As Hawaii agriculture clings to the ropes, anti-GMO groups are moving in with a few dirty kidney punches and groin kicks.
Just days after anti-ag activists partied down at the news of Hawaii's last sugar plantation closing on Maui, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) sent out an email urging people to call their legislators to lobby against the seed companies that produce the Island's most valuable crop:
With legislative session upon us, it’s time to let our elected officials know what matters most to us: the health and safety of our families and the environment. The chemical industry’s experimentation with pesticide-promoting genetically engineered (GE) crops increasingly threatens Hawai‘i’s public health, biodiversity and food independence.
None of that is actually true. There is no evidence that Hawaii seed crops are harming public health and biodiversity. If anything, they are supporting food independence by keeping farm workers employed and irrigation systems and other ag infrastructure in good repair.
But CFS keeps saying it, and the more gullible, agriculturally ignorant members of the community believe it. Tellingly, since CFS knows so many of its followers can't actually think for themselves, it tells them exactly what to say when they call their representatives.
Equally telling, given the cavalier attitude that so many anti-GMO activists had toward the hundreds of sugar workers who will lose their jobs, CFS uses a graphic that treats seed company workers as expendable:
Yes, the seed companies provide far fewer jobs than tourism or the military or other sectors of Hawaii's economy. But they offer the best jobs in agriculture, in terms of pay, benefits and highly skilled workers.
Does CFS think local farm workers should be forced to work in exchange for a squalid camp site, like so many of the transient “woofers” who labor on organic farms? Or does it just not care what happens to the people who are employed by the companies it so desperately seeks to shut down?
You have the power to hold your legislators accountable for making pesticide regulation a top priority this legislative session.
This is more of the false narrative that CFS and its allies, including Earthjustice and Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser's HAPA, keep perpetuating. In reality, restricted use agricultural pesticides are some of the most heavily regulated substances in the Islands, with both state and federal agencies involved.
The CFS call to action was accompanied by the usual fear-mongering and distortion of the facts, a tact that Paul Achitoff, lead attorney Earthjustice, also took in a Civil Beat commentary published yesterday.
Both CFS and Earthjustice are mainland-based groups that opened offices in Hawaii to systematically seek to destroy biotech crops. Both groups make money from suing federal agencies over biotech and frightening people into sending them donations. CFS, in turn, funds HAPA, creating one big cluster fuck of self-interested anti-ag advocacy under the guise of “public service.”
Should these self-serving people be dictating agricultural practices in the Islands? People with zero ethics, who will happily tell a lie to bolster their cause? People who don't care about putting hundreds of farm workers, most of them locals, out of work?
People who have no understanding of the complexities of Island ag? People who are working to destroy viable ag, but doing nothing to create something real on the tens of thousands of acres now fallow?
People who engage in agit-prop to create fear and mistrust among community members?
Hawaii state lawmakers, most of whom live in urban areas and have little understanding of ag, must resist the pressures exerted by these advocacy groups and their frightened, confused supporters.
They must rely on experts in the agricultural community, people who have devoted their lives to the land, to make policy decisions — not misinformed activists who have been stirred up to support a dubious cause.
With so many pressing issues facing Hawaii, it's encouraging that lawmakers are sensibly looking to focus on housing, homelessness and fiscal responsibility this session.
Far too much legislative time has been wasted on a manufactured controversy that has divided our community — solely to benefit the coffers and agenda of mainland advocacy groups and political demagogues.