Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Musings: Slick Shtick

Right on cue, and just in time for Vandana Shiva's big shtick at the opening of the Lege tomorrow, Civil Beat has a long piece today on a bill that would require pesticide buffer zones and disclosure around schools.

The story is way premature, considering that Big Island Sen. Josh Green's bill hasn't even been drafted yet, much less introduced. So it's unclear just what it hopes to accomplish, or who may be affected. But then, Center for Food Safety has gotten adept at manipulating local media, and the timing suits CFS.

Still, the nagging question remains: Why, if the goal is to protect keiki from pesticide exposure, are only the seed companies being targeted? Especially when every case of documented pesticide poisoning in Hawaii has occurred in the child's home?

Though much has been alleged about westside students and teachers getting sick from pesticides, as best as I can recall, the only time such exposure has been documented was at Wilcox School in Lihue, where a nearby resident's use of pesticides caused a strong, nauseating odor. Similarly, Kahuku High and Intermediate students got sick from pesticides sprayed by a turf company, not a seed farm.

Which is not to say that school buffer zones, or even disclosure, is bad, only that it seems odd to single out seed companies, especially since some are already doing both voluntarily. Though CFS provides data on how many schools are within a mile of seed fields, how many are near golf courses, or even freeways, which also generate emissions proven to be toxic? 

What sort of pesticides, and in what quantities, are sprayed by DOE on school facilities? It's hard to believe that DOE has no data on that, as Civil Beat claims. DOE is either buying the pesticides itself or paying a contractor. In either case, invoices should include that information. 

Before the Lege starts crafting any laws, shouldn't it ascertain whether a problem exists, and if so, identify the culprits? But Green is going on the same assumptions perpetuated by the anti groups: pesticide drift from the seed companies is poisoning people. Never mind that GMO Free Kauai never actually found any drift in its own studies. That's the  party line, and they're sticking to it.

The article also includes some revealing delusions by CFS Hawaii Director Ashley Lukens:

[Lukens] says that by now, Hawaii’s movement against GMO farming is no longer a fringe issue. She said the debate has been reframed from questioning the cultivation and testing of genetically modified seeds to investigating the health and environmental impacts of such farming — essentially, pesticide exposure.

She also thinks that recent victories in Maui and with county council races on Kauai have shown lawmakers that the movement can deliver the votes.

Because we’re growing, we have a lot more middle-grounders at the table that are pounding the halls at the legislators [sic] right now,” she said.

Ashley Lukens is dreaming. If anything, the movement has gotten even fringier. It's been fascinating to watch the comment sections on GMO/pesticide stories over the past six months, as those who oppose the anti-GMO movement have been registering their views in larger numbers, while the antis have dwindled. The climate of intimidation is over, and those who oppose the anti- movement are no longer hesitant to speak up.

As for the movement being able to “deliver the votes,” the Maui vote was extremely close. Meanwhile, the two Kauai Councilmen who opposed Bill 2491 came in first and second, while bill sponsor Gary Hooser barely squeaked in last and his co-hort, Tim Bynum, was soundly defeated, along with the rest of the anti-GMO candidates. And all the incumbent state legislators — the only place where delivering the votes matter — were returned to office.

In short, the idea that the anti-GMO movement is a powerful voting bloc in Hawaii was disproven in the last election.

The article also includes comments from westside Kauai resident Malia Chun, who is appealing the ruling that overturned Bill 2491/Ordinance 960. Malia perfectly articulates the mentality shared by many in the movement, which is they're not going to be happy or satisfied until the seed fields are shut down:

Chun supports the idea of buffer zones around schools and hospitals, as well as more disclosure. But even if Green’s bill passes, she’s still skeptical about whether it would help.

It doesn’t take a scientist to know that when you spray things in the air and there’s winds, it’s going to carry,” she said.

But for some reason, she's not at all concerned about the restricted use pesticides that are similarly released into the air every time the tent is removed from a house that's been treated for termites.  

It's especially curious to read Ashley saying the issue has been “reframed” from anti-GMO to questioning the impacts of seed cultivation, including pesticide use. Curious, because at least on Kauai, it was supposedly all about pesticides from the start. Over and over, all we heard was how the pesticides were destroying the health of westsiders.

When I spoke with Ashley last month, she claimed the issue had been driven initially by a desire to protect students from pesticides. So why, I asked, hadn't they started with a bill that would impose buffer zones around schools? Certainly that would have been more palatable, and far less divisive. She said they were working up to it, and apparently that's where they are now, though I am perplexed by their poor strategy. Because in the meantime, they've alienated legislators and much of the voting public.

Though most people likely wouldn't have opposed pesticide buffer zones around schools two years ago, before the shit hit the fan, I think the sentiment now is you can't give the antis an inch, because then they'll take a mile. We're suspicious of them now, and with good cause.

In doing a bit of research on this post, I was reminded of how the state and county spent $150,000 on the “stinkweed” air study in Waimea, which didn't satisfy any of the critics, and now they're putting another $100,000 toward the joint fact-finding group, which is likely to meet similar resistance from the true believers.

Before the county spends any more money, or the state adopts any new laws, it might be worthwhile for policy-makers to delve into the over-arching strategy and ultimate goals of CFS, Gary Hooser's HAPA and the other anti-GMO groups. Otherwise, they may just find that none of their concessions or attempts to placate make any difference at the end of the day to those whose primary intent is destroying the seed companies.


Anonymous said...

I think it is a goal of destroying agriculture so the land is available for development and energy , the seed companies happen to be the only viable agriculture happening.
Oh and GOD forbid anyone propose cows or anyone to establish a viable agriculture business. Land, the lack of and the abundance of all at the same time.

Anonymous said...

These GMO, chimney, dairy, pesticides nut cases need to be driven out of politics and shut down. They are idiots, liars, and con-men.

Anonymous said...

Hawaii has the longest life span in the USA and most of these oldsters grew up during Pine and Sugar's rampant Paraquat days. Aerial spraying, sabedong crews and various millions of tons of assorted chemicals drenched the soil.
But Ag is the target. If you really want a parental outcry, have the little monsters that attend school find some centipedes or roaches crawling around. Yikes, even the most patchouli oil imbued incense wafting Mumsley will shriek and demand action.
Ag is the bogey man. Even tho' today the spraying methods are tightly controlled and there is little waste. Chemicals are expensive.
As far as GMO goes....recent surveys show that 75% of the citizens want all DNA labeled. Meaning that most people don't have a clue what DNA or Gmo are.
But I expect the furious Fistees will continue to holler and shout, threaten, lie and other such what not.
The real threat to society and our pursuit of happiness, are the over reaching politicians. Led by Da Hoos, followed by, in embarrassingly, almost amorous Fistee fashion, Mason and JoAnn. Thank God, Bynum is gone....

Anonymous said...

Ashley Lukens isn't dreaming; she's lying- something she does glibly, frequently and with great ease. I'm sure V.Shiva and the PANNA mouthpiece who have been imported for the occasion will do the same at the legislature. Only a shill could look at the results of the election on Kauai and even Maui and claim the fistee fringe is really mainstream- confined as the fringe vote was to mainly white, privileged precincts and not well distributed among the electorate. It may take another election cycle to purge the Kauai County Council of grandstanding gobblers on the make. Maybe they slurp that party line up back in Delhi, SFO and DC and shovel more money into their dipstick campaign here, but perhaps they are losing traction and are becoming a tad desperate. They are certainly becoming tiresome.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday's event at the Capitol was a mess. It was confusing as to what the event was about....taro/poi making, individuals with gas masks holding shame on you signs, de-occupy hawaii, even saw couple haoles wrapped with Hawaiian malo....gross....didn't get to see see/hear the guest speakers. Yeah, confusion at best.

Anonymous said...

...and corporate back door politics is not slick chtick?

Joan Conrow said...

It doesn't pretend to be other than what it is, and at least its lobbyists are registered.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you can deny that the issue has brought awareness about pesticides locally. Many people had never thought much about it before last year.

Say whatever you want about mainstream, fringe, or whatever but have you been to the grocery store lately? seen all the non-gmo and organic labels? seen the cover of Costco magazine? There is definitely a strong movement away from gmo food. Almost every new years health article mentioned avoiding pesticides by buying organic. I think its a matter of transparency and choice, just give us the choice. Sounds like consumers will drive the market no matter what the corporations try to shove down their throat :)

Anonymous said...

10:05: "Almost every new years health article mentioned avoiding pesticides by buying organic."

Great sales pitch! Also a lie. Organic produce usually does require pesticides, and some are more toxic than those used in conventional farming, such as the BT broadcast sprayed on the plants.