Friday, May 2, 2008

Musings: Whorehouses, Nooses and GMOs

It’s the time of year that I especially like, when the sun sets late and the bird alarm goes off early. It was plenty light at 5:30 this morning when Koko and I went walking, beneath Venus and a while sliver of moon. Have you noticed how the moon tracks the sun, and they’re both rising much further in the northwest in these days preceding summer?

Ran into my neighbor Andy, and I was trying to make him laugh so he’d forget about his sore eye, when farmer Jerry pulled up and we got to talking about taxi dancers — women who danced, for a price, with the plantation workers — and then Andy told me there had been a house of ill repute on our road during World War II.

He said the women had to work incredibly hard, often servicing 40 to 50 men a day. Wow. We’re talking long days and short sessions to get those kinds of numbers. And of course, those who labored got only a fraction of the money.

I never know what my morning walks will bring, or my email inbox, for that matter, which today included a report from one of the guys at the Austal USA plant in Mobile, Ala. — you know, where they’re building Superferry #2 and American war ships — that a noose was found hanging in an employee breakroom yesterday.

TV station WKGR, in its coverage of the incident, included this report:

The company's Vice President Bill Pfister released this statement -- he said: "Our preliminary investigation has revealed the possibility of a personal agenda as the motivation behind this incident and does not reflect the culture that Austal has worked so hard to build."

It doesn’t? Swan Cleveland, a union organizer at Austal USA, alleged in an interview on KKCR last month that Austal is engaged in racial discrimination and union-busting tactics. And an Austal welder who also participated in the show was fired for disloyalty.

It’s just another taint on the already tainted Hawaii Supeferry folks, and yet another bit of “bad news” related to the Superferry that has gone unreported in the Hawaii media.

Meanwhile, The Garden Island today is reporting that there was a sizable turnout at Uncle Jimmy Torio’s kukakuka under the big tent. Some 100 westsiders turned out on Wednesday night to voice their concerns, and cultivation of GMO crops and pesticide use were hot topics of conversation.

The article also touched on the split between the big tent organizers and Diana LaBedz guys, who didn’t want to participate in the community meeting if the seed companies were allowed to talk. So they had their own anti-GMO meeting in Hanapepe.

Fortunately, the guest speakers they’d brought in — Dr. Lorin Pang and Hector Valenzuela, two very knowledgeable and reasonable men — were able to articipate in both events.

Andy Parx did a good job of on his blog of outlining the pettiness and elitism behind the factionalism, a course of events that prompted a friend of mine to observe: “So what, now you’ve got the PLO and Hamas?"

According to the Garden Island, Diana “felt the community needed to air their concerns without the seed companies’ participation.”

I can’t understand that line of thinking. If folks are mad at the seed companies for growing GMO crops and blaming them for kids getting sick from possible pesticide exposure, shouldn’t they be at the table? Wouldn’t you, as a community member, want to be able to question them directly and hear what they have to say?

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am not a supporter of GMOs and I’ve got my suspicions, although they’re yet unproven, that pesticides or some kind of chemicals being used in fields near the schools are making the kids sick.

More investigations are needed, as is advocated by Pang, Valenzuela and Maluia-WCMS, a coalition of Waimea Canyon Middle School staff, parents and community members concerned with the use of pesticides and GMO crops on lands adjacent to the campus.

Meanwhile, we need to get clear on the ultimate goal in regard to the seed companies. Is it to make them more accountable? To tighten up their act? To eliminate GMO crops, but allow hybrids? To shut them down completely? If it’s the latter, what about the westsiders who depend on these companies for jobs? And what about the role these companies play in contributing to the economic viability of agriculture on Kauai, and in providing seed corn for places all around the globe, as I mentioned yesterday?

Much as we might all love the idea of small, sustainable, family-owned organic farms on Kauai, they’re as yet minor players in our agricultural picture. And I for one am not willing to eliminate all other forms of agriculture on this island, just because they don't fit my ideal. There's far too much at stake, in terms of keeping ag lands and water from being diverted into development.

As Glenn Teves, the UH extension agent on Molokai told me, if agriculture is going to survive in Hawaii, farmers, environmentalists and Native Hawaiians need to form a coalition. Because the economic pressure to replace ag with development is strong, and getting stronger.


Andy Parx said...

I’m not sure why you say that not all the seed is GMO? It couldn’t be because of any evidence other than the seed companies say-so since they refuse to publicly state anything about the location of GMO seed. If there is any independent confirmation it wouldn’t be with Pioneer or Sygenta’s cooperation.

As far as “yet unproven” status of poisoning, is that just because a corrupt DOH and KPD refuses to make the connection and the press actually prints their hilarious “it’s vog/ propane/stinkweed/somebody farted” excuses (see- I can make stuff up too if I want)? Everyone without a stake in it not being poison who smelled it said it smelled like the same poison they just sprayed.

“Proof” in reporting doesn’t have to consider obvious lies by authorities and corporations that are being reported just to have “two sides”. There’s way too much of that for the sake of mythical “objectivity”. Anyone looking objectively at this can add two and two. We’re obliged to report what actually happened and use our judgment in determining it. That’s really problematic when all you do is report what someone said even if you know it’s BS. But that’s what 21st century corporate reporting consists of many times, this being one of them.

I am satisfied that they sprayed poison and that is what people in Kekaha- not just the school kids- smelled that day. And I’m satisfied that they tried to cover it up. I’m not a fan of lapping up the spokesperson’s best friend- the “are you gonna believe me or your lyin’ eyes” statement.

Joan Conrow said...

I've had it confirmed from three credible ag sources who are not affiliated with Syngenta or Pioneer, as well as an air cargo carrier, that hybrid seed corn is being grown on the westside, along with GMO seed crops and various experimental crops, both GMO and non.

It would help clear up the confusion if the companies would disclose exactly what GMO crops they're growing, and where. Besides, people have a right to know.

Anonymous said...

I can guess why companies don't disclose exactly where they're growing GMO crops. (cough) Vandalism! (cough).

Andy Parx said...

The problem is that if there is open air growing of GMO corn you can be sure that almost all of it is going to be GMO corn eventually, as would be any corn grown in Kekaha, how soon will it be before they try to shut down non-GMO corn growers on Kaua`i for "stealing" their GMO corn because their pollen infected it- as they have done throughout the corn belt.