A long-smoldering political issue is beginning to flare, and that's the island-wide use of pesticides, particularly in the genetically modified (GM) crops now being grown from Lihue to Mana. The topics are linked, because most, if not all, of the GM crops grown here are designed to withstand direct applications of herbicides manufactured by chemical companies like Dupont, Dow, Syngenta, Monsanto, Bayer and BASF, which have bought up most of the seed companies around the world.
Gary Hooser, the former state Senator who is seeking a return to the County Council, is putting the pesticide issue at the forefront of his campaign. He'll be on my favorite KKCR radio show, “Pets, People and Paradise,” from 9 to 10 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday). You can listen live here.
Dr. Ihor Basko, the holistic veterinarian who hosts the show, has been researching pesticides and their effects on human and animal health for decades. He's come up with a lot of good questions for Gary:
We know that GM crops require more herbicides and pesticides; how many gallons per acre? Which ones specifically? Who is checking the water pollution from GM farms? Run off into the ocean? What are the results? What’s happening with GM farming impacts on our Island: air, water, soil quality? What happens to the stalks and leaves of the GM corn when it’s harvested? What evidence do we have that what they are growing on Kauai is not harmful to our population or its livestock ……in the long run? How will GM growers keep their pollen from infecting organic crops? Why is tampering with GM crops a felony? How much is Syngenta paying to lease the land? Folks may not realize that a lot of state land — actually, Hawaiian crown lands — is being leased to the seed companies.
And here's the million-dollar question:
How does eating GM food affect future generations? Epigenics and Nutrigenomics are terms referring to eating food that will change your DNA and potentially……future generations.
Gary likely won't be able to answer all these questions, since some are still the subject of hot debate among scientists, such as a French study suggesting a link between Monsanto's Roundup Ready corn and breast cancer, liver and kidney damage. The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal “Food and Chemical Toxicology,” prompted Russia to suspend the import and use of that product.
We're also still learning about some of the longterm effects from GM ag:
A US Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist visiting Australia has warned that, "After 16 years of Roundup Ready crops, particularly corn and soybeans, researchers are now detecting glyphosate in the soil and run off water in the Midwest of the US," USDA microbiologist Bob Kremer said. Dr Kremer said researchers had detected an increase in the fungus fusarium on the roots of plants that had been recently sprayed with glyphosate. "So far we haven't seen that develop into a plant disease but the potential is there," he said.
Of course, the GM seed companies aren't the only ones applying Roundup. The state and county spray it along roadsides and in parks, and it's ubiquitous in the manicured resorts and and golf courses of our number one industry. Lots of homeowners use it, too. In short, little Kauai is getting heavy doses daily.
There's a lot that can be done to control and monitor pesticide use on the local level if we elect a receptive County Council. Then perhaps they can help influence our state legislators, who are presently pretty much controlled by the biotech seed/chemical companies.
It's especially crucial now as Dow is seeking approval for a GM corn seed that can handle heavy sprayings of 2,4-D, an ingredient in Agent Orange. It seems they keep having to up the ante with more toxic chemicals because “super weeds and insects” have developed tolerance to Roundup.
And since Kauai is a major test site, it's not far-fetched to think one of the tests is just how much you can dose the plants with these proprietary chemical cocktails before they croak.
So where do the Council candidates stand on GMOs, and their associated pesticide use? As The Garden Island reported from Monday night's forum in Waimea:
Council Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura said she supports labeling products that contain Genetically Modified Organisms. She called for neutral research and controlled use of pesticides and herbicides. She also said the state should not give priority to GMO companies to lease state lands.
Councilman Mel Rapozo said GMO is responsible for saving many countries from starvation. The GMO companies have provided economic stimulation, and no studies have convinced him whether such products are unsafe, he said.
Candidate Ross Kagawa said the GMO industry created a lot of jobs when the sugar industry went down. But he also said more research is needed, and when it comes to making a decision, the people’s safety comes before providing jobs.
Councilman Dickie Chang suggested a forum with experts from both sides of the issue.
Candidate Gary Hooser said he supports labeling GMOs, an issue raised in every community. You can argue about GMOs, he said, but you can’t argue about pesticides going into the soil and water.
Councilman KipuKai Kuali‘i said it’s the government’s job to protect the people, who have a right to know what is in their food.
Council Chair Jay Furfaro said he is looking for some state leadership on the issue. He said he voted “no” on genetically modifying kalo, because it’s an important part of Polynesian culture.
Councilwoman Nadine Nakamura said the government needs to identify areas where GMO industry is impacting children.
Councilman Tim Bynum said it’s very clear GMOs should be labeled, but those are state and federal issues. The right to know is really important, he said.