In the latest bizarre twist in the Kauai Joint Fact-Finding process on agricultural pesticides, facilitator Peter Adler has offered up his own highly defensive, seriously spun take on events.
This weekend, Adler issued "update #9"on the JFF, in which he abandons all pretense of being an impartial, objective facilitator. Instead, he adopts the role of cheerleader for both the dysfunctional process he created and its badly flawed draft report.
Adler begins by chastising Gerardo Rojas and Sarah Styan, calling their recent resignations from the fact-finding panel “unexpected, poorly timed, and completely unnecessary.” Yet they were preceded by the January resignation of retired UH-CHTAR administrator and extension agent Roy Yamakawa, the only Kauai-born, truly independent member.
Adler has failed to accept any responsibility for the resignations, even though all three voiced concerns about Adler's personal biases, poor management and disrespectful treatment of them.
As a facilitator heading a taxpayer-funded project, Adler owes the community an explanation as to why he was unable to create and maintain a cohesive group. He needs to clearly show us how this process can still be meaningful in the wake of resignations by the entire minority viewpoint.
Instead, he tells us to judge the final report on its merits, and assures us that all 200-plus comments on the draft report will be properly vetted and attended — even as he defends the shoddy “citizen science” that so many of us have found objectionable, and which is used to justify recommendations.
Adler rationalizes accepting “research” conducted by anti-GMO groups like Surfrider, Hawaii SEED and Pesticide Action Network by noting that government studies “aren't peer reviewed, either.” No, but they're conducted by public servants who are trained professionals in their fields — not amateurs organized and funded around a pre-determined agenda who never even wrote up their findings.
To omit this type of information would invite criticism that the JFF ignored data pertinent to the issue, which would have then tainted the report.
So instead Adler taints the report by including studies that were funded and conducted by special interest groups — studies that weren't even sketched out on a cocktail napkin for the public to review.
As just one example, the Department of Water pesticide report clearly outlines the methodology used, including the chain of custody for all water samples. Can Adler really claim it's equal to a high school science project funded by a group suing the seed companies, in which beekeepers were asked to send in honey samples willy nilly?
Does Adler truly believe pesticide drift samples collected by untrained activists in the anti-GMO Hawaii SEED are on par with studies conducted by a distinguished UH professor with no ax to grind? And in any case, how can Adler possibly excuse the complete absence of written reports for these advocacy studies?
We have also seen the draft report quickly get used as a political weapon by people on different sides as they attempt to vindicate positions staked out over past years.
Is that such a surprise, considering it was timed for release in the legislative session, and mirrors recommendations advanced by anti-GMO groups — even as it absolves industry finding “no evidence of causality between current agricultural pesticide use and harms to Kauai’s environment?"
|Groups like Center for Food Safety have politicized the JFF process.|
Similarly, Adler complains that Kauai folks have divided the JFFG into anti- or pro-GMO factions — “simple sloganeering” that does everyone "a disservice.”
Does he really find this characterization so surprising, given his decision to select panelists who had taken public stands on the issue? Are we supposed to pretend that their views aren't influencing the process, especially when Adler abandoned any pretense of seeking consensus and opted instead for a majority vote, with “antis” comprising the majority?
As sold to Kauai folks, the goal of the JFF process was to produce a document that reflected the group's consensus around known facts regarding agricultural pesticide use on Kauai. As such, it was intended to serve as a springboard for healing divisions within the community. That was lost the moment Adler decided to forget consensus and allow a majority vote. The report then became a “red shirt” document, couched in veiled balancing language — “we couldn't find anything, but we know there's something there; there must be!”
The goal of the effort has always been to see what factually can be agreed on and what logical recommendations ensue.
If that was the goal, then he has unequivocally failed to achieve it. The facts remain in disagreement, and the recommendations for more studies and regulations do not logically follow from a finding of “no evidence of causality.”
Yet Adler pats himself on the back, telling us that “much has already been accomplished” from the draft report: capturing the Governor's attention; promises from the Kauai delegation to secure money for monitoring studies; “reasonable prospects” for more funding in next year's legislative session; and stepped up activities by Department of Health.
Why is anyone mobilizing based on proposed recommendations that are still in the draft stage? Why is Adler cheering the fruits of these draft recommendations, even as he's supposedly holding an open mind about comments that could — if honestly considered — dramatically change the final report and its recommendations?
I guess Adler knows — or believes — the fix is in. But the rest of us chumps are still playing along.
Adler is out of control. This process has moved well beyond fact-finding and is now a full-fledged campaign that he is waging in cooperation with the like-minded ideologues who brought us this controversy in the first place.
It's time for the folks who hired him — Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho and Agriculture Director Scott Enright — to pull the plug on this debacle and denounce it for the travesty that it is.