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.