Maui state district health officer Lorrin Pang used his position and state email account to assist anti-GMO activists and organizations, according to emails released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The request — made by Stephan Neidenbach, author of the "We Love GMOs and Vaccines" Facebook page — sought copies of all emails exchanged between Pang and 16 individuals and groups highly visible in the anti-GMO movement over the past four years.
In response, the state Department of Health released records showing Pang had used his state email account to advance the agenda of Center for Food Safety (CFS) and GM Watch over the past nine months.
Pang assisted CFS in presenting its scientifically challenged “Pesticides in Paradise” report to the Maui Medical Society, prompting CFS staffer Alexandria Coutu to write:
[T]hank you so much for thinking of us and spreading the word in the medical community.
Pang also solicited publication of an anti-GMO paper in a European publication in association with Claire Robinson, an editor for the rabid GM Watch and member of the GMO Free USA advisory board.
Though Pang has long been active in the anti-GMO movement, he has always claimed that he was acting as a private citizen, and not in his official state capacity, which would pose a serious conflict of interest.
In other Maui news, Council candidate and anti-GMO activist Trinette Furtado filed a financial disclosure statement in which she claims she is unemployed, with no income other than food stamps. She also lists student debts in the range of $25,000 to $49,999.
Trinette is one of those who celebrated news that HC&S was shutting down, even though the plantation had employed three generations of her family, allowing her to attend UH.
It's unclear how she lives without income, or why she's devoting herself to fulltime activism when she has no work, but substantial debt.
Meanwhile, Center for Food Safety is gearing up to fight the federal government's approved release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, pending a citizen vote this fall. The “self-limiting mosquitoes” are intended to help suppress the spread of mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and Zika because their offspring die before they can reach maturity.
As Reuters previously reported — and my own interviews with researchers confirmed — the genetically engineered mosquitoes have been effective in reducing populations of disease-spreading mosquitoes in Brazil. Officials reported a significant drop in dengue cases in areas where the mosquitoes were released.
In Panama, Brazil and Malaysia, where the company has already released the GE mosquitoes, people could not avoid breathing in and swallowing mosquitoes due to the vast number of mosquitoes released.
Not that the group was able to document that any harm did, or even could, result from ingesting GE mosquitoes — assuming such a thing even happened at all.
It's interesting, because CFS wants the government to look instead at introducing Wolbachia, a natural bacterium, into mosquitoes to prevent the viruses from growing inside the insect.
Yet CFS has vigorously opposed use of another natural bacterium — Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt — to create genetically engineered crops with insect resistance.
Typically, government agencies use insecticides — including truck-mounted and aerial spraying — to control adult mosquitoes and larvae. But CFS is also opposed to pesticide use, and authorities said spraying is a “lost cause” that has no impact on the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits dengue and zika.
“We cannot spray our way out of this," said Umair Shah, executive director of Harris County, Texas, Public Health and Environmental Services, at a national summit on Zika preparedness in April.
Just something for Hawaii to think about as the Zika cases mount, along with opposition to GMOs and pesticides, putting both farm workers and the valuable tourism industry at risk.