Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Musings: See for Yourself

It's common practice, when public officials are deliberating a complex or contentious issue, to make a site visit to the affected property.

While still a state Senator, Gary Hooser took one such trip to Niihau, as well as a three-day site visit to Maui County. He also made site visits to the proposed Kauai bike path route, the disputed county road at Papaa and the Waipake beach access offered by Larry Bowman. He even asked the state DLNR to make one prior to taking any action on a cattle fence at Lepeuli beach.

But though Hooser has been talking stink about the seed companies for years, and pushing comprehensive bills to regulate their actions, he has never, ever, been to one of the farms. (Aside from sneaking into the fields with a French reporter.)

His rationale?
So is he embarrassed to actually face the people he's demonized as craven compromisers of children's health, money-mad monsters, pitiless poisoners of people and the aina?

Or is he afraid he might actually see something that would force him to open his eyes, and yes, his teeny-tiny mind?

Shoots, even red shirt cheerleader Felicia Cowden, who has devoted countless hours on her “community radio” show to trashing the seed companies, went out to take a look, bringing the keiki she's inexplicably charged with “educating” along, too. As she wrote to Sarah Thompson on Facebook (emphasis added):

That field trip with my students at Dow was a very quality sharing of the fields by high-level participants. Thank you for being a part of it. We were all honored at the sincere effort to share what is the procedures on the farms. I had earlier had a tour in Waimea with Peter and Kirby. Again, the procedures and precautions exceeded my expectations as well as the frame of heart of these site managers.

Of course, Felicia still believes she knows more than people who have devoted their education and careers to ag, and that “yardening” will cheaply and effectively feed the billions. In other words, she remains inherently deluded. Nonetheless, even she acknowledges that “a tour is worthwhile for reducing a conversation to what is real.”

Ah. Perhaps Hooser fears seeing his conversation reduced to “what is real.” Because once you remove all the innuendo, speculation, hyperbole, hype, fear-mongering and flat out fibbing, what is left of his conversation, save for bubbles and hot air?

What I found in touring all the Kauai seed fields, which I wrote about here, here and here, convinced me that claims against the companies were untrue. What I found in meeting seed company employees, from top management to field crew, was a high degree of pride in their work. They were invariably hurt, bewildered and indignant that they had been so horribly mischaracterized.

I also learned that each farm, like each company, has its own personality and style. That point was reinforced when I recently toured the DuPont-Pioneer seed farm at Wailaua,  Oahu. My guides were plant manager Richard McCormack and farm manager Alika Napier, whose family has lived in the area for generations. 
DuPont-Pioneer farm at Waialua.
For one thing, it's neat and tidy, complementing its beautiful setting. “I look at the farm and it's a palette of crops and textures, and Alika is the painter,” McCormack says.
Alika Napier, Pioneer farm manager
For another, they actively employ “natural” practices that many seem to believe is incompatible with “industrial ag.” For example, they grow cover crops, including sunn hemp, which is a host for a parasitic wasp that helps control the corn earworm. In fact, it's proven so effective they've been able to stop spraying for that pest.
Sunn hemp at Pioneer.
They grew, harvested and cleaned 10 acres of sunn hemp seeds, which they donated to the Oahu RC&D — primarily for sale to organic farmers. They also plant hedges of vetiver, which trap and filter sediment and slow the velocity of water flowing through gullies, thus protecting water quality and preventing erosion. They rotate both their seed and cover crops.

They have never used atrazine, and have nearly completely migrated away from Chlorpyrifos. And they voluntarily post all their restricted use pesticide applications on the Good Neighbor website.

The Waialua facility is also a satellite campus for the statewide Go Farm program, which trains and supports new farmers.

One of the graduates of that program now runs chicken tractors on Pioneer land where oats have been grown as a cover crop — an enterprise that has proven so successful he can't meet demand for his pricey birds.

They provide supplemental growing acreage for Twin Bridge Farms, one of the nation's largest producers of virus-free seed potatoes, and let a nearby rancher harvests the oat cover crops as supplemental feed for his cattle.

By the end of this year, they will have subleased over 700 acres to local farmers for food production, in lieu of planting cover crops.

They host some 2,800 school kids, as well as parents and teachers, on field trips that emphasize science and math and fund STEM programs in local schools. They allow youth groups to raise money through food and parking concessions when droves of folks come to see the sunflower fields in bloom.

Their employees donate money and time, volunteering for science fairs, Project Graduation, beach clean-ups, food and diaper drives, maintaining sports fields and beach parks. The employees helped make a cultural garden at Waialua High School, and created a hula garden for a local halau. They also purchase produce from local farms to supplement their Meals on Wheels deliveries.

Tell me — have Hooser and his red-shirted followers come even close to supporting the community in that way?

I'm not saying that Pioneer, or any of the seed companies are perfect, or that their parent companies have flawless records. I'm just saying that nearly all the claims made about their Hawaii operations are false.

But don't take my word for it — or Hooser's. Seeing is believing. These companies frequently host open houses. Next time they do, go see for yourself. 

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hooser's positions on GMO and pesticides are akin to a layman saying "I've read all the posts, blogs, and online literature there is an brain surgery, so I really don't need to be a neurologist to operate on patients as I'm an expert on this subject matter now. Why would I need to visit a hospital to see other physicians at work? We all know what goes on in hospitals." Anybody ready for their procedure with Dr. Hooser? Lobotomy #1 coming up.

Anonymous said...


I have not a clue who Sarah Thompson is,

But thanks for calling this joke out. And his response ,,,,,,,,,, what a flake. Oh I don't wanna discuss Facebook on Saturday.

Gary, you haven't visited these agriculture operations? And you don't need too because you already know better?

Listen up Hooser, I can't stand you buddy. But I am a taxpayin chump from Kauai. And your self serving is wrong wrong wrong. However you spin it Gary ,, your making money off you position.. And should be facing charges and jailed for this. Same as any other double dealing fraud.

And you probabably will. Just not soon enough.

Anonymous said...

Wow Joan. Good job! I hope your pages are full of anti Hooser stuff for the next 4 months cause that is what it is going to take to beat his guy. Go getum Joan Conrow. You da man!

Joan Conrow said...

@10:45 -- Hooser's own words and actions, not Kauai Eclectic, will be the source of his political demise.

Bradley Choquette said...

Would you mind fact checking this fair tale? https://garyhooser.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/the-movement-winning-in-solidarity/

John McHugh said...

Hi Joan, I just wanted to correct one item in your column. Where you cite the use of biocontrol: "For example, they grow cover crops, including sunn hemp, which is a host for a parasitic wasp that helps control the corn earwig." It should read corn earworm not corn earwig. Not sure if there is a corn earwig but it does sound wicked!

Thank you again for your clear-headed, critical thinking approach to the world around us. Appreciate it and keep it up!

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks, John! The correction has been made.

Anonymous said...

Let's just have the corn companies and Kauai coffee show all our state and county legislators, (if they haven't gone yet) their operations. Make it mandatory for all of them to go, even GH. Then they also can go to visit an organic farm, or D Barca's private plantation of organic vegetable. We'll do it before the election so they would be free to make comments prior to their constituents or fistees. I'm being sarcastic, to a point.

Being a local forever, I've lived through the DDT spray, the sabidong, the Heptaclor, the Chlordane, the fertilizer sprayed from planes and helicopters, the smoke from burning cane, playing in the canefield ditches, flumes and reservoirs, parents spraying us with Raid during mosquito attacks, chewing lead foil and playing with mercury, and the like. I'm still here. Not too sharp, but still here.

You think I'm bothered by good coffee and perfect corn? Hell, NO.

Anonymous said...

It's about time that Pioneer does this kind of work here on island! The wait has been long and many have made others aware of how the seed companies have been working here for over a decade-----being that people have shown concern, even so far as a suit Pioneer lost, there should be no turning back for the company, but only to get better by protecting the land and the people who live in proximity of the industry. They have to, for their own survival, become better at taking care of this earth! It's a good thing that people have and are standing up to their harmful practices-----what i see on this website, as to how they have undertaken different practices is good for my soul! Yea to all those who made them get into the domain they are now trying to foster!

Anonymous said...

If you are going to convince me that GMO's are bad and that the seed companies are using too much pesticides, then why wouldn't I want a first hand look at what is really going on even if I show up unannounced at the farm? For Gary to say he doesn't have to show up to review a farms operations is down right stupid if he is speaking from a point of authority. Just reading up on these issues doesn't make you an expert. I for one would like to say that I can speak with some sense of authority because I showed up for one of the tours at Syngenta. They allowed me to speak my mind.

Gary, you are a damn fool if you are trying to condemn these seed companies and yet you haven't visited any of them. You are on a wild witch hunt in my books. Grow some balls for crying out loud so you can say yes you visited the seed company. I'm getting so sick and tired of your nonsense that you are trying to convince me of something but you haven't tried it yet. Visiting is not saying you are exposed to it.

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time there was a half-natural half-otherwise MD in Kapaa. He insisted on his victim/patients getting a "hair analysis". This 300 dollar item came back from the LA lab with a long list of chemicals that are in yo' hair. All of which needed his healing touch.
Anyway. My friend goes in and the good Doc tells him that he needs another hair sample because the one he had taken showed that he had 12 percent lead in his chemical composition. Actually enough Lead to kill a herd of fat elephants. The Doc's face was askew and he was verklempt.
I, being of an observant predilection, asked my friend what kind of hair color he used. He should have been white as snow...welp, he used a hair product that was essentially "lead based". A Grecian Formula knock off sort of thing. The good Doc was chagrined, my friend was fleeced and I learned alot about the horseshit the lords of eternal Naturalness offer.
Now, I am not accusing Da Hoos of using such a hair product, but there are many things that git into us, on us and around us.
Hairs to ya.

Anonymous said...

I don't get Gary's logic. He's saying lately that GMO's aren't bad, just pesticides. How then do you compare it to tobacco? Full of BS. Always talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Anonymous said...

The people on this island believe what they hear. They don't question. They repeat what they hear. Good news or bad, they repeat. That is why some people put their shit on FB and get away with it until they are caught lying. That is the M O for this J....ss. Narcissistic as....e. That is why we stigmatize the race. because of as....es like him.