there ain't no us, there ain't no them. There are only different belief systems, some rigid, some fluid. Some people cling doggedly to their beliefs, while others — including several in the Kauai political arena — exploit them for nefarious purposes.
But that doesn't change this one absolute truth: We're all in this together. And the sooner we realize that, and step away from our respective camps, the sooner we'll start working to create a better world. Until then it's just war driven by the false belief of separation.