OK, so I watched “Aina: That Which Feeds,” paying $3.99 to download the 22-minute film, which was less painful than it would've been to spend $10 to sit with the deluded true-believers at the Kauai Performing Arts Center.
The film was part Hawaiian romanticism, part anti-GMO apocalypso, part tourism promo and pretty much all bullshit, starting with how, according to Stacy Sproat-Beck, the Hawaiians “established a relationship with nature and the environment” when they arrived that allowed them to “live sustainably for over a thousand years.”
Yeah, well, except for all the birds they drove to extinction, and the lowland forests they slashed and burned and the streams they diverted to grow vast monocrops of taro.
Kawika Winter, one of those sitting on the supposedly objective Joint Pesticide Fact-Finding Group, waxed nostalgic about the good old days when his ancestors ignored short-term profits to think five to seven generations ahead.
Yeah, well, except for the time that Liholiho ordered the maka'ainana to harvest 1 million pounds of sandalwood so he could buy the luxury yacht that a drunken crew later ran aground at Hanalei Bay.
David Sproat, filmed while making poi deliveries, dissed the seed companies, saying, “We don't need these chemicals in our lives, among our families, in our communities.”
Yeah, well, except it apparently wasn't a problem when David was spraying pesticides and herbicides at Waipa when he was still one of the Hawaiian Farmers of Hanalei, before the Sproats grabbed control.
Sabra Kauka, in discussing pesticides, asked, “Does it cause death to one organism or death to a whole community?” before going on to say, “We're all related to this and we have to see it.”
Yeah, well, except let's not notice that the same person who was criticizing "industrial ag" one day was blessing the new Jack-in-the-Box the next.
I'm not disputing that the Hawaiians of old did some amazing things. But they weren't entirely benign, and that lifestyle is not going to replicated in 21st Century Hawaii, anyway. So why even pretend?
If you're going to preach that everything will be good if we just return to traditional practices, be prepared to demonstrate that. Start by ditching the tractors and mowers at Waipa, then grow enough food to supply at least your own farmer's market and poi customers. Oh, and do it without depending on $1 million each year in donations and grants to keep you going.
Otherwise it starts to sound like a lot of "do as I say" wishful thinking.
As the Hawaiians are filmed paddling canoe, planting taro and otherwise looking noble and wise, state aquatic biologist Don Heacock and Bob Yuhnke, an air quality lawyer who is now passing himself off as biotech expert, keep up a steady patter of anti-biotech rhetoric:
“If you're eating corn, you're eating Roundup; when you apply Roundup you kill most of the beneficial organisms in the soil; Roundup destroys bacteria in the gut and binds calcium, iron and minerals, making them nutritionally unavailable; we don't know what they may do, what residues they'll leave behind; with these GMO crops, they're putting poisons right into the food; you can spray these crops with Roundup every day; the chemicals they use are neurotoxins and they're blowing right into the schools; we've found Roundup in mother's milk.”
Yeah, well, except no fields are being cultivated anywhere near Kauai schools, and an actual peer-reviewed study found that Moms Across America “flat out got it wrong,” when they claimed Roundup accumulates in mother's milk.
Don goes on to proclaim:
“We can teach a whole new generation about holistic thinking, critical thinking and the truth.”
Yeah, well, except if you're showing keiki this film, having Felicia Cowden instruct them at Waipa or engaging them in the anti-science, anti-critical thinking, anti-fact, anti-GMO movement.
The film ends with Sabra saying we must show love and respect to one another — “that's all I ask” — which is fine. Except why don't the anti-GMO activists show more love and respect to the scientists and field crew whose labors and professional passion they are constantly mischaracterizing and belittling?
One of the main things that turned me against the anti-GMO movement — aside from its self-serving politicians, ties to high-end Realtors and general disregard for the truth — was its treatment of seed company workers, who told me they've felt frightened, harassed, hurt, misunderstood, marginalized, vilified and demonized by rabid activists.
I've always believed that respect must be earned, and then kept. So truly, how do you maintain respect for people who have intentionally caused so much pilikia in our community, and who continue to do so?
Which leads us to the latest installment in anti-GMO-financed fear-mongering: This week's lectures on Roundup featuring Judy Carman and Stephanie Seneff. Judy claims she's not a GMO activist, though her website is named gmojudycarman.org. She became the darling of the anti-GMO movement after producing a paper claiming that pigs fed GMOs suffered stomach inflammation at a higher rate than those that weren't, which she then extrapolated to human beings and all manner of digestive problems.
Judy's paper has been thoroughly debunked by numerous scientists, including a study that looked at the records of 100 billion farm animals, starting before the introduction of GM feed. It found no “unfavorable or perturbed trends in livestock health and productivity" over that period.
Stephanie, meanwhile, is a computer modeling and artificial intelligence researcher at MIT who is anti-GMO and anti-vaccines. She's know for proclaiming that “At today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic.” She blames Roundup, citing a correlation between GM crops and autism.
Of course, a similar claim could be made about the correlation between autism and organic food sales — unless you're a credible scientist:
Like I said, it's hard to have respect or aloha for folks who are running an active disinformation campaign aimed at spreading fear and ignorance via junk science and propaganda films.
Pesticides are dangerous, especially if they're misused. That's an undisputed fact. But unless your goal is to keep people stupid, why use not use credible scientists, and a vigorous debate, to explore the issue in a meaningful way?