Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Musings: Power of Economics

It seems that some folks have unrealistic ideas about the pesticide/GMO bill, like its passage will inflict a body blow on biotech as Kauai leads the world to an new-old era of small, sustainable, pesticide-eschewing farms.

In the places that actually grow much of the world's food, however, the reality looks very different, and quite a bit more grim.

About 90 percent of the corn currently planted in the U.S. is genetically modified, as is 90 percent of the cotton and 93 percent of the soybeans, according to the latest USDA agricultural statistics. The U.S. is the world's top producer of GMO soy, followed by Brazil.

China, which now imports about 70 percent of Brazil's GMO soy, has just cleared three new soy varieties for import, a move that is expected to increase GMO crop acreage by 14% in Brazil.

Dow launched Powercore — the first-ever five-trait corn — in Argentina last year, and Canada approved Enlist E3, the company's herbicide-tolerant soybean last month. In short, these companies are not reeling from protests, they're expanding their product line and footprint. They've also begun working together to improve their bottom line by sharing licensing agreements.

In America's corn belt, meanwhile, the failure of biotech has led not to an embrace of organic practices, but increased insecticide use as farmers battle rootworm that has developed resistance to one type of GE corn. As NPR reports:

It appears that farmers have gotten part of the message: Biotechnology alone will not solve their rootworm problems. But instead of shifting away from those corn hybrids, or from corn altogether, many are doubling down on insect-fighting technology, deploying more chemical pesticides than before. Companies like Syngenta or AMVAC Chemical that sell soil insecticides for use in corn fields are reporting huge increases in sales: 50 or even 100 percent over the past two years.

This is a return to the old days, before biotech seeds came along, when farmers relied heavily on pesticides. University of Nebraska entomologist Lance Meinke tells farmers that if they plant just corn, year after year, rootworms are likely to overwhelm any weapon someday.

The problem, Meinke says, is that farmers are thinking about the money they can make today. "I think economics are driving everything," he says. "Corn prices have been so high the last three years, everybody is trying to protect every kernel. People are just really going for it right now, to be as profitable as they can."

Ah, yes, the power of economics.  It's the same force that led Kauai Beach Villas timeshare developer Lynn McCrory to challenge the constitutionality of the Charter amendment that voters approved limiting the number of new transient accommodation units (TAU).

U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Kobayashi recently ruled in McCrory's favor, finding that both the amendment and subsequent ordinance violate an earlier Kaiser Hawaii Kai "no zoning by initiative" decision.

In plain terms, Hawaii residents are not allowed to directly address land use issues at the ballot box. According to the ruling:

Further, Zoning by initiative is inconsistent with the goal of long range comprehensive planning, and "[i]t seems unlikely that the Legislature intended the possible frustration of comprehensive zoning through the initiative process."

Now as I hear it, a former county attorney felt the initiative was illegal, but let it go on the ballot, anyway, thinking it would never pass. Instead, it passed overwhelmingly, and the county spent a lot of time and money developing the implementing ordinance 912 and defending the measure in court.

So now what? As Carl Imparato, who has been closely involved in the issue since its inception, notes:

What Ordinance 912 did do was to ensure that the next wave of tourist accommodation projects would be paced. So it was still very important legislation. The void that would be left by doing nothing in the wake of the federal court ruling would mean a return to the old "business as usual", with new waves of tourist development projects assaulting Kauai in the future and being routinely approved by the mayor’s Planning Commissioners. So doing nothing is not an option.

He suggests the county could pursue an appeal to a higher court. An executive session is set for Wednesday's Council Meeting to discuss this (and $225,000 more to defend the county against Councilman Tim Bynum's lawsuit).

Perhaps more importantly,” Carl continues, “the people of Kauai need to strongly encourage the County Council to pass Ordinance 912 once again ("Son of 912"). Ordinance 912 basically stood on its own: other than some non-operative language in the "whereas" clauses, there was only one sentence in the entire ordinance that linked the rate-of-growth mechanisms in Ordinance 912 to the Charter amendment. So Ordinance 912 could easily be rewritten to completely decouple the ordinance from the Charter amendment by changing just one sentence. Note that the court did not express any opinion that an ordinance like Ordinance 912, or an rate-of-growth limit, would be unconstitutional.

"So it is clearly within the scope of the Council’s authorities and duties to amend the CZO to enact another ordinance that would be virtually identical to Ordinance 912. And it is clear (64%-36%) that the citizenry wants tourist development’s impacts to be properly managed.
"Therefore, the Council should simply "do the right thing" and act promptly to fill the void created by the court’s ruling. There is no need for hand-wringing, or for extensive research and debate about what to do next (the types of study-it-to-death delaying tactics that stalled TVR ordinances from being enacted for almost a decade, during which the problem mushroomed out of control). The Council could very simply and very quickly pass once again the ordinance (as "Son of 912") that 5 of the current Councilmembers (Nakamura, Rapozo, Furfaro, Yukimura and Bynum) already voted for less than two years ago.
The public needs to speak out."


Elaine Albertson said...

My family (dad, his brother, my older cousin) owned and operated a farm/ranch (we usually called it a ranch because we also raised Black Angus) of several hundred acres that grew corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. Every field got rotated every year, from corn to soy to alfalfa to pasture. We grew only heirloom seed and used very little pesticide. Fertilization was cattle dung and compost. It was very successful until around 1960 when Pioneer began pressuring everyone to buy/plant hybrid, and eventually GMO. Everyone in the county knew that GMO would only work for a short time, until nature found a way around the genes. It didn't take a PhD in chemistry to figure it out. My cousin finally had to sell out in 1989. He needed to retire, and he had only daughters with no interest in taking over; and he said it was impossible to compete any more with the GMO-based growers, or to make any real profit with the cost of the seed and the growing need for chemicals, never mind the philosophy and ethics of it.

Anonymous said...

Now how do the farmers get off that treadmill?

Elaine Albertson said...

They sell their farms to the ag/chem companies, which can run them like an assembly line. The family farm is almost an extinct entity.

Anonymous said...

"Hawaii residents are not allowed to directly address land use issues at the ballot box"....im a bit confused as i thot the ballot box represented the will of the people to how the community in which they live and work should be as they want it to be. and when external powers dance around the laws for their own gain at the detriment of the population effected, should there not be a vote as to what the people want? what this judge is saying is that youre vote doesnt count in the decision making process because its too direct, that you need to go thru the process of elected reps and then they have to convince their peers that the actual people that have to live it are worthy of their voices to be heard....but worry not, they are smarter and know whats best for us...we are sheep in the big picture to be quieted when angry, and fleeced in the meantime to feed the beast. i think when the peoples vote doesnt count, the system fails and the people will bypass the government and take it into their own hands...thats when the SHTF...not cuz of bad people, but of bad government......praying for a hurricane for island cleanse, then try restart...aloha Dean

Anonymous said...

I'm already expected to live decades longer than any human being in any generation in all of human history.

give me the cheap food.

Anonymous said...

Cheap food equals poor health. Why would you take that trade off? We may be living longer but with what quality of life?

Anonymous said...

You would think that the hotels along the shore in Poipu would keep those bathrooms sparkling.
But the it the locals who keep them trashed...

Anonymous said...

Please. My health is fine. I've been eating whatever is cheap in the stores since the day I was born.
I'm not overweight because I am active. My BMI is within the "healthy" range. I have no health issues whatsoever.

Gimme the cheap food. And starving people in Africa want the cheap food too.

Use all that righteous fury on an issue that's actually important.

Anonymous said...

There is more at issue than herbicides and GMOs. This is purely a Hooser run for Mayor ploy, hit an emotional issue, blame big land owners and foment hate for the multinational corporations. All good political fodder for a base comprised of rich newcomers and and a young hand to mouth population. If you think the Bynam lawsuit cost $, wait until some real lawyers get in the mix to protect landowner rights .............a lot of hyperventilating and another government stab to take from the perceived wealthy. Kauai's large landowners take good care of the land............if you want trash, overuse, and disrepair, let the government run it.

Anonymous said...

"Kauai's large landowners take good care of the land"


yeah ask Jimmy Pfleugar

Anonymous said...

Yeah, vote for unregulated pesticides to keep Hooser out of office.

Nice logic you corporate shill.

Anonymous said...

Pesticides ARE regulated and Pflueger did take care of his land. Its not all developed. His truth has never been told. He was trying to protect the reservoir the state messed up

Anonymous said...

Gary Hooser is doing the right thing by the people in trying to get accountability from the Chemical companies that are using Kauai state agriculture land.
Workers today are not supposed to be tomorrows cancer victims. Many of the chemicals used affect the next generation as they are mutagens. One group of chemicals — endocrine disruptors are particularly adept at interfering with reproductive health, even when exposure levels are extremely low.An infant in the womb is particularly vulnerable to such disruption, as hormones are busy regulating the differentiation of cells and development of organs. Infants exposed to the wrong chemical just when the reproductive organs are forming — or the brain developing, or immune system coalescing — can experience harm that plays out over the course of a lifetime.

Scientists from the national Endocrine Society explain why the timing of exposure is so important:

. . . there are critical developmental periods during which there may be increased susceptibility to environmental endocrine disruptors. In those cases in which disruption is directed toward programming of a function, e.g., reproductive health, this may interfere with early life organization, followed by a latent period, after which the function becomes activated and the dysfunction can become obvious.

In other words, exposure to chemicals when an infant's reproductive system is developing can completely derail the process. But we don't know it's happened until years later, when problems arise during puberty or when trying to conceive.
Mahalo Gary for having the guts to fight for human health and dignity in the face of such money and power. The people opposed to this have the most to gain from its passage, their health, and the health of their future offspring if they can still have kids .

Anonymous said...

The EU uses terbuthylazine, it is very similiar to atrazine.

Anonymous said...

In addition to limiting resort development, they should let you visit, spend money and make you leave after a week or two.

Anonymous said...

(the types of study-it-to-death delaying tactics that stalled TVR ordinances from being enacted for almost a decade, during which the problem mushroomed out of control).


Anonymous said...

"it'll give you cancer."

my response is "so will everything else."

and yet i'm still going to live longer than any all-natural eater in history.

you do realize that before modern technology, you were lucky to live to 40?

and yet you bitch and moan and cry about health risks this and health risks that.

the reality does not support your crap. you just want something to be mad about.

just stop and look around at what's actually happening, eat a bag of doritos, suck down a corona, smoke some weed, and enjoy life till you die of, probably cancer, at the age of 90. And that ain't a bad thing. cancer at 90, i can live with that.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hooser is doing what he feels is the right thing to do----allow him to do so----he might be 100% right. Meanwhile, you do what you want to---eat the gmos, smoke weed and drink your corona---you may be 100% on the right track. I side with Mr. Hooser, better careful and learned than anything else!

Anonymous said...

haha, i'm not stopping Mr. Hooser from doing anything, i just think the whole debate is ridiculous.

Too many people with sticks up their asses over nothing

Anonymous said...

seems like you have the same problem as the people who don't want the pesticides 20 feet from their homes---stick up their asses---look who's talking----you!

Anonymous said...

That comment makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

Voting against the will one ones constituents is in vogue among politicians these days

Anonymous said...

I think Gary Hooser said that 3 tons of concentrated restricted use pesticides (18 tons when diluted) were being applied on this island. After it's applied, where does it go? Are we breathing it? Does it end up on the soil only to become airborne when the soil turns to dust and is blown who knows where? Does it leach into our water supply? Does it run off into the ocean? How will it affect us? We have the right to know.