Monday, December 2, 2013

Musings: Best Intentions

It's a new moon today, the last moon cycle of 2013, a good time to reflect on the year thus far and set intentions for the dynamics that will shape the year ahead.

I'd like to believe the Ulupono Initiative has all the best intentions in starting up a demonstration grass-fed dairy farm at Mahaulepu, on land Grove Farm initially slated for the cultivation of taro, a tried-and-true, high-demand crop. Still, I can't help but wonder if it will become a bargaining chip in the hotly-contested Hanalei Ridge resort project. Because, you see, Ulupono is a philanthropic endeavor of billionaire Pierre Omidyar, a major investor in the plan to build a resort and 36 houses on the ridge above Hanalei Bay.

I've always had a hard time reconciling Pierre's interest in promoting both sustainability and the inherently unsustainable ultra-luxe travel market, but he has apparently found a nexus, as in how can you deny me that resort when I've invested $17 million in a dairy farm experiment on the other side of the island?

And nobody has put that kind of money into Kauai ag except for the reviled five — Sygenta, BASF, Dow, DuPont/Pioneer, Kauai Coffee — targeted by Bill 2491.

I'd like to believe the folks behind 2491 and the Big Island ban on new GMO cultivation had the very best intentions in promoting that legislation, but I've been rather disturbed to discover that Monsanto — poster child for bad agricultural practices and the evils of corporatism — emerged from the fray not only unscathed, but in an advantageous position.

That's right. Monsanto quietly negotiated a memorandum of understanding with the Maui Mayor's office that is even more slack than the limp Kauai Agricultural Good Neighbor Program negotiated by the state. And its extensive Oahu operations remain untouched.

So while its competitors — DOW, Syngenta, BASF, DuPont/Pioneer — will be required to disclose pesticide use in great detail, pull land out of production to create buffer zones, and either fight a lawsuit or try to convince the state to do the suing, with all the subsequent bad PR, Monsanto will be enjoying business per usual.

Curious, how prominent Maui County anti-GMO activists like Walter Ritte and Courtney Bruch were fighting so hard for the Kauai and Big Island bills, even as Monsanto was weaseling out in their own backyards. Where was the fury, the outrage, at Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa for negotiating that wimpy MOU, which effectively headed off legislation? I mean, if people are getting sick and dying from biotech pesticides on West Kauai, wouldn't folks living near the fields on Molokai, Maui and Oahu be similarly suffering? So why is Monsanto alone given a free pass to continue as it has?

Meanwhile, I'm sure Monsanto has only the best intentions — as in ensuring steady profits for its shareholders — in launching a new “charm offensive” to improve its tarnished image. As reports:

Focusing on serving the agriculture industry with high-yield crops, feeding the world and making a steady profit for its shareholders has served Monsanto well in recent times. But the ostrich approach to public relations has not yielded dividends for the company’s image.

Monsanto was declared “the most evil corporation of the year” in early 2011 by Earlier this year the company confronted an international “March on Monsanto” Facebook campaign.

Such negative attention, the company observes in a recent Securities and Exchange Commission report, could influence future policy decisions: “The degree of public acceptance or perceived public acceptance of our biotechnology products can affect our sales and results of operations by affecting planting approvals, regulatory requirements and customer purchase decisions,” Monsanto says.

Aaron Perlut, a founder and managing partner of Elasticity, a St. Louis-based consulting firm specializing in reputation management, still thinks Monsanto’s shift toward engaging in the conversation is an important development.

Typically when I counsel large companies in crisis I would suggest having a reasonable discussion because public opinion tends to side with reasonable parties even in a challenging argument,” Perlut says.

So if you can sufficiently infiltrate and disrupt a well-intentioned movement to make it appear unreasonable.....

And finally, I'd like to believe the University of New Haven has only the best intentions in developing a process to detect possible contaminants in cannabis — except, as the Associated Press reports, the project “is an extension of the law enforcement-related marijuana DNA profiling the school has done over the past five years under a $100,000 grant from the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program. The school created a marijuana DNA profile database that has helped federal authorities determine where illegal pot growers and dealers got their product.”

Which master is the school serving?


Anonymous said...

Omidyar's Koloa Dairy is a good thing. The Hanalei Ridge project will be passed, the land is zoned and has been used as a Hotel. All of the king's horses and all of the bigshot hypocrite Realtors and all people who benefit from Hotels/Resort and especially the rich (I got my house now, no mo' development) transplants should keep their frothing lips shut. Omidyar's plan for Hanalei Ridge is a smidgeon of what former plans for the site were. (Bruce Stark who?)
Monsanto is the perceived bad boy of the corporate world today, so what? Dow, Exxon, McDs, Wallmart etc are all bad boys, bigger and badder then ever.
Maui county activists know that Maui would never fall for their bumbling beeswax, Kauai is fertile ground for these convenience activists with our population of cowbell following, crystal grazing sheeple lost in a miasma of Marywanna, enviro evangelism and guilty self-contentedness.

Anonymous said...

12:54.....boy was that a mouth full!

Anonymous said...

Just learned Jack Daniels made with GMO corn.
Wild Turkey is still organic.

Anonymous said...

Not only the Omidyarʻs crawling and trolling Hawaiiʻs assets, ALL IN THE NAME OF PHILANTHROPY, now we have 2 cockroaches stealing water and selling it and even stole OHAʻs newspaperʻs name: Ka Wai Ola.

And I think we are supposed to be happy for them? By the tone of the article?

They are such good generous people arenʻt they, with Hawaiiʻs public trust water.

Iʻm so disgusted with these haole mentalities already.

Anonymous said...

Koloa dairy land leased by Grove Farm was supposed to be used to grow taro. Now its just fields of GMO crops, out of sight from the public eye because all the old gates around Maha'ulepu are locked with a grove farm sign saying private land keep out. I wonder what those cows will be eating when it comes time to do a cost analysis of this new dairy. I certainly wouldn't drink milk coming from an area of high pesticide use. would you?

Anonymous said...

Ask Bobby Fereirra (spelling?) who used to raise angus beef in puhi on grove farm land. they squeezed him out for corn fields. He moved to big island for the health of his cows.

Anonymous said...

I dont trust the decision makers at grove farm. Same guys who leased a massive GMO field right outside the windows of wilcox hospital. remember when they said they were going to make a housing complex there? just like they said they were going to put houses in that koloa camp. i no see nothing happening there. Batchi you watch.

Anonymous said...

Joan, taro is not indigenous to Hawaii, it was brought to the islands by some of the first migrants from the southern areas.

Joan Conrow said...

Yes, you're right. Thanks for that correction. I've changed the post accordingly.

Anonymous said...

kalo is indigenous. its not endemic

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that taro is/was a "canoe plant," indigenous to SE Asia.

By definition, it is neither endemic nor indigenous/native, the later defined as arriving only by natural intervention (not man), such as wind, wave (canoe no count).

Anonymous said...

A dairy on a small scale will never succeed financially on this island.

Grass.....what kind of grass? You need high calcium grass to make milk. Unless, planted and pastures rotated......need lots of lang, food will still have to be imported from the mainland or China.

Cows will pollute the land and air with their wastes. A big problem on the mainland, pollution of waterways from dairy farms.

The environment in Hawaii is not suited for cows and therefore will require an onsite veterinarian to administer what....antibiotics?

A good idea in Oregon, but a bad idea here........i.e. cow dairy.
Perhaps its just a ploy for something else?

Zero 7