We've been hearing a lot recently about the “poisoning” of “paradise,” by which is meant Hawaii, using a term typically employed in tourism marketing.
After witnessing a slew of videos, “fake news” articles, misinformed “infographics,” inflammatory social media memes, biased workshops, poorly written legislative bills, demonstrations, media commentaries and Facebook rants, I'm beginning to think it's true.
Except the cause isn't, as has been claimed, agricultural pesticides. It's the mainland-based movement that is orchestrating this fear-mongering charade with the sole goal of destroying GMO seed production in Hawaii.
This movement is led in the Islands by the Center for Food Safety, which spends nearly $1 million per year on its Hawaii office. With lobbyist Ashley Lukens at the helm, it pumps out a stready stream of propaganda aimed primarily at spreading misinformation and fear:
Just this past weekend, Ashley crowed about her success in shifting the discussion away from biotechnology, which was losing traction, and into pesticides – but ONLY ag pesticides:
Not surprisingly, the symposium featured people who toe the CFS party line, like Asa Bradman, an organic ag advocate.
Sadly, as Lukens and CFS bully Islanders to advance their national agenda, they are creating a toxic environment that is sickening personal relationships, civil debate, the legislative process and communities.
We saw it most recently with the Hawaii House deliberations on HB 790, a broad and vaguely worded bill that would require agricultural pesticide disclosure, give counties authority over pesticide regulations and allow citizens to sue farms over pesticide applications.
After much jubilation as the bill moved through committees, the antis realized it was going to fall. That's when they turned vicious.
Kauai Rep. Dee Morikawa, whose district includes seed farms and the people who work for them, was honest about the bill's shortcomings. In a recent comment on this blog, she spoke of the attacks she suffered when she “spearheaded the death of this bill:”
I have just exposed myself to the Public about my position on HB790, through the local newspaper and wouldn't you know, I get ridiculed through comments and social media, not to mention the terrible phone calls and threats. Elected officials don't want to expose their positions, on this issue, because of this. I don't even look at Facebook anymore, because it hurts. After working for the County for 35 plus years, I chose this path because I wanted to help my community with policy and funding that would make for a better lifestyle. When I first introduced the disclosure bill in 2013, I was the hero, except that it wasn't good enough to this group. I'm glad that the good neighbor program was developed and that the study came out and I felt that here forward we could start to establish policy that would be workable by the Departments involved. I, unlike Mr. Hooser, do not believe in shoving policy at entities that cannot accomplish it. I dig deep within myself and ask, do I want to do this...then I realize that if I don't, who will fight against these fear-mongering people.
Maui Rep. Angus McKelvey tried catering to the antis, yet he still suffered their wrath, prompting people like Center for Food Safety lobbyist Ashley Lukens to trash him in the newspaper and social media:
This effort, replete with lies, was joined by the SAFE action fund and Maui Councilmembers Alika Atay and Elle Cochran:
Their mob quickly piled on:
And now it appears his efforts to avoid the fury of the antis, by burning his colleagues, could cost McKelvey the chairmanship of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee.
Others, like Gary Hooser and his HAPA group, denounced the House for sending the bill back to committee, which effectively killed it for the session, rather than taking a voice vote:
Which part of the democracy and transparency says its OK to threaten, badger and harass legislators simply because they don't agree with you? Isn't that the sort of behavior that got "progressives" all huhu about the Tea Party — even as they know adopt those same tactics?
Meanwhile, they promote events like this, with no trace of irony:
Where, pray tell, is the positivity in a movement that is built entirely on lies, fear, shaming and bullying?
Not to mention threats — leveled by those who are benefitting financially from this war on ag:
And that includes Hooser, who authored this:
The word circulating in activist circles now is that many are fed up with being shut down first by the courts and now the State legislature. Soon the so-called "nuclear option" (picketing of hotels and resorts) could be triggered. Already posts are showing up in Yelp and in other travel oriented comment sections warning pregnant women to avoid west Kauai, Moloka'i and parts of Maui.
Sadly, Civil Beat and the Star-Advertiser, in their coverage of HB 790, focused solely on the legislative maneuver used to kill the bill. In the process, they failed to discuss why legislators feared the fury of the activists, or the ramifications to civil society of allowing activists to push policy through toddler-like temper tantrums.
This is the discussion that Hawaii needs to have. Do we want to allow demagogues and ideologues who are not concerned about the health of our people, but advancing their own political agenda, to erode aloha, poison our communities and conversations?
The anti-GMO activists represent a tiny, loud-mouthed minority. It's time to start treating them that way and denounce their attempts to turn Hawaii into a toxic dump.