I was in New York City when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that the state and federal governments have authority over pesticides and GMO crops in Hawaii.
I raced back to my hotel room and cranked out a blog post, glad that the antis had been smacked down. Then I resumed walking, wondering how people — and dogs, especially — can tolerate the constant commotion, the crowded cement, of urban life.
Not to mention the kids, fenced in with a square of grass.
Cities are a place where human creations reign supreme.
Nature is often confined to small, managed spaces.
But it can't be entirely controlled.
And those were the spectacles that captured my attention, kept me sane amidst the endless rows of restaurants, shops and bars.
After wandering the streets for hours — and dining on a wonderful root vegetable and mushroom stroganoff at a Ukrainian restaurant (ethnic cuisine is one big city perk!) — I attended an event that featured several of the Cornell Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellows, who had just completed their 12-week training and were preparing to head home.
They told of growing up hungry, of seeing people in their home countries within Africa, Latin America and Asia struggling to obtain food, lift themselves out of poverty. They talked about their frustration with an anti-GMO movement that is based in the well-fed West and funded by elites — a movement that seeks to dictate what farmers in developing nations should be allowed to grow.
They shared some of the crazy lies that drive the anti-GMO movement — if you eat GMO goods, you'll get veneral diseases, go crazy, die of tumors, offend God. More poignantly, they spoke about the ways that farmers suffer because they're deprived of biotechnology — the devastating crop losses, the crippling debt, the intensive use of pesticides that has left some farmers unable to have sex with their wives, creating serious tensions within their marriages.
It was a moving presentation, informed by their first-hand experiences, their empathy, their driving passion to improve the lives of their countrymen, make the world a better place. And it reminded me again why I work to dispell myths and share the facts about crop biotech.
This was followed by a screening of the documentary “Food Evolution,” which had premiered at the NYC DOC film festival just days before.
As I watched the introduction, with its images of the Hawaii marches and protests, the red shirts and blue shirts, the signs with their simplistic messages, Roseanne Barr advocating papaya field destruction, my breath became rapid and shallow. My heart begin to to pound and my blood began to race as I thought of all the harm they'd caused, the havoc they'd wreaked, the lives they'd disrupted, the expenses they'd racked up for taxpayers to pay.
And for what? An ideology promoted primarily by the organics industry to sell more products, undermine competitors. An ideology based on fear, and false information. An ideology that is, at core, intolerant, even heartless, though it claims to embrace the concepts of aloha.
I don't know how we're going to bridge the divide, de-polarize the debate. It's hard to have reasonable discussions when people can't even agree on facts.
But somehow, we have to try and find the common ground, to understand opposing views, to rely upon science and critical thinking to guide our decisions and policies. We have to dispel the fear and distrust that drives the anti-GMO movement.
Which brings me back to "Food Evolution." As I watched it, and thought about what Hawaii has been through on this issue, I came to see that the debate is essentially this: How do we know what to believe?
Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who narrates "Food Evolution," offers this guide:
“If people knew how to understand and process data, and think about it, we wouldn’t even need this film. When results are repeated and found to be true—that is scientific truth. Laws should be made based on truth. Or that is the end of an informed democracy.”
And that's true for so many issues, not just agriculture.
When the film ended, and I heard the cheers of those who celebrated its message, who understand the important role that this technological tool can play, I found inspiration to go on, to return to the trenches with a lighter, brighter heart — one far more enduring than the foam in a latte cup.
We just have to keep chipping away — standing up, speaking up, advocating for choice, reason, tolerance, as we address the most pressing issues of our time.