In yet another indication that Hawaii progressives have suffered under the influence of the anti-GMO movement, Kauai Sen. Ron Kouchi assumed presidency of the state Senate just two days before the session is set to end.
Those who voted against a resolution replacing Donna Mercado-Kim with Kouchi — Sens. Les Ihara, Gil Riviere, Russell Ruderman, Sam Slom and Laura Thielen — were among the most active in seeking to control the biotech industry and defeat Carleton Ching's nomination to the Department of Land and Natural Resources. [Update: To clarify, Sam Slom is not opposed to biotech or GMOs. My poorly phrased paragraph implied that he is, when I meant only to include him among those who voted against the resolution.]
As a result, Ruderman is likely to lose chairmanship of the Agriculture Committee to Clarence Nishihara, who supports biotech and general ag. Thielen is also expected to be ousted as chair of the powerful Water and Land Committee, while anti-GMO advocate Josh Green will lose control of the Health Committee.
In an interesting twist of fate, Kouchi replaced Gary Hooser when he quit the Senate to make an ill-fated run for Lieutenant Governor. Now Kouchi, a 22-year veteran of the Kauai County Council, is the powerful Senate president while Hooser is attempting to advance the anti-GMO movement from his position as last-place Council member.
As a quick related aside, Linda Estes has been nominated as the Kauai rep on the state Land Use Commission. She's slated to replace Dr. Neil Clendeninn, who has been serving as interim commissioner. Though Linda has no experience in land issues, she did donate $4,425 to the campaign of Gov. David Ige.
Returning to interesting twists, while Hooser was in Switzerland, unsuccessfully seeking to get Syngenta stakeholders to stop biotech operations and pesticide applications in Hawaii, the National Center for Public Policy Research was having better luck convincing Coca-Cola shareholders to do more to promote the safety and benefit of GMOs.
As Justin Danhof, a project director for the Center, noted:
The anti-GMO attacks come from Americans who have likely never missed a meal in their lives. Their campaign against GMOs is unscientific, fear-based and inhumane, but they are winning. One ABC News poll showed 93 percent of Americans think the federal government should mandate GMO labeling - a tactic they hope will elevate GMOs with taboo products such as tobacco and alcohol.
Danhof said large food and beverage companies have a “moral obligation to set the record straight” and asked Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent to make himself and the company's health scientists and nutrition specialists available to the American and international media “to combat the unscientific activists and stand up for the promise of GMOs.”
Kent agreed to “recommit” the company's regulatory affairs and scientific executives to discussions with groups like Danhof's. Kent went on to say:
[W]e firmly believe that there is — that the only way that we can combat some of these matters that you've just talked about is again, that golden triangle of government — not relying solely on government though, business, and civil society organizations like yours, public policy think-tanks like yours, coming together and talking about how we have more sound science, how we can have better science and how we can collaborate more to make sure that consumers are better educated, government officials are better educated and that we can have a consensus of view forward on how to deal with some of these major issues that you have outlined.
It's interesting — and twisted — how activists have focused so intently on pressing fast-food purveyors like McDonald's, Starbucks and Chipolte to go GMO-free, instead of looking at the bigger health and environmental ramifications of fast-food, convenience food, processed food and single-serving cans and bottles.