The contest is sponsored by the Hawaii Crop Improvement Assn., which noted on its website:
[T]he greatest risk to the viability of seed operations in Hawaii is an anti-GMO climate of extremism by activists who have a philosophical and religious opposition to the science.
To counter that opposition, which thus far has gained little traction in a state Legislature already well-padded with biotech campaign contributions, HCIA is sponsoring the essay contest. Five winners will get a free, one-week trip to Hawaii for two.
The farmers must take their trips, valued at $5,000 each, in late February, which just so happens to be when the legislative session is in full swing. The farmers must also agree to “spend some of their time in the islands speaking personally about their stories to business leaders, lawmakers and the media.”
So what, exactly, is the HCIA? According to its website, its members include Dow AgroScience, Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Syngenta and BASF.
With a line up like that, it's not surprising to find such “breaking news” nuggets as “Genetically Modified Crops are Safe and Environmentally Friendly” posted on the website.
Of course, not everyone agrees with that assessment, including the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which recently ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to halt the planting of all genetically engineered crops on refuges in the Southeast Region. The court found the agency's finding of no significant impact (FONSI) was "capricious and arbitrary."
Additionally, the FWS must monitor all planted areas for three years to eradicate any “volunteers,” and provide the public with information on what crops were planted where, and which pesticides were used.
As a press release from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Beyond Pesticides notes:
This latest decision caps a series of lawsuits rolling back approvals for GE crops on 75 national wildlife refuges across 30 states. In March 2009, the same groups won a similar lawsuit against GE plantings on Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. In 2011, the groups forced a legal settlement ending GE planting on refuges throughout the 12-state Northeast Region. Litigation over GE crops on refuges in the Midwest Region is still ongoing. The same groups have petitioned the Secretary of the Interior to prohibit the practice on refuges nationwide.
In other news, I'm hearing from political insiders that KipuKai Kualii lost the Council race because of his vocal support for repealing Act 55, which created the Public Land Development Corp. (PLDC).
Word is that powerful forces in the Democratic Party are stifling calls for a repeal because the state is in desperate need of cash. Further, since much of the Neighbor Island political opposition focuses on the issue of home rule, the first projects likely to be advanced will be on Oahu, around the rail stations, as Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz initially proposed, and in Kakaako, where Gov. Abercrombie has development plans and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs now owns land.
Interestingly, westside Rep. Dee Morikawa was quoted in The Garden Island's post-election coverage saying she plans to work for the repeal of Act 55. She voted for the bill in the last session:
“It’s too broad,” Morikawa said. “I’m not going to support it as is.”
Will Dee be punished for that position when the House leadership — as in Speaker Calvin Say, who opposes a repeal — makes Committee appointments? Not that the West Kauai rep wields any power in the state Lege....
Meanwhile, as The Garden Island reports today, Mayor Bernard Carvalho does not support a repeal of Act 55. Instead, he advocates amending the law to remove some of the kinks.
His rationale, as articulated by County Managing Director Gary Heu:
By having additional funding source for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, he said, it takes some pressure off the state General Fund and reduces the chance of the state taking away the counties’ share of the Transient Accommodation Tax. For the county of Kaua‘i, the TAT is its second largest source of revenue after real property taxes.
Sen. President Shan Tsutsui said in September he will introduce two bills, one to repeal Act 55 and another to narrow its scope. Given House Speaker Say's resistance, it's unlikely that a bill to repeal will advance.
Because although there has been some public outcry against the PLDC, it's not exactly the kind of groundswell that will sway lawmakers recently returned to office. It's more likely that opposition will coalesce around a particular project, rather than the law itself. So the PLDC board may be able to diffuse some critics by starting with proposals that the population base on Oahu finds palatable.
Meanwhile, I'm hearing that a court challenge is planned by the Sierra Club.