Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Musings: On the Gamut

I feel a little sorry for Maui, having a chemtrail believer and anti-GMO campaigner leading its fight against the rat lungworm virus.

I'm talking about its state health officer, Dr. Lorrin Pang. He's been a bit distracted in recent years, which may help explain why he failed to recognize or head off a real and serious health threat on his island.

Still, as one friend observed upon seeing a news photo of him picking through leaves in search of the semi slugs that spread the disease, “Finally they have Lorrin Pang doing something productive.”
It's also been interesting to see some of the anti-pesticide folks avidly embrace poison — sales of rat traps and slug bait are booming — once they feel threatened by a pest.

In following up on last week's water forum on Kauai, the truly telling part came when panelists were asked whether they condemned or condoned last October's vandalism at the Blue Hole diversion last October. Adam Asquith, Kui Palama and Hope Kallai didn't consider it vandalism at all; indeed, they felt it was justified.

While I respect Kui for the well-researched work he's done to uphold traditional Hawaiian rights, which included a prolonged (and ultimately successful) court case following his 2011 arrest for hunting pig on Gay & Robinson land, Adam more typically incites others to do the dirty work rather than risk a run in with the law himself. As for Hope, why was she even on that panel? How is she qualified to be talking about Kauai water issues?

In any case, those who condone the vandalism of a fully permitted water diversion that serves a public utility's hydro plants are standing on shaky moral and legal ground. One, KIUC customers will foot the bill for the damage. Two, the vandalism was poorly executed and ineffective in achieving its goal, though it did dump debris into the stream. Three, it was stupid, especially since the state and KIUC are already working to establish flow standards for that stream and revise the diversion so it doesn't take 100 percent of the stream during low-flow periods.
Rubble dumped in stream from vandalism.
In other words, a solution based in law and science was already in the works before vandals got into the act. Moral of the story? Educate yourself before jumping to conclusions and taking matters into your own hands. And it's always wrong for people who should know better — Adam and Don Heacock — to use misinformation to provoke others to do something foolish.

Speaking of doing something foolish, the state Legislature is still considering HB 2, which would allow the construction of tiny homes on agricultural lands. As written, the bill currently applies only to Hawaii Island, but it sets a terrible precedent for allowing the proliferation of housing — and sub-standard housing, at that — on ag land. The bill is set for a conference committee hearing today, where hopefully it will be put to death.

Rep. Cindy Evans, who introduced the measure, deserves an F grade for promoting a really stupid approach to her island's housing shortage. As a leader, she should be finding solutions to the housing problem, not allowing non-farmers to profit by building shoddy shacks on their ag parcels. Talk about a cop out.

Continuing on the “something foolish” track, the Lege is also considering two bills that would allow online brokers, like Airbnb and VRBO, to collect taxes for the state. Problem is, only one would require operators to prove they are in compliance with county laws, while the other allows owners to self-certify.

Now, why would the Lege want to undermine the hard work of county planning departments, which are already struggling to enforce the existing vacation rental ordinances?

Speaking of which, Kauai County recently scored an enforcement victory when Judge Kathleen Watanabe found the county acted properly in shutting down Rene Campos' illegal TVR in Kilauea. Though attorney Jonathan Chun argued the conversion of a guest house to a TVR was “grandfathered,” the judge didn't buy it. Planning Director Mike Dahilig praised the action, using strong language in a a county press release:

“I would like to acknowledge our legal team in defending our enforcement actions to stop those wishing to cheat our land use laws because they are tempted by the large sums of money these vacation rentals can yield. Illegal vacation rentals like these take valuable housing out of the long-term housing market for our local residents, and is precisely why our vacation rental laws need to be respected.”


And finally, Joni Kamiya managed to win over one of the activists protesting her participation in the Honolulu March for Science on Saturday. Turns out he didn't actually know what he was talking about, and like so many other misinformed activists, wrongly equates Monsanto with all things GMO.

Education is a wonderful thing, so long as a mind is open enough to accept it. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Musings: Cowed by Anti-Science Bullies

I suppose it was inevitable that controversy should intrude into Saturday's March for Science-Hawaii.

Though the international event is intended to be a non-partisan celebration of the scientific method and scientific innovation, it seems that some folks just can't handle the presentation of viewpoints that oppose their own, especially when the facts aren't on their side. 

Yes, the anti-TMT (Tirty-Meter Telescope) and anti-GMO activists are all huhu that the Hawaii March organizers dared to invite speakers who represent the science side of these two issues. And in their typical “my way or the highway” approach to things, some of them are calling for a boycott –oh, boo hoo; your absence won't even be noticed — and/or actively trying to discredit and smear the participants they don't like.

Not surprisingly, their ranks include the Sierra Club's Nate Yuen and failed politician Gary Hooser, who huffed:
Uh, for starters, Joni Kamiya is hardly an “industry hack” — she's a health professional and the daughter of an Oahu papaya farmer — and it's kind of hard to see how the Alliance for Science can be a “Monsanto front group” when we don't get any money or other support from Monsanto. But then, when you have nothing real to criticize, you just make stuff up.

And truly, what could be less progressive than Hooser and his faux progressive group HAPA trying to stifle freedom of speech, open discussion, science and the presentation of various points of view? But as I've noted ad nauseum, the antis are afflicted with psychological projection, which is defined as:

Projection is a psychological defense mechanism in which individuals attribute characteristics they find unacceptable in themselves to another person. For example, a husband who has a hostile nature might attribute this hostility to his wife and say she has an anger management problem.

Of course, Hawaii Center for Food Safety had to chime in:
Sure, Ashley Lukens, come on down. Science deniers are always welcome at a science march. Sort of like the KKK crashing a civil rights rally.

Of course, this is nothing new. But what's really sad is how the University of Hawaii, which is hosting the March event, is cowering in the face of this controversy, rather than standing up to these bullies. Per usual, the antis started attacking Joni on the Hawaii March for Science Facebook page, which had posted an announcement about her planned speech, just as it acknowledged the other speakers in tomorrow's line up at UH.

Joni responded to correct the lies and other science-defenders joined in, pointing out the misinformation and lack of science that drives the anti-GMO stance.

The organizers —neophtyes to the ugliness that characterizes the anti-GMO movmement — were appalled and began deleting some of the nastier comments. This was followed by them asking Joni not to talk about GMOs or pesticides during her 5-minute talk.

Or as a friend quipped:

Dear Galileo -
We are looking forward to your speech at the Vatican. We all agree on the value of science. Just please don’t mention your idea about the earth going around the sun.
Love, the Catholic Church

Now, Joni hadn't actually planned on talking about GMOs or pesticides, but nobody likes to be gagged, especially at an event that is supposed to be about defending science.

But here's the really troubling part: the UH organizers said they didn't want any hot topics. Huh? Uh, guys, that's what the March for Science is all about. Defending scientific integrity and the increasingly critical need for evidence-based decision-making at a time when ignorant, anti-science demagogues and their sheep are making like beliefs and opinions are more important that facts.

Sadly, UH has been intimidated by the anti-GMO activists for quite a while, ever since Walter Ritte ranted and raged about GM taro in yet another one of his ill-informed self-promoting tirades. Never mind that the research involved Chinese taro, and was being conducted by a Chinese woman. It wasn't Haloa (the taro plant from which Hawaiians believe they are descended) at all. But UH was so cowed that it not only stopped the research, but destroyed all the lab work so that it couldn't be continued or replicated elsewhere.

That's a pretty sad stance for a publicly-funded university to take. And it's even sadder when you consider how far UH has fallen since the College of Tropical Ag (CTAHR) dean asked Dennis Gonsalves to come up with a solution to the ringspot virus that was destroying Hawaii's papaya industry. 

In response, Dennis developed the ringspot-resistant papaya — the world's first public sector GMO food crop. Now UH has very little biotech research going on, and it keeps it down low to avoid the wrath of the antis.

I'm certain UH would not tolerate bullying in its classrooms, or among its faculty. So why does it allow the activists to bully its professors, its deans, its March for Science organizers, the people it has invited to speak at events it is hosting?

Unless the people in Hawaii stand up to this bullying, it's only going to get worse. And if the highly educated professionals at UH are too afraid to stand up to the bullies, then it really doesn't bode well for the future of science-based research and policy-making in the Aloha State.

Still, at the end of the day, Joni will be speaking at the March for Science and the antis will not. So let them stew at home in their own toxic juices as those who support science, not fear-mongering, stand up for what's right.

Events are planned on every island. Join the March nearest you, and stand up for science, agriculture and the values of the Enlightenment.

For a little extra inspiration, I'll leave with you this video from Neil deGrasse Tyson: "When you have people who don't know much about science standing in denial of it and rising to power, that is a recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy. "

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Musings: Own It

Only Jessica Else and The Garden Island would treat a couple's eviction from the Kalihiwai Community Garden as “news.” I mean, gosh, cutting down a banana tree without permission? Heinous!

But in scanning that tripe, I was struck by this statement from the Board of Directors of Malama Kauai, which oversees the garden in Kalihiwai (and has co-opted the publicly-funded “community farm” in Kilauea by conferring its own name on the project):

It is our kuleana to hold members responsible for respectful behavior and our community garden rules are one way we do this in Kalihiwai.

How curious, that the Board demands “respectful behavior” from its gardeners, but does not hold its new executive director, Megan Fox, to the same standard. 

The Board's statement also noted that the couples' actions were not “the pono way of dealing with such a situation in our small community.”

Hmmm. Is the Board even aware of Megan's own disrespectful behavior, her own ugly history of failing to “[deal] with things in a pono way in our small community” — a community with a long memory, a community she has worked to polarize?

I'm talking about Megan's role in the anti-GMO movement, her participation in the mob mentality that surrounded the GMO/pesticide regulatory Bill 2491. And more specifically, her attacks on longtime Kauai flower farmer Johnny Goriness and his business,Tropical Flowers Express. As Joni Kamiya noted in her blog at the time:

When the issue of Bill 2491 hit the island of Kauai last year, some farmers, who know the agriculture issues in Hawaii, spoke out.  Johnny was one of them.  Others stood in the background instead of taking the risk of being a target.  Little did he know that he was not dealing with local folks, and was barraged with disrespect and hate for submitting testimony for the bill and for a letter in The Garden Island paper.

One of those disrespectful haters was Megan Fox, who arrived on Kauai from San Jose in 2013. Like so many other malihini looking to belong, she jumped on the anti-GMO bandwagon and quickly began trashing anyone who dared to disagree:
Even rabid anti Joanna Wheeler recognized that wasn't “the pono way of dealing with such a situation in our small community.”

But Megan went ahead and left disparaging remarks about Tropical Flowers Express on Yelp:
Yelp later removed at least one of her reviews “for violating our Content guidelines or Terms of Services.”

Now, I think just about anyone would consider it disrespectful for a JOJ — just off the jet — to trash talk a local who has devoted his life to agriculture. Especially when that JOJ knows zero, zip, zilch about farming:
But Megan didn't stop at Johnny. She also attacked others who are pillars in the Hawaii ag community, including Jerry Ornellas, Kirby Kester and Dennis Gonsalves:
Of course Megan, who is now trying to pass herself off as a "farmers advocate" on Kauai, would love to sweep her past under the rug. Which is why, when Joni recently posted about the attacks on small farmers and I referenced Megan's behavior, Megan contacted Facebook to complain, prompting FB to delete the comments for not meeting its "community standards."

When I emailed Megan about her actions to wipe out the FB comments, she replied:

I'm not sure what happened to you to be so vindictive and hateful but I really hope you go back to finding aloha for others and not continue to be so focused on dredging up negative hate. 

Yes, that's how the antis twist things. When you highlight their self-described "negative hate" you suddenly become the hater who needs to find aloha for others. WTF?

Megan continued:

Our community needs to build bridges, overcome the past and work together towards common future to benefit all. There ARE things we can agree on, and focusing on moving those things forward is much more beneficial than mud slinging and gossip. Why you're so against that I will never know.

I replied:

If you’re interested in "building bridges, overcoming the past and working toward a common future to benefit all," you would have taken that opportunity to apologize to Johnny Gordines. Instead, you sought to have me censored by complaining to FB to get the comment removed.

Let me turn your question around: what happened to YOU to be so vindictive and hateful during 2491? To the extent of trying to destroy a good man’s business.

I’m definitely not against finding common areas of agreement and moving forward, though I certainly don’t see you or any of the other antis working toward that. But it really grates to see people who were actively working to harm small farmers now claim to be all peace and love and ag advocates, no less.

Please drop the sanctimony and self-righteousness. It rings hollow.

To borrow a line from sovereignty and social justice movements, "there can be no reconciliation without addressing the past." 

Regardless of how one feels about GMOs, there's no denying that the anti movement sowed an ugly divisiveness in the community that chillingly mirrored the Twilight Zone classic "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." 

And yes, it does grate to see antis now making like nothing nasty ever happened as they try to recreate themselves as "aloha aina warriors" and "agvocates."

If people like Megan want to enjoy a position of leadership and respect in the community, they should start by issuing an apology and showing a little humility. And since they love to throw around Hawaiian words like "pono" and "malama aina," here's one they should learn: ha'aha'a.

Yes, let's all move forward — from a place of the antis acknowledging and taking responsibility for their bad behavior, their false accusations against farm workers, their polarization, their lies. 

And don't come back with "Monsanto is evil." We're not talking about Monsanto. We're talking about real harm done to real farmers and ag workers in your own back yard. Own it.

Especially if you plan to start holding others to "respectful and pono behavior."

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Musings: Dishonest Debate

Even as the GMO battle still rages, a new brouhaha is brewing. This time, it's all about water.

We've already seen it bubbling up on Maui, where folks are challenging A&B's longstanding diversion of East Maui streams, in part through litigation that exposed deficiencies in the revocable permit process that the Legislature addressed last session.

Kauai activists have also tried to pump it up as an issue, first with unsuccessful attempts to have Lihue declared a ground-surface water management area and later through vandalism and false claims about the Wailua diversion.

Now, in a throwback to the 2013 Earth Week “pollinators and pesticides” panel that gave Kauai anti-GMO activists Gary Hooser and Fern Rosenstiel a platform for pushing Bill 2491, Kauai Community College is hosting a Thursday afternoon panel discussion on water.

It's not completely clear who is actually sponsoring the event, though Josh Fukino, an instructional support specialist at KCC, sent out the emails solicting speakers. What is clear is that it's not intended to be an honest debate:

There will be only one question presented for discussion and the goal is to come up with some solutions that all stakeholders can agree upon.

The waters of Wailua, Waikoko, Ili'ili'ula, Wai'aka, "iole, and Waiahi are taken and used by a few entities. But the public at large, and certain people and places with standing, have constitutionally protected rights to those waters in their free flowing state and for other uses. What do you reccomend [sic] be done to assure that these constitutional rights are fullfilled, within the lifetime of some of the kupuna asking for them (<5 font="" years="">

Sorta like asking, when did you stop beating your wife? Is everybody supposed to agree, with no debate, on the premise that people have constitutionally protected rights to waters in their free flowing state? What's more, it's not likely to “come up with some solutions that all stakeholders can agree upon” because the key stakeholder — Grove Farm — is not participating, largely because they correctly perceived it as a witch hunt.

Other participants include Adam Asquith, who was a player in both the water management area bid and inflammatory emails that were circulating prior to the Wailua diversion vandalism.

The week's events began yesterday with a talk by defeated state House candidate Tiare Lawrence, who was billed as a “Maui Aloha 'Āina warrior and HAPA Community Organizer” speaking about “Maui water struggles and protection of coastal resources.”

Never mind that she has no expertise on those topics. This is all about pushing an agenda, a particular point of view, at a publicly-funded community college. And how, exactly, does that help students develop critical thinking?

Speaking of which, Big Island Sen. Josh Green — a foe of modern agriculture — is eying a run for lieutenant governor. Is he seeking the job because it involves so little work that the current occupant wants out due to boredom?

Whatever, it seems like a great idea to get him out of the Senate, where he takes bizarre anti-science positions, such as “fixing” farming by restricting its access to agricultural chemicals.

Hmm. Maybe he could work on classifying homelessness as a medical condition, so doctors can prescribe housing. How might that work? (And parenthetically, how much would it cost?) That should keep him busy with something useful for a while.

And finally, Jan TenBruggencate has an interesting piece on mosquitoes in his Raising Islands blog. As he noted:

Mosquitoes are not native to Hawaii, but we’ve got them, and new evidence is that they’re growing increasingly dangerous.

Hawaii now has eight mosquito species, he reports, and they're spreading a number of diseases, including dengue and Zika, which has already caused severe birth defects —most commonly, a deformed brain — in dozens of American babies. And Hawai`i has had 16 reported cases of Zika, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

In other words, real danger, real threat. Yet as Jan notes:

Not to make too much of this, but two key weapons in attacking mosquito-borne illness are targeted insecticides and genetic modifications to impact mosquito populations. And in Hawai`i, both insecticides and genetic modification are being targeted by activists for entire bans or limitations on use of these products and technologies. Thus far, the Legislature and the courts have held off these movements.

So does it really serve the public interest to highlight these misguided movements with lop-sided presentations at KCC? 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Musings: Oh, the Irony

I love irony, especially the unintentional sort, which the Urban Dictionary defines as “bulldada.”

It's frequently apparent in the “anti” crowd, which, as I have oft noted, seems devoid of introspection:
Yes, Andrew Kimbrell and Ashley Lukens, if only you would let the scientists speak. Because the suppression of science — aka, following the anti-GMO playbook — is indeed a real buzz kill.

Here's another choice example, from Gary Hooser's Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action. They got to waxing philosophic about their recent crop of Kuleana Academy cadets:

The discussion on what it means to be pono calls on these graduates to make a commitment to exercise that power with courage and integrity, and to question that power at each turn. It invites this community of graduates to call each other out if someone acts in way that is not pono. [But be prepared to be trashed and ostracized if you dare question the antis' power structure, tactics or funding sources.] 

Stepping up is not easy. It takes courage, strength of character, and a strong moral compass. By nurturing a community of thoughtful and accountable leaders, we are investing in a pono future for Hawai‘i.

And you do that by refusing to reveal HAPA's funding sources and violating federal laws regarding lobbying and the support of partisan politics by nonprofit “public charities?” Uh, guys, if the seed is bad, it ain't gonna produce good fruit.

Meanwhile, Hooser demonstrates his own lack of integrity:
Then there's the irony of America's increasing appetite for organic food, as stimulated by the antis, who are heavily funded by the organics industry:

Once a net exporter of organic products, the United States now spends more than $1 billion a year to import organic food, according to the USDA, and the ratio of imported to exported products is now about 8-to-1.

Many of these organic imports are grown in the European Union, where more than 140,000 farmers are meeting Europe's weaker organic standards on 12.6 million acres of farmland.

One of the biggest exporters is Romania, which relies on cheap labor — the average pay is $485 per month. Another big exporter of organics is China, where both standards and safety are suspect. Once you start factoring in the carbon load, the weaker standards and the labor exploitation factors, organics get an even uglier profile. But hey, main thing the American consumer can pretend to be pure and righteous while chanting the mantra: support your local farmer. Even if he/she is Romanian or Chinese.

Some folks in a recent comment thread on this site got into claiming that GMO food is bad because it's making everyone fat. Hmm. So will they support genetically engineered gut microbes that appear to reduce obesity?

And what about the irony of paying more for a product with the “Non-GMO Project” sticker when there isn't even a GMO version of that particular food, like almonds? Greg Jaffe has a good blog post on that subject.
Or the irony of Simon Russell, president of the Hawaii Farmers Union United Haleakala Chapter, bemoaning the fickle, fearful consumers — you know, the kind the antis cultivate — who are cutting back on local lettuce and kale purchases because they're afraid of consuming the rat lungworm parasite:

“We can put robots on Mars. Why can’t we get rid of rats?”

Mmm, we can, Simon. But it's going to require either the extensive use of rodenticides — you know, the poisons you hate — or a helluva lot of live trapping and killing.

And let's not forget the irony of all those folks who would farm — if only all the land wasn't already poisoned — and their pals, the well-intentioned, but clueless, who figure all they need is Google, a government grant and their other non-farming comrades in Hawaii Farmers Union United:

Anybody interested in a north shore community garden. There are ag lots for sale near dole plantation. The biggest parcel is 18.37acres. At $70,000 per acre, that comes to $1,285,900. If 50 people want to split that, it comes to $25,718 per person. For the money you get 16,803sqft of farm land. Thats almost 1/2 an acre for $25k. We can get a board together with leaders and rules, maybe some kind of community building at the farm. Maybe we can have individual plots or just make a big, permaculture style food forest. Not to live there, just a farming project
Yeah, and all ya gotta do is sell 25,718 bunches of kale at $1 each to make your money back! Oh, the market is flooded because everyone else is growing kale, too, but nobody's buying it because of rat lungworm? Oops....

Of course, sometimes irony morphs into an outright oxymoron, as in:

Center for Food Safety | Fact Sheets

I'll leave you with this updated version of the Alanis Morissette classic:

Friday, April 14, 2017

Musings: Questionable

In the Orwellian newspeak-doublespeak category, Edible Hawaiian Islands has conferred a “local food hero” award on the Hawaii Center for Food Safety.

That's quite a feat, considering that CFS has done zip to advance either local food production or food safety. Not to mention its fear-mongering, ignorance-fomenting activities are decidedly non-heroic. But since when do facts matter?

More revealing was CFS director Ashley Luken's response:
Once again, we are reminded that CFS represents less than 1% of the state's population, even if we accept its questionable claim of “nearly 11,000 members." Then there's the hogwash about how Hawaii folks “fund our work.” As I've previously reported, CFS receives more than 80 percent of its funding from mainland foundations, and what cash it does get most likely generates from there, too, since its headquartered in Washington, D.C.

But most intriguing is Ashley's admission that Hawaii CFS is first and foremost a lobbying entity. Which raises serious questions about how it can legally pass itself off as an educational 501(c)(3) public charity, while apparently violating the federal law that prohibits nonprofits from using foundation funds to engage in lobbying.

Which leads us to a partner organization of CFS — Gary Hooser's Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action. It runs the Kuleana Academy, which claims:
Curious, then, to see the comment left by Russell Ruderman, the decidedly left-of-center and anti-GMO senator from the Big Island, on a Facebook post showcasing the spring crop of Kuleana Academy graduates:
Send me some reinforcements? Meet you at the barricades? Phony revolutionary rhetoric aside, that doesn't sound very nonpartisan to me.
Others offering their congratulations were anti-GMO activists Ashley Lukens and Jeri Di Pietro, president of of Hawaii SEED, as well as Jonathan Scheuer, the state Land Use Commissioner who secretly taped a video of then-Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi offering a drunken toast to Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho at a privately-hosted reception at the Hawaii Congress of Planning Officials.

Nope, no partisan politics at work here.

It's ironic, then — considering how American anti-GMO activists idolize Europe — to learn the European Parliament is starting to cast a critical eye on where non-governmental organizations get their money, according to an article in Politico:

On March 27, the Parliament’s budgetary control committee discussed a proposal put forward by German center-right MEP Markus Pieper calling for the EU to cut public funding for NGOs “demonstrably disseminating untruths” or campaigning for “objectives [that are] contrary to the fundamental values of the European Union.”

Even MEPs close to the NGO community are advocating for more transparency about funding. “It’s legitimate to have sources of funding from rich individuals who have convictions, but it should be transparent,” said Green MEP Sven Giegold, who backed a proposal in the Parliament obliging NGOs, think tanks and trade associations on the EU’s transparency register to disclose who their donors are.

Gee, that might be something for the Hawaii Legislature to consider in its next session: a law requiring nonprofits to disclose their donors. The article continues:

Among the most vocal critics of NGOs like Corporate Europe Observatory are corporate lobbyists, who accuse them of pushing narrow political ideologies, rather than the public interest they claim to represent.

“Most [NGOS] are open about who is funding their work,” said Marco Mensink, the director general of CEFIC, the chemical industry association and one of the biggest spenders on lobbying in Brussels. “Regrettably, some others don’t practice the transparency they preach or comply with the letter and spirit of EU transparency laws.”

Far from representing the will of the people, some NGOs distort the public debate “with dubious arguments, often fake figures and by fear-mongering tactics,” said Markus Beyrer, the director general of BusinessEurope, the bloc’s largest business lobby. This “raises broad questions over their democratic legitimacy and representativeness,” he added.

Yes, as the lobbyists register and disclose their funding sources, the so-called public educational charities in America operate in a murky world of “invisible donors,” many of them very wealthy, who wield undue influence on local and national politics.

Not to mention that the lack of transparency makes it almost impossible to track where money is going and how it is spent. Which leads us to a recent real estate transaction involving a two-unit parcel across from Koloa School:
County tax records show it was bought by Gary and Claudette Hooser last month.

Curious, how a failed politician who ended his last campaign in the hole can afford an expensive piece of southside real estate, even though he still owns his house in Wailua Homesteads. It's even more curious when you consider he is currently not working, and instead claims to be serving in a solely "volunteer" capacity for HAPA.

Perhaps he's planning to go into the B&B or TVR business — both of which he vigorously defended, even on ag land — or build that possible third unit. Maybe he's adding to his inventory as a landlord. Or it could all be on the up-and-up.

But so long as Hooser has a reputation as a liar, and access to what is a essentially a slush fund of undisclosed funding and expenditures through HAPA, it raises questions — questions that could be answered with a bit of the transparency he is demanding from agricultural entities and others.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Musings: Real and Imagined Dangers

I awoke to loud rumblings and booms, a sound that elicits a bit of dread in a place like Alamagordo, New Mexico, home to Hollman Air Force Base and the White Sands Missile Range. But then I walked outside and smelled the distinctively wonderful fragrance of rain in the desert, and knew it was thunder, not a bomb.

I'm here not for the military, but for the amazing natural beauty of White Sands National Monument. It's the world's largest gypsum dune field, 275 square miles of shimmering, glistening, sparkling white standing in brilliant contrast to the blue New Mexico sky. We hiked five miles through those shifting dunes, where we saw only the endemic earless ghost lizard, a fluttering black butterfly that was perhaps migrating from Mexico, a few ants and a small swarm of gnats. It is not a place conducive to much life, but it does not feel desolate or dead.
At two points during our hike formations of sleek Air Force jets streaked overhead, creating sonic booms that brought back early childhood memories of Stead Air Force Base in Nevada, where screaming jets and sonic booms were rather thrilling to kids too young to understand their chilling purpose.

Afterward, at the visitor center, I read about how the world's first atomic bomb was tested at the Trinity site, just 110 miles to the north, in 1945. It had been developed at the Los Alamos Laboratory, in the northern part of the state.
New Mexico has a long atomic heritage that continues to this day, with rural communities in the southeast part of the state now considering whether they're willing to host the nation's growing stockpile of nuclear waste, buried in shallow storage caverns carved from the ground.

Some worry about accidents, contamination of groundwater, the loss of a rural lifestyle practiced in wide-open spaces. Others see benefits for New Mexico's struggling economy, the development of jobs in a state with the nation's highest unemployment rate. A few politicians even speak with pride about New Mexico's opportunity to serve the entire country by taking on its nuclear waste burden.

Meanwhile, billboards near the capital city of Albuquerque advertise legal services to the uranium miners, Cold War veterans and “downwinders” who are suffering health problems as a result of radiation exposure. Residents of four counties in the Tularosa Basin, near the Trinity test site, recently completed their own health impact assessment in an effort to be included in the federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which is already helping downwinders in Nevada and Arizona.
Coincidentally, The Garden Island yesterday carried a story about a “downwinder” who now lives in Poipu and his extensive health problems.

Reading about his very real health problems, and those suffered by others who were exposed to radiation, got me thinking about the claims that have been leveled against the seed companies in Hawaii. None of those claims have been documented. Indeed, assertions of higher cancer rates have been disproven

And though defeated state House candidate Fern Rosenstiel is quoted in the March Against Syngenta e-book as saying she was prompted to join the anti-GMO movement after a friend of hers “had a baby with an abdominal wall defect through which part of its small intestine protruded,” there's no evidence that ag pesticides caused that birth defect, or that Kauai babies are disproportionately affected. 

The antis also have repeatedly asserted that the Hawaii Department of Health is ignoring their health concerns in favor of catering to corporate interests.

It was rather ironic, then, to see a recent report that ranked Hawaii #1 in the country for public health, #3 in health care quality and #2 in health care access. That's pretty good, considering all the hysterical assertions about how people and “paradise” are being poisoned by pesticides — but only the agricultural kind.

Meanwhile, the antis have been surprisingly mum about the rat lungworm disease that actually is making people seriously ill in Hawaii. You'd think a group that calls itself Center for Food Safety would be issuing public service announcements about how people can protect themselves from contracting rat lungworm disease, especially since it appears to be especially prevalent on the organic produce that group promotes.

But then, the whole anti-movement in Hawaii has never been about safety and health. It's all and only about trying to destroy GMO crops and conventional agriculture.

Still, it diminishes the real suffering of people like the downwinders when false claims are made about adverse health impacts to advance a political agenda. 

And despite all the money that's been poured into the Hawaii anti-GMO movement, we have yet to see any "evidence" — save for the very questionable hair samples provided by anti-GMO activist Malia Chun — that Hawaii folks are even being exposed to pesticides, much less harmed. Surely, if it's actually happening, they would have been able to produce one set of test results or some other smoking gun.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Musings: Continuing Conversations

It's spring, which means flowers, long days, baseball.

But to paraphrase the classic poem Casey at the Bat, “there is no joy in antiville — Lukens and Hooser have struck out.”

Yeah, despite — or perhaps because of — all their fear-mongering, threats, mob action and baby-toting mamas flown into hearings, Center for Food Safety and HAPA had a dismal session at the Lege:
Of course, that's all part of the plan. Because without "bad guys" — seed companies, conventional farmers, thinking citizens, politicians who don't cower and cave — they've got no battle. And without a battle, they've got no raison d'être. And without a raison d'être to attract donors, they've got no cash.

See how it works? It's not about protecting the keiki and kupuna. It's all about protecting the cash flow.

I had to laugh when Ashley recently thought she'd uncovered some dirt on me:
I know it's an unfamiliar concept, Ashley, but that's what's called balanced and accurate reporting. I wasn't actually building an argument for anything, just presenting different viewpoints on the use of herbicides on parks and along roadsides. The counties make a good case for why they still use Roundup.

Though she and others have tried to paint me a poison pimp, I've never maintained that pesticides are safe, or that some people aren't extremely sensitive to them. My position has always been that we have essentially no evidence to indicate that the seed companies are misusing pesticides, or that the pesticides used on seed crops are harming human or environmental health. It's always best if the problem can be solved without the use of pesticides, which is what the seed companies do with their Integrated Pest Management practices. 

It's also consistently been my position that the seed companies have been unfairly singled out, even though they use far fewer restricted use pesticides than the termite and pest control companies — something Gary Hooser knew when he introduced Bill 2491. The agenda has always been to destroy GMO ag, not reduce pesticide use.

What Ashley doesn't realize is I was never “paid off” by the Alliance for Science. I sought them out, because I wanted to fight people like Ashley. But the Alliance doesn't do battle with antis. We work to present the facts about crop biotechnology, share the positive stories of public sector research and amplify the voices of farmers who want to make their own choices about which seeds to plant.

So the Alliance pays me to help them do that, and I continue fight Ashley and the antis here in my personal blog.

But frankly, I'm growing weary of the blog battle, largely because the opponents are so banal. This hit home last week when I actually engaged with a few antis in the comment section of an article on Maui vs Monsanto, which is something I rarely do. Nearly all of them were posting under a pseudonym, so it could've been the same sock puppet posting comments that were the intellectual equivalent of “your mama wears combat boots.”

Needless to say, I didn't waste much time in that forum. But made me profoundly sad to think that  agricultural innovations developed by brilliant, altruistically motivated scientists are being stymied by dolts, some of whom also appear to be mentally ill.

On the other hand, that injustice also motivates me to keep going, because I fear for our food future if policies and laws are dictated by dullards and self-serving demagogues. So I keep pointing out their idiocy and doing my best to marginalize them and undermine their credibility.

Still, I keep thinking there's got to be a better way. Which is why I have engaged with Dr. Lee Evslin. Though I've criticized his writing, and we disagree on some things, we can talk. He's intelligent, and willing to consider other points of view. He's also actually motivated by a sincere concern for the common good, as opposed to the sickening self-interest of Hooser, Lukens, etc.

In our most recent correspondence, where I questioned his support for pesticide bills that were not grounded in science, he replied:

I had a career that contained virtually no contact with the legislative branch of government.  This has been a learning experience for me.  I did not consider any of the bills perfect and hoped that their issues would be ironed out in conference.  I actually made an attempt (at my own expense) to go to Oahu and discuss the bills with the legislators involved.  I support the concepts in my column and I made an attempt to point out areas that could be improved in the bills when I met with legislators.

I walked away from this endeavor with the feeling that the legislature is possibly not the place to create legislation of this nature.  The DOH sponsored a symposium on Environmental Toxins and the speakers were experts from the West-coast.  They spoke about California as it has some of the strictest rules on reporting and is working hard on a buffer zone policy and has a very robust farming economy.  Two comments made by the presenters were particularly interesting to me. They said that although they were researchers and were often at the forefront of studies suggesting possible harm from pesticides, they work well with the farms and actually are asked to help the farms safeguard their workers and participate in studies to show if they have been properly safeguarded.  They also said that the statewide buffer zone regulation they are working on is being designed by their Department of Pesticide Regulation not the legislature.  This certainly provides a very different forum to work out regs. 

I am very interested in this whole area of health and am glad to continue this conversation.

Now, this is the kind of conversation I am also interested in continuing, and I hope it's the kind of conversation that many more of us can have before the 2018 legislative session convenes. Because the Lege isn't the best place to deal with complex issues like buffer zones and pesticides.

We need to exclude people like Ashley, who claimed "there is no debate." There's a lot of debate, and it needs to be done by thoughtful, knowledgeable, reasonable people who are willing to compromise and be guided by science, not anecdotes and fear-mongering.

And then, perhaps, we can begin to heal some of the divisiveness caused by this manufactured drama and rediscover the joy of a connected, caring community.