Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Musings: Sketchy Studies

Though concerns about human and environmental health were supposedly the main drivers behind Bill 2491, it will be another three years before any scientific studies on those issues are completed.

And it's questionable, given the process outlined in a resolution before the County Council today, whether the scientific work to be undertaken will have any credibility. It's also unclear how much it will cost, or who will pay.

But that's not stopping Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura, Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum from forging ahead.

The resolution — initially introduced by JoAnn and former Councilwoman Nadine Nakamura and heavily amended last week in the Committee of the Whole — calls for hiring a “neutral facilitator" to convene and facilitate a Pesticide and Genetic Engineering Joint Fact-finding Group (JFFG) comprised of knowledgeable scientific, medical and environmental experts and community stakeholders to design and oversee a focused, accountable and credible Environmental Health Impact Study (EPHIS).

Here's where things get squirrely. Those 12-15 participants are supposed to come from Kauai AND be respected, representative of the community, balanced in terms of perspectives and willing to serve on the panel. Good luck on that.  What's more, they must be vetted by Bynum and Council Chair Jay Furfaro, both of whom voted for 2491, and the mayor, who vetoed it.

So right off the bat, we're talking about a highly-politicized process to even form the group, with Gary adamantly opposed to anyone from the farm bureau or chemical/seed companies serving. Apparently he doesn't believe conventional farmers or biotech workers are a part of this community, or legitimate stakeholders with information about their practices and industry that could add to the process.

Once the group is cobbled together, it has a year to define the scope of the EPHIS, following this process (emphasis added because that language jumped out at me):

Undertake sustained and science-centered deliberations to identify the highest priority environmental and public health questions pertinent to the pesticides used and genetically modified crops grown by the Kauai Coffee and the four biotech companies “in comparison to the production of other agricultural products.” 

So little Kauai, all by its lonesome, is supposed to determine whether GMO crops are as safe as any other agricultural product?

The group is also directed to come up with recommendations “as to the highest priority questions to be asked,” as well as “preferred methodologies for replicable studies, monitoring and epidemiological studies; including the thresholds of safety or danger related to the pesticides.”

Why in the world is Kauai County even considering studies to determine the safety of pesticides already approved by the federal government – studies that could take decades and millions of dollars to conduct? And how likely are we to get any money from the state or feds to do this?

The group is tasked as well with assembling an inventory of reliable existing studies – "preferably but not exclusively peer-reviewed," which opens the door to all kinds of crap — on the high priority questions, and estimate the cost and timelines of such studies, as well as identify possible funding sources.

Here's another questionable bit: The group can consult with “experts” who will not be disqualified from conducting the studies they suggest, which seems rather self-serving.

Once the recommendations are in, the resolution calls for the county to carry out the EPHIS, with the JFFG, providing oversight.

Now comes the alarming part. The county will seek funding not only from government, but private funders “as deemed appropriate, and from a variety of sources and diverse stakeholders willing to support a community process built on community consensus.”

So in other words, “red shirt” Realtors Neal Norman and Mimsy Bouret, or billionaire developer Pierre Omidiyar, could pay for studies that we're all supposed to believe are legitimate, unbiased and credible.

And who will determine “as deemed appropriate?” Councilmembers who have received substantial contributions from high-end realtors and developers?

The EPHIS report is anticipated to take 18 months, according to the resolution, though it's hard to see how they arrived at that figure since the JFFG is supposed to come up with a timetable. So it could actually be even longer than three years to get any info — despite Gary's insistence that the bill had to be passed immediately because of the terrible urgency in regard to people's health concerns.

It's unfortunate The Garden Island has failed to cover this issue, but even the “red shirts” seem to have lost interest, with blogger Andy Parx prodding folks on Facebook that they still need to pay attention to the process. Yawn. Marches and campouts at the county building are so much more fun.

But “red shirt” leader Andrea Brower was at the last committee meeting, where she was seen apparently feeding questions to Gary via an electronic device. Gee, didn't Gary get in a super snit about county communications director Beth Tokioka texting Nadine and JoAnn during a Council session?

Apparently what's not good for the goose is just fine for the gander.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Ruggles, the staff person from Pesticide Action Network who claimed she saw Beth improperly texting, has moved on, as paid political instigators do, with a nice send-off party by the “red shirt” leaders and Gary.

The county has just $110,000 allocated for this EPHIS process, which is expected to cost well over $1 million, or likely more, given the hefty price tag associated with some of these studies. Who do you think is really motivated to kick in the rest?

Or will it just die because there's no money, and the whole purpose of this exercise was not to actually improve or even accurately assess human or environmental health around the biotech fields, but make a political point that helps Gary and the national anti-GMO groups?

To borrow a phrase from Kauai Rising — correction, Ohana O Kauai — folks on this island need to “wake up” and start paying attention to who and what are really behind 2491. Because from the language of the bill itself and this EPHIS resolution, it seems to have very little to do with reducing harm and improving health.


Anonymous said...

Nailed it

Anonymous said...

*swish* nothin but net

Anonymous said...

Joan- Methinks you are way off in your synopsis regarding GMO/Herbicides. Gary, Tim and Joann all have college degrees. They are very smart people and they have no political agenda. They definitely will find easy and accurate answers to GMOs. This science is not very complicated and their group will explain the mysteries of genetics, selective herbicides and all dangers to health. It is about time that someone has stepped up and is willing to tell the Feds, State, CDC, EPA and the thousands of geneticists, scientists, MDs and pharmacogenomic researchers what are really the facts on GMOs and Herbicides. I hope their intellectual aspirations commence AFTER they have figured out the complexity of a new Kilauea Gym roof and the solving the mystifying equations necessary to cleaning up our County Parks.

Anonymous said...

so having a college degree makes you smart and no political agenda

that has to be the most arrogant comment I have ever heard..LMAO

so its like Obomacare..............

We have to pass it to see whats in it

Anonymous said...

My observation as a neutral bystander......

1. The Mayor asked for 60 days to do his due diligence as the leader of the County.
2. The Council denied his request and passed the bill knowingly, that the bill was flawed.
3. The Council and the Mayor were both advised by the County Attny that the bill was flawed. The Council chose to sweep it under the rug and proceeded to pass the bill. Rush, Rush Rush and solve nothing.
4. The Mayor had no choice but to veto the bill. I would have done the same.
5. The Mayor was willing and working with the Governor and other State and Federal agencies to come to a resolve.
6. Hooser says no and conspires to override the veto.
7 . The Mayor is OFF the hook and now Hooser has the ball back in his court. Scrambling and looking for people to sit on a committee that will agree with his position. Shady, Shady, Shady!
8. Where Joanne and Fufaro sits in this dilemma is questionable, educated or not.
9. All I can say is good luck?

Anonymous said...

All this reminds of when Mel Rapozo -- commenting on some issue that he felt was being pushed too fast and without proper research -- said that once again it would be a case of "ready, fire, aim".

Anonymous said...

JoAnn is so not on the side of good planning, clean environments or protection of anything except her own political future. It's clear whose side she is on while she pretended to be in favor, she made the bill (2491) illegal, got her cohorts to support the crappy amendments and then she laughs to herself mightily as she says the legality must be decided in the courts. While she undermined the the words, that's the form it goes to the courts. The kids health is not important to her, hence this stupid EPHIS amendment. One word for how good studies are done

Anonymous said...

I have a great idea, employ the red shirts to do the study, they can raise money from selling more t shirts, then it will be useless without the county spending millions to fund a useless biased study. The red shirts should be excluded if the farmers are. A stakeholder group is not appropriate for this. Independent, profession is what is needed. Take the politics out, or at least get rid of the blood suckers like JY who is selling out her constituents who want and deserve good health.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Joan for another well written synopsis of our county council's botching of 2491. It is becoming more and more obvious that Hooser, Bynum and Yukimura could care less about the health and safety of our community. Shame.

Anonymous said...

JoAnn loves studies. Perhaps go back to school ....they all have been done on pesticides.

How many politicians does it take to screw a light bulb into a socket?
It takes a village....
....funded by taxpayers money.

Crappy lawyers become politicians.

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

Joan you are so once again right on the money. Thank you for pointing out what a joke Hooser is. He comes back into town with his I am going to save the world activist attitude. How stupid. The seed farms pump millions into our economy and a few whiners who cough every time they see a tractor are not going run them out of town. Thank goodness we have a mayor who has the vision we need and who is smart enough to never let this dumb little pass the Bill stuff actually ever be put into action. The next election will send Hooser packing and the Mayor and the next council will just repeal the Bill.

Anonymous said...

Joan, It appears that you're a little "sketchy" on your facts/observations. Firstly, "wake up" is not part of Kaua`i Rising's phraseology- that refers to `Ohana `O Kauai's motto, altho I believe many in the community are ready to wake up, wise up and rise up in response to the government's "GAP" (or generally accepted practices) here on Kaua`i. This leads me to wonder how much of rest of your reporting is also a bit less than accurate? Secondly, it seems that you are very willing to aim "potshots" at Kaua`i Risng, without apparent reason. What are you basing your criticisms on? How often do you get together with these folks that you belittle and besmirch to understand their motivation? I agree with much you have written in the past, but your column seems to becoming more sarcastic and bitter than the witty woman I know you to be. I also believe that you have the best interest of the community at heart, so perhaps you might consider taking Kaua`i Rising's actual motto, and "Shine the Light" with Aloha! Mahalo for being involved.

Joan Conrow said...

Thank you for the correction re: slogans.

As for my previous criticisms of Kauai Rising, they are based on the group's questionable actions, as detailed in the "Political Farce" post back in May:

Anonymous said...

Kaua`i Rising's may be a great organization but when you endorse KKCR as your communication of choice. That makes me wonder.

Anonymous said...

"Crappy lawyers become politicians."

good one.

"Successful politicians are insecure and intimidated men. They advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle or otherwise manage to manipulate the demanding and threatening elements in their constituencies."
Walter Lippmann