Friday, January 29, 2016

Yamakawa Quits Pesticide Fact-Finding Group

The Kauai Joint Fact-Finding Group on pesticides has lost a key member, with Roy Yamakawa quitting the appointed panel over disputed methodology.

Roy declined to comment and deferred questions to mediator Peter Adler, whose ACCORD group is overseeing the process.

Roy had differences of opinion on the methods by which we are working to complete the last legs of the effort,” Peter replied in an email confirming Roy's departure.

Roy, now retired from his positions as Kauai extension agent and county administrator for the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Ag, had an understanding of pesticide use and local ag unmatched on the JFFG. And since a majority of panelists hold anti-GMO sentiments, his departure exacerbates that imbalance.

Still, Peter is urging people to wait and see.

I like and respect Roy a lot and am urging he and everyone who contacts us to judge the JFF by the final product,” Peter wrote. “In the meantime, we are revamping our schedule to accommodate discussions on some additional data we have received. We hope to complete the effort by the end of March or as soon as possible after a public comment window and informational briefing inviting proposed factual additions or corrections.”

The JFF report was due out in early January. But it was lacking its crucial health section and the county and state, which are financing the $100,000 exercise, reportedly refused to accept the incomplete document. The health section reportedly is being vetted by an epidemiologist, and the state Attorney General's office is also reviewing the report.

Meanwhile, I've learned that a study on glyphosate in honey — recently submitted to the JFFG — was financed by Surfrider. The advocacy group has joined Earthjustice, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network and the county in appealing a judge's ruling that overturned Bill 2491/Ordinance 960, a hotly contested pesticide/GMO regulatory measure.

The ruling also invalidated a provision in the law authorizing an environmental and health assessment, prompting the state and county to fund the JFFG instead. The panel was charged with determining what is truly known about agricultural pesticide use on Kauai, and any associated environmental and health concerns.

The group was specifically directed not to conduct its own independent research, though it could make recommendations on studies and monitoring programs that should be pursued.

So it's extremely questionable that an advocacy group like Surfrider was allowed to finance new research — conducted under the guise of a high school science project — and submit the unverified results to the JFFG.

The study tested honey samples – some of them collected by beekeepers with anti-GMO views — and found glyphosate (Roundup) in about 35 percent. Surfrider's Carl Berg, who “mentored” the student who did the science project, said “the detection of glyphosate in honey does mean that it escapes from the point of application under current best management practices.”

However, since it's impossible to know where the bees collected the glyphosate, it's equally impossible to state that it was applied "under current best management practices” — especially since the popular weed killer is regularly sprayed by homeowners untrained in such practices.

Recently, the anti-GMO group US Right to Know made a huge stink about how Monsanto and other agrichemical companies were supposedly corrupting the scientific process simply by giving scientists money to conduct educational outreach programs. 

If one of the seed companies had conducted a study and given the results to the JFFG, the antis would be screaming bloody murder. Yet when it's done by an advocacy group, one with a dog in this particular fight, it's no problem.

Now that's the kind of duplicity and hypocrisy that really grates. 

As I suggested to Carl, if Surfrider is truly concerned about pesticides escaping from the point of application under current best management practices, it should test the air quality around a house undergoing termite treatments. The air should be tested again as the tent is removed. 

After all, pest control applicators use more restricted use pesticides than any other industry in Hawaii — and significantly more than agriculture. Why is the focus solely on farm pesticides, even as activists claim they aren't anti-ag and it's not all about shutting down the GMO crops?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Musings: Compromised

Upon news that HC&S would be ending sugar cane on 36,000 acres this year, I was heartened to see farming experts express reserved optimism about the future of ag on Maui, while cautioning the need for reasonable expectations and compromise.

I love the concept of compromise, the idea of thoughtful, intelligent, engaged persons working out a mutually acceptable plan of action.

Unfortunately, the reality of seeking compromise is quite a bit different, especially when some players have neither the inclination, nor the education/experience, to seek middle ground. Shoots, they don't even know WTF that is.

Consider this Facebook post by Kalassu Swami, aka Geoff Morris, aka the masked Grim Reaper at statewide anti-GMO protests:

Aloha

Just a thought or an idea...

Everyone here on Maui is fully aware of what's going on with the sugar industry, that thousands of acres might become vacant and turn into a dust bowl or worse, we are all praying the land will not become accessible to mega-corporations like the evils of Monsanto spreading more of their poisons around our beautiful Island. So a silly idea flowed, What if every Maui resident who wished to become part of keeping our island safe and beautiful, donated, contributed or invested $100 or even $300.00 for all of that property.

Then contract it out to the people, Organic farmers, section it off and give it to whoever wished to cultivate it Organically, and the produce cultivated from these crops can be sold around the world, or we can utilize all of the land and factory, and instead of making toxic cancerous white processed sugar we can make organic naturally dehydrated healthy sugar. Or we can legalize marijuana on the island and plant it, we are all aware of the substantial health benefits this herb has to offer and how it can benefit all of mankind and the planet.

All those (us, the Maui residents) who participated and contributed in the ownership of this property would be issued slip vouchers weekly monthly or yearly, for a percentage off or free, all produce that was produced on those lands and that would be there, our , investment return. And the family organic farmers, or small businesses that would be contracted out to farm the land would receive a substantial percentage of their produce sold.

I'm not rich but I would invest in it knowing it would go to healthy food on my table and keeping my Island safe from a mega corporation buying the land, their greed and destruction is what we have all been feeling throughout our planet.

It's bad enough that our government, & military industrial complex are poisoning the air, water and land around us, all of the toxic chemicals they're spraying in our sky at least if we are eating healthy our bodies can combat some of these toxins that they're spraying worldwide.

We can call it maybe, co op Organic "Rainbow Maui" produce made with love.

Well it's just an idea, it might be silly but if anyone wants to go with it I'm in so Go !

Yeah, go! I mean, heck, why not? Even though HC&S, with more than a century of experience, couldn't make cane a viable crop, surely non-farmers can pull if off simply by switching to “organic naturally dehydrated healthy sugar.”

Once you use those $100 and $300 donations simply to purchase the land, don't worry about the lack of start-up capital, equipment or training for the organic farmers. All they need is the land. And love. The rest flows like magic from there. This is paradise, ya know, where things just grow on their own. 

Once marijuana is legal, they'll be sitting pretty, anyway, because none of the other islands would be growing it, and 36,000 acres of pot would barely touch the demand for product. No need worry about flooding the market.

And yes, go ahead and export those organic crops around the world, even though you don't have any grading, production, refrigeration or packaging operations, and no identified markets. With the Hawaii label, they'll sell themselves. 

Of course, it's hard to know how much produce will actually be left to sell once the initial investors claim all the free produce they want. But the farmers don't need to make money, much less a profit. That's just an old, evil concept. Their reward comes in knowing they're keeping Maui “safe from a mega corporation.” (Shhh, don't mention Hyatt, Sheraton, Costco, Shell, Budget and etc. Only ag corporations are bad.)

Gosh, Utopia is right within our grasp. I wonder why A&B didn't get there. Must be because they're blinded by their desire for corporate profits over the good of all.

Now where's my lifetime supply of fresh organic produce? I gotta eat hearty to ward off the poisons dripping from those chem trails in the sky. No, they're not just clouds or jet exhaust. They're a government plot to weaken us so we have to buy pharmaceuticals.

And gimme some of that organic “Rainbow Maui” — the cloned (but GMO-free) 21st Century version of Maui Wowie.

Heck, I invested $100. I'm entitled.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Musings: Between the Lines

The Coco Palms developers are in danger of losing their permits. 

At yesterday's Planning Commission meeting, Planning Director Mike Dahilig said it's clear developers will not meet the April 13 deadline of completing demolition within six months of pulling permits, which would put them in violation of one condition of their permit. 

As a commissioner reminded developer Chad Waters: "A lot was given, and with much given, a lot was expected. It was given with the understanding deadlines would be met. So far it hasn't been a very good show on your part."

Waters, doing some really fast talking, said they can't actually do any demolition until they get a loan that will also allow them to actually purchase the project, but if it looks like they might lose a permit, the lender could delay funding. He blamed the holidays — really? — for delays in getting financing. Gee, you'd think Waters would have figured all that in before he pulled the permit.

Anyway, good for Mike for standing firm and saying he will hold the developer to the conditions of the permit. Will the Commission back him up, or let another developer play string along? 

So Gov. Ige is finally feeling enough heat that he brought up air conditioning for schools in his State of the State address. He's promised to use $100 million of Green Energy Market Securitization funds to install energy-efficiency measures and air-conditioning units in classrooms where children need it the most.

However, as our own Mina Morita — former director of the state Public Utilities Commission — notes:

The fund the Gov is using is just a clean energy technology loan program where a/c doesn't qualify in the definition or use. If you read between the lines the money will be used for repairs and upgrades to increase renewables and efficiencies which may include some a/c. It is not a direct commitment to deal with the problem. The only real commitment is if it's included in the general fund budget.

Mina delves into the issue more deeply on her blog, Energy Dynamics. She's running for one of three vacancies on the KIUC board, bringing in an incredible level of expertise that could only benefit co-op members. Watch your mail for ballots, starting in mid-February.

Ige also acknowledged the state erred when it did not follow the law in either the Hawaii Superferry or Thirty Meter Telescope projects.

Yes, and the state also erred in its interpretation of the state shoreline setback laws. Regardless of how you feel about any of those issues, there is a process, and the state needs to follow its own rules.

Speaking of following the rules, the Kauai County Planning Department has hit Bill and Kathy Cowern with a $10,000 fine. The county found the couple's Hale Kua visitor accommodation operation violated the zoning ordinance. According to website, Hale Kua offers four B&Bs and a TVR in the agricultural district, none of them permitted.

Meanwhile, the county Planning Department has again amended the homestay/B&B bill, this time to prohibit such uses outside of the Visitor Destination Area (VDA). The draft bill also would funnel renewal fees into a fund to finance enforcement of transient accommodations.

If the ordinance is ultimately adopted, the two-dozen homestays that have already gotten use permits to operate outside the VDA would not be affected.

The department took the action after the County Council indicated it was heading in that direction, even though Councilmembers Gary Hooser and JoAnn Yukimura continued to argue for allowing such uses outside the VDA. Hooser also supported such uses on ag land.

The Planning Commission held a public hearing on the proposed ordinance yesterday.

In terms of enforcement, Commissioner Wayne Katayama noted that “the fines are pretty modest compared to the daily and weekly rates they're enjoying.” But he also indicated he didn't want the county to spend a lot of time busting people who were in violation because they failed to renew their permits.

Well, that's great, if your intent is to keep the TVR numbers up. But when people have been given a tremendous financial gift, in the form of a use that runs with the land, you'd think they'd be motivated to renew in a timely fashion. If they don't, they're out. Some owners are two and three years behind on renewal. How generous should the county be?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Musings: Wake Up Call

Woke up and made the mistake of looking at emails on my phone while lying in bed, which had the effect of a double shot of espresso, in terms of getting me up and out, dogs leashed, the three of us hurrying along, my head swirling with the angst and aggravation that the Internet so often brings.

And then, as invariably happens, the first streaks of pink in the east caught my eye, the soft halo around a waning golden moon, a flock of birds, circling, circling, circling, as one or two split off and went their own way — why? — before the rest finally settled onto telephone wires and the miracle of a sun rise happened yet again.

I stopped, I watched, I breathed, dogs sniffing, exploring the same world, in a different way. My head cleared, my heart slowed, peace returned, and I came home, looking for some good news to share.

Please go see the documentary Farmland, screening at 4:30 p.m. today in the KCC cafeteria. If you can't make it, catch it streaming on youtube, Netflix, or one of the other platforms.  We all need a better understand of where our food comes from, and those who produce it.

To borrow some Led Zeppelin lyrics: "Lots of people talkin', few of them know..."

Here's one trailer and another.

And though it's unrelated, this caught my eye:

Seems Australia's oldest man spends much of his time knitting sweaters for little penguins affected by oil spills, and beanies for premature babies.

If only the trolls who haunt this blog could find some meaningful purpose in their own stunted, shallow lives....

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Star-Advertiser Op-Ed: Anti-GMO activists endangering future of agriculture in Hawaii

This is an op-ed piece that I published in the Star-Advertiser today. I'm reprinting it here since it's behind a paywall. My primary message: "We need to support all viable ag in Hawaii."

As the Hawaii Legislature convenes to do its work this session, lawmakers are facing pressing issues that range from the epidemic of homelessness to balancing the budget.

Schools, energy, affordable housing, health care, higher education — all of these important community needs are crying out for attention.

Yet to hear the anti-GMO groups tell it, the Legislature’s No. 1 priority should be imposing more regulations on agriculture under the guise that we’re facing grave dangers from farms that grow genetically modified crops.
Never mind that GMO crops are already highly regulated by state and federal agencies, and evidence of them causing any actual harm in Hawaii is scant to non-existent.

The Center for Food Safety, Babes Against Biotech, Earthjustice and Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action have decided that GMOs are bad, so they’re busily drumming up fear, encouraging the gullible and ignorant to pester our politicians into imposing more regulations.

Though they’re targeting the seed crops, their actions affect a much broader swath of agriculture at a time when Hawaii is losing big independent farms, like Richard Ha’s Hamakua Springs, and its last sugar plantation.

Yet even as these anti- GMO activists assert that farm pesticides are harming islanders, they are curiously silent about the pest control and termite treatment companies that apply significantly more restricted-use pesticides than agriculture.

Why are they focusing so intently on agriculture, while ignoring other users, including homeowners who account for the overwhelming majority of pesticide poisonings?
Local residents and lawmakers need to understand that the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice are mainland-based groups that are using Hawaii to wage their national campaign against GMO crops. Both groups make money from suing federal agencies over GMOs and frightening people into sending them donations.

Though Center for Food Safety and the Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action claim grassroots support, tax returns indicate the bulk of their funding comes from mainland foundations, not local donors.

Campaign filings also show some anti-GMO candidates have received backing from real estate interests that stand to greatly benefit from the collapse of ag in the islands.

In short, these are self-perpetuating, self-interested advocacy groups. We cannot allow them to influence, much less direct, our agricultural policies.

With Hawaiian Commercial &Sugar Co. shutting down at the end of this year, leaving the future of its 36,000 acres in doubt, Hawaii agriculture is again at a major crossroads.
Legislative policies adopted now will affect its future viability. Restrictions imposed on big farms also impact the bottom line of struggling small farmers.

Like it or not, the seed companies are here, and they’re the No. 1 agricultural sector in the islands. They’re a primary source of skilled, well-paying farm jobs with benefits, and they’re helping to keep agriculture viable for the future by maintaining irrigation systems and other crucial infrastructure.

This is the time to be supporting all agriculture in Hawaii, rather than demonizing any segment of it.
We need to help all viable farms succeed. People have so many expectations of agriculture, yet it receives less than 1 percent of the state’s budget.

Hawaii legislators, most of whom live in urban areas and have little understanding of agriculture, must resist the political pressures exerted by these advocacy groups.

Lawmakers need to rely on farmers, the true experts, to help them make good policy decisions.
Far too much legislative time has been wasted on a manufactured controversy that has divided our community solely to benefit the coffers and agenda of mainland advocacy groups and political demagogues.

It’s time to set our priorities straight and boost, not bash, agriculture.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Musings: Spun Honey

Combine ax-grinding masquerading as science with poor reporting, and what do you get? A perfect storm of distorted information. Or to be more specific, today's article in The Garden Island about glyphosate (Roundup) in local honey.

It's a pattern we've seen play out repeatedly on Kauai, as activists use the crummy local newspaper to deliver a skewed message intended to generate paranoia while advancing an anti-ag cause.
A frame full of honey.
At issue is a science project conducted by Kapaa High School student Ritikaa Kumar. Though the article does not offer any actual data, it does include inflammatory rhetoric by beekeeper and anti-GMO activist Jimmy Trujillo and a questionable health effects reference from that stellar science source, Mother Earth News.

And though the reporter allows Trujillo to ramp up the fear factor over the purity of local honey, and wildly speculate about bee colony health, she fails to mention that 21 of the 38 samples contained no residue of glyphosate at all.

The reporter also never questioned the study's methodology; most notably, the process used to collect the honey. Some of the participating beekeepers were given bottles and told to collect honey themselves, and the article noted that Trujillo helped collect samples from some of the hives.
Absolute Kauai honey.
When I asked Carl Berg — identified by the article as Kumar's mentor — how they ensured integrity of the samples, he replied:

I trusted the integrity of the beekeeper and there was a signed chain of custody for samples once beekeeper turned them over. Some samples were collected in presence of student. Beekeepers don't want people messing with their bees.

Extremely hard to add glyphosate at those extremely low levels. Also hard to fake clean since you don't know what areas are clean.

It's not the fake clean that concerns me. It's the purposeful contamination by those, like Trujillo, who lack integrity and are keen to make the seed companies look bad. Because guess what? The highest levels were supposedly found on the westside, though you wouldn't know that from the reporter's claim that “the area around Kupua and Kapena” — two places that apparently do not even exist — “had the highest levels of glyphosate.”

But even if you accept the accuracy of the samples, we're still talking about extremely low levels of residue. The highest amount, found in just one sample, was 341.6 parts per billion. To put that in context, one drop of ink in one of the largest tanker trucks used to haul gasoline would represent 1 ppb.

So WTF is the problem? Well, now we need to add a bit of backstory.

Berg and Don Heacock, who is convinced his own health problems resulted from pesticide exposure, first proposed the idea of sampling honey for glyphosate last year, at a meeting of the Kauai Beekeepers (KBEE). Dr. Danielle Downey, who was then the state apiarist, advised against it, saying it was not a good method of assessing bee or hive health.

Pollen and wax samples provide a much better indicator of pesticide contamination, and a county-funded survey of those hive products was under way when Downey took a job on the mainland. She had previously told me that Hawaii has some of the cleanest pollen in the nation.

Downey also noted the risks of a honey study. Because there is no authorized level of any contaminant in honey, if any amount of any chemical is found, the honey must be condemned. And that has serious implications for Kauai beekeepers, many of whom depend on honey sales to offset the cost and time of maintaining their hives.

The TGI quotes Trujillo as saying:

It’s concerning because pesticides shouldn’t be in honey, and now beekeepers have to question whether or not their honey is safe to sell.

As president of KBEE, Jimmy should know it's not a question of whether the honey is “safe” to sell. Honey may not be sold period if it contains any contaminants, regardless of the level.

But since the identity of beekeepers who participated in the study will remain a secret, the public will be left wondering whether the local honey they buy is safe. Though Berg suggested those who tested clean could use a “glyphosate free” sticker, that casts a taint on people who did not participate in the study, and can't afford to do their own testing, and thus don't know whether their honey truly is “glyphosate free” or not.

TGI reports Trujillo, who has no science training, as saying: 

The new finding may explain why some bee colonies are dying, Trujillo added.

What bee colonies are dying? Kauai doesn't have the colony collapse disorder. It does have the small hive beetle, which has caused many beekeepers to lose hives, including Jimmy, who also loses hives because he's over-extended and doesn't manage them well.
But it doesn't matter than Trujillo is engaged in groundless speculation about a non-existent problem. Soon we will hear people claiming that Roundup is killing all the bees and poisoning all the honey on Kauai. 

Just what we need: more fear about agriculture based on purposeful misinformation.

And though it's impossible to determine exactly where the bees may have picked up the glyphosate — their typical foraging territory extends two miles from the hive, though they've been observed foraging at two and even three times this distance — Kumar is working up a statistical correlation of glyphosate concentration and land use type.

But no, this isn't agenda-driven science, even though the results were given to the Joint Fact Finding Group and Kumar is reported as saying, "I’m big into the GMO movement, and everyone is passionate about it." (Berg says that was a misquote, for which a retraction is being demanded.)

Despite the buzz about dirty honey that this TGI hatchet job will create, the real story, as an astute friend observed, is that only two students from Kapaa High School entered the science fair. The rest is just TGI BS.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Musings: Activism 101

Activism 101: Before you call for an action, make sure you've got the bodies to support it.

The People Over Profits rally staged at yesterday's opening of the Hawaii Legislature drew a crowd of perhaps 200 that steadily dwindled as speakers took the stage.
Perhaps people are just tired of listening to Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser.
And bored with Walter Ritte.

Meanwhile, four floors up and worlds away from the tired old Shame banner hanging from the railing of the Capitol rotunda,  Sen. President Ron Kouchi — the Kauai politician who got Gary's job when he made an unsuccessful bid for Congress — was the center of attention.

I wonder who had the better day?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Musings: Bite the Hand

Though the Hawaii anti-GMO movement is adopting an “anti-corporate” theme as it converges on the state Capitol today, nearly all of its funding is derived from corporate profits.
A review of the newest batch of foundation and nonprofit tax returns shows that anti-GMO groups like Center for Food Safety (CFS), Hawaii SEED and Gary Hooser's HAPA receive nearly all their money from corporate sources, including manufacturing, oil and multinational pharmaceuticals.

The corporate funding is especially ironic in light of the groups' recent Food Justice Summit, where speakers railed against Western corporations while ignoring both their own benefactors and the expanding, often devastating, actions of Chinese corporations in the developing world.

The sharp disconnect between rhetoric and actual funding underscores the deep hypocrisy of the groups. But the money that's being donated points to another, much bigger concern. As these anti-GMO groups actively lobby politicians and field candidates, they are helping a few wealthy mainlanders exert undue influence on Island politics and policies, with virtually no public scrutiny, awareness or accountability.

The primary benefactors of the Hawaii anti-GMO/anti-ag groups are the Ceres Trust and Ceres Foundation, which were founded by Judith Kern using profits from the sale of her father's Midwestern generator manufacturing company, and the Marisla Foundation, started by oil heiress and occasional North Shore Kauai resident Anne Getty Earhart. Marisla is endowed with a wide range of corporate stocks.

Though HAPA's mission statement directs the group to “catalyze community empowerment and systemic change towards valuing  Ľaina (environment) and people ahead of corporate profit,” it nonetheless runs on corporate profits . The group reported income of $121,446 in 2014. Though HAPA claims to be grassroots, in 2014 it received $50,000 from Ceres Trust, a grant of an undisclosed sum from the Hawaii People's Fund and a grant from CFS to make a video. In 2015, it received $50,000 from Marisla and $10,000 from the Herb Block Foundation. Though it's still unknown what additional grants it got in 2014 and 2015, due to the long lag in tax return filings, it's clear that its funding is more foundation-based than “grassroots.”

Marisla also gave CFS $75,000 in 2014 and $125,000 to the Center for Media and Democracy, a source of slanted reporting against GMOs. It gave another $445,000 to the Hawaii Community Foundation (HCF) for grants funded under the "Marisla Fund," but the HCF website does not reference that fund, and its own tax return is not yet available.

But the bigger money comes from Ceres, which in 2014 gave CFS $20,789 for "Hawaii Strategy Meeting Expenses," $600,000 for "General Operating Support," $10,000 for a speaking tour co-hosted with Hawaii Seed and the Pesticide Action Network (a group that also spent money advocating for GMO/pesticide regulatory Bill 2491 on Kauai), for a total of $630,789.

The Hawaii anti-GMO groups frequently work in tandem, and though they maintain a facade of independence, they're frequently populated with the same activists using money from the same source. In 2014, for example, the Ceres Trust gave Hawaii SEED $76,396 to fund an Oahu outreach coordinator and $84,885 for seed workshops. It also gave the Kohala Center, which is linked to Nancy Redfeather of Hawaii SEED, $84,885 for general operating support.

As an aside, Kern and her husband, Kent Whealy, previously contributed to the campaign of Walter Ritte, secretary of Hawaii SEED, when he made a failed bid for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Meanwhile, the Ceres Foundation, Kern's other Milwaukee-based charity, separately gave $500,000 to the Center for Food Safety in 2014. An already filed 2015 return for the Ceres Foundation shows that it has dissolved and transferred the balance of its funds to the Ceres Trust.

The Ceres Trust also provides nearly all the funding for E Kupaku Ka Aina (Hawaiian Land Restoration Institute), a group that has worked against GMO taro. In 2014, it received $328,735 from Ceres for a "Taro Project" and another $50,000 for a kalo production video documentary. As an indication of the impact wielded by the Ceres money, consider that E Kupaku's budget was $11,638 in 2010 and just $50 in 2009.

What's more, the Ceres money allows E Kupuku to engage in largesse, such as awarding 2013 subgrants to the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden in Kona ($23,741), which has been active in anti-GMO efforts, and Maui Nui Botanical Gardens ($47,294). This trickle-down approach allows anti-GMO groups to endear themselves to a wider constituency.

Ceres and Marisla also funded the National Tropical Botanical Gardens on Kauai and Marisla donated to Moanalua Gardens on Oahu as well, allowing them to broadly carry the torch for indigenous ag (taro), organic ag and popularization of seed saving. This strategy is likely building a broader, networked support constituency in Hawaii than they'd be able to focusing on their anti-GMO message alone.

This outsider funding of local anti-GMO movements is repeated in Vermont and California, where Ceres has been a major player in the labeling fight.

The overall objective is influencing the national legal and regulatory framework via select county ordinances and state laws, with the hope that the rest of the nation follows suit. They know they can't win everywhere, which is why the Hawaii GMO court cases are so important.

Meanwhile, the local anti-GMO groups — eager for cash, and not too astute — are allowing themselves to be used as political pawns by the 1%. No doubt most of their followers are unaware, which is why they don't even realize they're biting the hand that feeds them as they take their anti-corporate message to the Capitol today.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Musings: Food Injustice

The Food Justice/Food Sovereignty agenda now being peddled in Hawaii, and elsewhere, is missing several key ingredients.

First and foremost among them are the concepts of justice and sovereignty. Just so we're all on the same page, let's start by defining those terms. Justice: just behavior or treatment, fairness, impartiality, objectivity, neutrality, honesty, righteousness and morality. Sovereignty: a self-governing state; personal control.

The Food Justice Summit — a series of statewide talks culminating in a “convergence on the Capitol” for Wednesday's opening of the Legislature — is sponsored by the anti-GMO groups HAPA and the mainland-based Pesticide Action Network.

These groups, in their dogged determination to ban GMO crops, are working to deny millions of farmers the right to choose what seeds they want to grow. How does preventing farmers from exercising personal control over their own production advance sovereignty?

Clearly, it doesn't.

Many of these farmers are small-holders in developing nations who are finally earning enough money, through the cultivation of GMO seeds, to send their daughters to school, buy a two-burner propane stove so they no longer have to cook over dung fires. Denying them access to the technology of their choice — good seeds — returns them to a life of poverty. How is that just?
Clearly, it isn't.

Self-serving groups like HAPA and PAN — both are making money off their anti-GMO stance — refuse to accept that peasants and small-hold farmers willingly choose these “corporate seeds” because they deem them superior. It's so patronizing — and so steeped in Western colonial thinking — to believe these farmers have been duped or forced to purchase GMO seeds. No, they all made free choices, based on what they determined to be the most productive, and thus the most likely to turn a — gasp — profit.

Because you see, farmers want to earn profits, too. Though they may feel good about doing work that feeds others, I haven't met one who is in it for pure altruism. Much as elite Western activists love to romanticize about the simple, bucolic lives of brown-skinned peasants and campesinos elsewhere, small-holder farmers want to make money so they can have mobile phones, air conditioning, medical care and educated kids — you know, all the stuff that privileged Western activists take for granted.

In fact, some of these farmers want GMO seeds so badly that they smuggle them into countries where they're banned. A Chinese reporter at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul told me that's how China got into biotech crops: its own farmers smuggled in Bt cotton seeds, so the government had to get on board to meet farmer demand.
Andrea Brower,  a HAPA board member, recently wrote a Huffington Post blog in which she railed against corporations and hailed the group La Via Campensina, whose work she described thus:

They are defending against land grabs, "free trade," enclosure of seed and genetic commons, corporate power, human rights violations, environmental degradation, and policies that create hunger.

Mmm, shouldn't Andrea and her comrades be applauding the Chinese and South Asia peasants who bootleg GMO seeds for thwarting the corporate system of patents and seizing the seeds they wish to use? Shouldn't they be championing small-holder farmers who choose GMO seeds that produce higher yields with fewer pesticide applications and less tilling, thus thwarting hunger and reducing environmental degradation?

Yes, they should. But that reality does not fit with their anti-GMO dogma. So instead, the anti-GMO activists pretend that the millions of farmers who are exercising free will and practicing true food sovereignty either do not exist, or do not matter. Boy, talk about marginalizing the poor under the guise of "justice."

Andrea and the other anti-GMO activists, in their rush to demonize the seed companies for supposedly taking all the good land and stymying local production, also fail to recognize that there is ample fallow land to practice food sovereignty in Hawaii. If they were truly serious, activists could begin right now to "restore a fairer, more healthy food system." 

What's missing, however, are actual peasants to do the work. Which is why the big taro farms import Micronesian to labor in the loi, the seed companies bring in Filipinos and the large vegetable growers on Oahu use Southeast Asians.

That leads to us what else is missing from the Hawaii Food Justice Summit — farmers. Not one of the four people flown in to lecture us about food production in the Islands is an actual farmer. They're all activists.

And as we've already seen in Hawaii, while activists are good at pointing out what's wrong with ag, and blaming the seed companies and sugar plantation for all woes, they have yet to provide us with viable alternatives, much less demonstrate they know what they're talking about or are willing to do the work.
Heck, HAPA President Gary Hooser recently admitted he can't even keep up with the yard work on his own small Wailua Homesteads residential lot. Yet he is leading a movement whose primary purpose is dictating how others should farm.

Though my kanaka friends say nation-building could start today through occupying — by which is meant cultivating, not camping — loi on state-managed lands, they can't find people willing to do the work. Folks might show up for a day, but then they're gone.

Posting simplistic, distorted memes on social media, marching and blaming others is so much easier than actually hoeing or tilling.
Just like it's so easy, when ensconced in an echo chamber, to rhapsodize and rhetoricize about an agricultural Utopia, where everyone is given free land and water, and they grow crops collectively, with no thought of profit, following a formula prescribed by non-farmers who don't get their hands dirty and banish anyone who questions the dogma.

But creating and implementing workable plans that actually feed billions? Well, that's quite a bit harder. Which is why the Hawaii Food Justice Summit, with its token kanaka, imported activists and Maoist jingoism, is essentially a charade hosted by poseurs.

Andrea ended her post with a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.:

But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, "Who owns the oil?" You begin to ask the question, "Who owns the iron ore?" You begin to ask the question, "Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water?"

There's much to ponder in the words of Dr. King, whom I deeply admire, and few would argue that the world is full of injustice and inequities — including those perpetrated by misguided, self-righteous "food activists."

Meanwhile, Andrea and the rest of the HAPA-crites might also wish to reflect upon the words of another famous man:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We'd all love to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We'd all love to change the world

But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out
Don't you know it's gonna be all right
All right, all right

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan

You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We're all doing what we can
But if you want money
For people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait

You say you'll change the constitution
Well, you know
We'd all love to change your head
You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead

You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow

Tomorrow, I'll address the inherent hypocrisies of the supposedly "anti-corporate," anti-GMO groups behind the Hawaii Food Justice Summit.