After years of printing — without question — every bit of inflammatory bullshit that Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser and the anti-GMO activists fed it, The Garden Island finally sent a reporter out to one of the biotech farms.
And guess what? She discovered the fields aren't the dead, toxic wasteland that anti-GMO activists have portrayed.
Sadly, these revelations are a little late. Because of the lazy, biased regurgitating of Chris D'Angelo — who has found a more suitable home at the uber fluffy, and staunchly anti-GMO, Huff-Po Hawaii — far too many people have a false idea of the Kauai seed industry.
They still believe the companies are doing experimental pesticide research, blithely spraying their neighbors with chemicals, poisoning school children, drenching crops with pesticides, using 18 tons of chemicals annually, dousing plants with herbicides to see how much they can take before they make, spraying 24-7 and refusing to disclose their activities or impose buffer zones.
Yes, all that has been promulgated by Hooser, former Councilman Tim Bynum and the groups that profit politically and financially from fear-mongering.
In reality, the companies are just growing highly specialized plants in a modern, conventional manner that actually uses less land and water, and fewer pesticides, than the sugar cane formerly grown in the same fields.
It's always hard to counter propaganda — Christoper Pala's hit piece is still circulating, since The Guardian has refused to even post corrections, much less take it down.
And TGI's reporter did get one thing wrong: biotech crops are not “engineered to withstand heightened amounts of herbicides and pesticides.” They're simply engineered to tolerate regular amounts of herbicides, period.
Still, the truth about biotech is slowly emerging. And that spells trouble for hard core anti-GMO activists who are so fearful of scrutiny that they seek to discredit or silence anyone who questions their rigidly dogmatic point of view.
No, biotech is not a silver bullet, or totally benign, and I've never heard its supporters characterize it as such. It's simply one agricultural tool that has been demonized by special interests — most notably, the organics industry — and ignorant, fearful people.
I was reminded of that fearful ignorance — bordering on paranoia — when I saw a Facebook post by kooky Terry Lilley, attacking blogger "Joan Crow," which I assumed was me. Though I don't know any of the people who commented on Terry's post, I did recognize some of the names as being active in the anti-GMO movement:
Mahana Mari We the good honest people of Kaua'i stand with you Terry. It makes me utterly sick how much hate you receive by protecting what you love.
On another note: what else is happening here? My mom plus 3 more of my friends here on Kaua'i almost completely passed out of Friday. My 80 year old mother almost got rushed to the hospital because she couldn't stop spinning & fainting. Then went to see another friend play music, a big guy, & he almost complete fainted on stage. & another friend kept fainting & went to the doctor. Is this due to another sonar blast? EMP? I can't take it anymore. The reefs are dying, the animals are dying, the people are dying... WHEN will it end?! So grateful for the small group of Protectors we are that are passionate & dedicated to saving us all before it is too late! May your enemies learn the truth & may the truth set us all FREE! Time to flush the vampires OFF The Garden Isle! 1 · 47 mins
Celeste Harvel U just can't fix stupid!What u do is crucial !world in denial!still we r losing reef at an alarming rate!wake up to this evidence our credited researcher finds!environment under attack!no denying
Celeste Harvel My friend risks his life for us!he got fried by electronic warfare and almost was killed!massive heart attack!our Ocean and her creatures r being extincted by military,pollution,warming does not help either!if u don't care u r part of the atrocity!
Derek Diehl These are worthless people , they should stuffed into a gas chamber along w all the military personnel in the world.
Mmm, why are we letting people like this drive policy in Hawaii?
On another note, I saw a flyer from Steelgrass Farm, seeking tenants to lease 1 to 20 acres of ag land:
In the foothills above Kapaa, we are returning to productivity 50 acres of ag-zoned land, and we invite growers to be part of our sustainable, organic diversified ag project.
But there is a caveat:
If you’ve always dreamed of farming the land, we applaud you, and encourage you to embrace your dream, but we are looking for people who are far enough along in their process to be ready to actualize their vision.
If that’s you, we’d like to hear from you. We’re for real, so we need you to be for real also. You need to have a farm plan, with specific crops you want to grow, and be able to demonstrate that you have the skills and experience necessary to follow through, or have a trained crew to do it for you. You also need to demonstrate financial competence. Minimum lease term is two years, maximum twenty.
Yes, folks, there you have it: farming is at core a business, even if you're not one of the dreaded “industrial corporate” farms.
And as Jan TenBruggencate points out, organics are flourishing in Hawaii — despite false claims by Hooser and anti-GMO activists that the state isn't doing enough to support organic growers as it meanwhile gives preferential treatment to the seed companies, which are occupying all the good farm land.
The reality, as usual, is something quite different. As Jan reports on his excellent Raising Islands blog:
Sixty-one farms produce $8.7 million in vegetables. One hundred twenty-six farms produce $3.4 million in organic fruits. That makes the industry worth $12.1 million.
And that’s a big increase since a survey in 2008, when the total was $7.6 million. That represents a 60 percent increase in organic farming value over six years.
Still, it's kind of manini compared to the seed companies, which grew 548 percent since 2000, at an average annual rate of 18.5 percent, according to an industry report, which went on to state:
The authors are not aware of any other Hawaii economic sector or sub-sector exhibiting such growth.
The seed companies also reported annual operating expenditures of $243 million, tax payments of $29 million and anticipated capital investment in Hawaii averaging $25 million over the next 10-years.
Does anyone in their right mind really believe the state will, or even should, give these guys the boot?
And even the organic guys aren't focused solely on feeding Islanders, as Hooser demands of local ag. Returning to Jan's post:
The survey shows that 49 percent of organic products are sold within 100 miles of the farm—which pretty much means on the same island as where they’re grown. Another 16 percent are sold within the state of Hawai`i.
That said, a big proportion, 35 percent of organic crops, are shipped out of state. (The 35 percent breaks down to 30 percent shipped within the country and 5 percent internationally.)
I found these statistics in Jan's piece especially eye-opening:
Only 52 percent, 3,642 of 7,000 of Hawaiian farmers do it full-time. And of those farmers, 2,666 are 55 or older. Of those, 1,445 are 65 years old or older.
If they're sincere in their call for food security, Hooser and the rest of the anti-GMO folks would be better off spending their time and money training the next generation of farmers, instead of grooming politicians. Because the latter typically only get their hands dirty when, like Hooser, they're busy slinging mud.