I'm here at Cornell University, amid the cool temps and colorful fall leaves of Ithaca, New York, getting a fresh dose of hope and inspiration after a gloomy week immersed in politics.
The source of this infusion? Twenty-eight people representing 13 countries and three continents. They're the Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellows, who just completed a 12-week program in science advocacy at the grassroots level.
For the past two days I've been listening to them report on the state of agriculture and food security in their home countries of Nigeria, Malawi, China, Argentina, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Ghana. They're a diverse group, in terms of ages, occupations and interests, but they're united in their passion to end hunger and advance environmental sustainability.
I was also struck by how successful the anti-GMO activists have been in shaping the narrative around ag biotechnology. Despite the wide variances in the world's political systems, laws, farming practices and food needs, the antis have managed to instill their BS-based mantra in nations across the globe. As one person noted: “Fear is the easiest thing to sell.” And lies and fear are the primary tools of the anti-GMO trade.
After spending time with the Fellows, I'm reminded again just how fortunate I am to live in a country with a stable, though sometimes stumbling, government, and so many options and opportunities. It reaffirms my commitment to continue working to ensure that farmers everywhere get to choose how they want to practice agriculture.
It seems the newest farmer – or, more accurately, fantasy farmer — is the recently defeated Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser:
Yup, he grows an ear and figures that now he can feed the island and make a political statement. It's not exactly clear why growing organic sweet corn is an act of resistance, though it is interesting that his choice of the term "corn angels" continues to emphasize anti-GMO activism as religion.
Glad to see even Gary is finally starting to see through the lies he's been feeding folks for the past few years. And yes, the seed companies welcome true co-existence. But sadly, the rest of his delusion continues.
Like why, exactly, does he want to make corn starts when direct-seeding is recommended to build strong roots and prevent transplant shock? Why waste potting soil and plastic containers when kernels sprout so easily in the ground? How much will he charge for starts, when people can buy 100 kernels for $2 bucks? How can he pass them off as organic without certification?
But then, as soon as you start to use logic with these folks, it all falls apart. And as soon as someone — in this case, Big Island "agvocate" Lorie Farrell — sounded a note of reality, Hooser's sweetness turned sour:
Actually, Gary, Lorie isn't an industry troll, nor is she is affiliated with the Alliance. She's just one of thousands who endorse our work. Furthermore, the Alliance doesn't "train bloggers," and no one is sent out to "attack those who promote organic farming and folks who question, criticize or support the regulation of industrial agriculture." We just dispel the bullshit and fear spread by those who are unwilling to let farmers decide how to farm. Which is why you're so desperate to trash us.
I was quite interested to learn that in some nations, the antis are supported by pesticide companies that stand to lose sales if the Bt technology, which offers pest resistance without spraying, is adopted more widely. The anti movement has some strange bedfellows.
Despite the nasty reaction to Lorie, the realists persisted:
Lazy farming, Pejie? What could be lazier than not farming at all, while telling others how they should be doing it?
Hey, maybe Gary, Dustin Barca and Felicia Cowden can start their own farming cooperative. I'd love to see the infighting that would soon develop between those three giant egos, all of whom fancy themselves ag experts.
Meanwhile, agriculture in Hawaii lost a true advocate with yesterday's passing of Big Island Rep. Clift Tsuji, who chaired the House Agriculture Committee. He was a kind and caring man who maintained his smile and the twinkle in his eye even though he was mercilessly attacked by the antis.
The Hawaii Center for Food Safety blew $2,895 on anti-Tsui flyers alone last year, and were aided in their attacks by the Babes Against Biotech, who wasted no time in offering phony words of sympathy:
Biotech legislator of the year and long time Hilo Representative Clift Tsuji has died. May God rest his soul and give us grace and wisdom in this time as our future shifts yet again with his passing. We may never know all the reasons Clift had or ever agree with any of them, but we can send his family condolences and love in this difficult time, and we can take a moment of grace. Surely he cared for his family and some people really loved him. What is done is done. We only have from now.
Talk about no class. But yes, we can only hope the Babes somehow gain the grace and wisdom they so sorely lack.