Monday, May 12, 2014

Musings: Squandered Momentum

It's election season, which means it's time for another round of fear-mongering. And Hawaii SEED/GMO Free Kauai is only too happy to oblige, this time hosting a statewide tour of anti-atrazine researcher Dr. Tyrone Hayes.

In an amazing stroke of coincidence — if you believe in such things — the tour is being held this week, when the state Department of Health is due to release the results of its statewide samplings for pesticides. I've heard that atrazine was found in Kekaha and glyphosate in Hanalei, though the exact locations and quantities have not yet been publicly disclosed.

Still, the discovery of any amount is bound to illicit fear, especially when Hayes so expertly fans the flames. I can still recall the Facebook response of a peroxided, chain-smoking “A'ole GMO” activist when I pointed out the atrazine found at Waimea Canyon School was in the parts per trillion, well below federal standards:

“There shouldn't be any amount allowed,” she snarled.

I agree completely on the desirability of a pristine planet, and understand that folks want the freedom to choose their poisons. 

Still, we must face the reality that we are all responsible for the toxins generated in delivering a lifestyle that allows people to drive diesel-powered school buses for a living, buy health food shipped in from California, fly/drive to Lihue for a “let the people decide” charter amendment rally, engage in social media on smart phones that use toxic heavy metals, and plug into electricity generated by burning oil so they can watch the well-funded Vandana Shiva utter a videotaped message on the “power of money to destroy a democracy.”

Vandana also blithely delivered this line:

There is no excuse for a birth defect rate that is 10-fold more than the national average and for cancer rates to be higher.

Except cancer rates in Hawaii are declining, as is typical across the nation, and Kauai rates are significantly lower than the statewide average. As for birth defects, the most recent report — which is definitely out of date, ending in 2005 — shows Hawaii either on par with or below the national average. It also shows there are many factors associated with birth defects, including meth use, which means it's not so easy to finger just one source, like pesticides, without extensive epidemiological studies.

I keep hearing that Kauai pediatricians have observed an elevated incidence of rare defects here. Who are these doctors? Where is their data? Has it been forwarded to the DOH? Please share it with all of us if it exists.

Of course, keeping it all shadowy makes it ideal for the fear-mongerers.

Speaking of shadowy, it seems the state Ethics Commission is checking into “grassroots” groups like Hawaii SEED, which may have violated the state law requiring “organizations that spend more than five hours lobbying in a six-month period to submit a report listing their expenditures and contributions.”

Jeri Di Pietro, president of Hawaii SEED, is one of those who has failed to submit a disclosure form, though her group certainly devoted far more than five hours to lobbying the Council for Bill 2491 last year and lobbying the Legislature on labeling and other issues this year. I guess Jeri just can't see the glaring disconnect between her actions and her group's repeated demands for disclosure and transparency by others.

Meanwhile, anti-GMO activist Dustin Barca has announced he's running against Bernard Carvalho Jr., giving us a choice between a singing mayor and a surfing-fighting mayor. If that choice is still too hard, consider this: who would you rather have as managing director, Nadine Nakamura or Fern Anuenue?

As the Hawaii Independent reports:

For Barca, this means moving towards greater economic self-reliance and regenerative agriculture especially; addressing land-use policies that have driven kama`aina families from their homes and blocked local access to important cultural and recreational areas; and developing new policies that limit growth while ensuring that dollars spent locally benefit local families.

Like any candidate, he's got some great rhetoric going. Still, in all the years we've been dealing with tourism, access, agriculture, iwi kupuna and land use issues I've never once seen or heard Dustin chime in, though he claims he's been involved in politics for his entire adult life. 

But hey, it's more media publicity for Dustin, just like the anti-GMO fight, which garnered him a few write-ups in the surfer mags. Oh, and gee, whatta ya know, he already got coverage in Surfer Today, which offers this quote:

"I see Kauai as a farming epicenter, where food production is number one. By reversing our 90% food import with 90% food production, I envision local agriculture and access to healthy foods for all of our island's residents," adds Dustin.

Visions are great, Dustin, and we all especially love that one. But what are your actual solutions for reversing that trend? Please outline how you plan to achieve this when it has eluded minds far better than yours for decades.

I'm not sure why folks are so keen to turn the election into a referendum on the GMO issue when they don't have the votes to pull it off.  But maybe it will take a stunning, crushing defeat to deflate some of the giant egos in the movement.

Unfortunately, they're squandering the movement's momentum and enthusiasm on unelectable candidates, flawed laws and unconstitutional charter amendments. Which means there won't be any juice left for actually embarking on meaningful, legal solutions to the environmental problems facing this island. Much less addressing the issue of pesticide use, as some of us would like.

And so, ironically, they perpetuate the very same status quo they seek to change.


Anonymous said...

Dustin better hope surf's not up on election day.

Anonymous said...

Aloha Joan, You ask "Who are these doctors?" Surely as an investigative journalist you know who these doctors are? One spoke at the event Saturday night....were you there to listen to her? Why not interview these doctors and nurses on the west side and share their experiences with us? Then maybe we can all learn something useful. Mahalo

Joan Conrow said...

12:42 -- What is the name of the doctor to whom you're referring, the one who spoke at Saturday's event?

Anonymous said...

There wasn't one. It was the anti-GMO nurse. The doctors know better than to publicly make false claims.

Anonymous said...

@1;19......exactly what false claims are you referring to....she spoke of children bleeding and being born with birth defects 10 times higher than national average.....and why do you think doctors are anymore trustworthy than nurses, by the way? she also spoke about the difficulty of getting help from agencies in looking for clusters of health problems occurring in smaller communities than the county...i.e.-- waimea or kekaha

Anonymous said...

We very much would like to listen the truth(s) as well as evidences that are in relation to what the anti--GMOs are claiming, not lies and innuendos or false claims. The Seed Companies care, they are not the ones that are spreading fears and lies. These Anti's had better be smart...they are bad people!

Anonymous said...

Anti-GMO's are following a false ideology. I would consider them as fools when trying to enter politics. They would be complete failures...are they joking or just plain stupid. I hope they don't come to my house....they'd be trespassing!

Luke Kambic said...

"birth defects 10 times higher than national average"

I've heard this claim many times. I've never heard its source named. It certainly didn't originate from any health department or published study.

Anonymous said...

Luke, Exactly-that is the problem the doctor or nurse at the event Saturday night was speaking of. The health department is not doing any studies in spite of numerous requests to do so because of findings by local health workers on the westside.

Anonymous said...

Yes! They never mention the source of their statistics, but if they do its all lies and false claims to instill fear with no evidence what so ever...just selected beliefs as claimed in Google sad. I have enough patience to wait till the court go to session. They will make the final decision on what "is" and "is not". The truth will reveal itself. Truth and evidence(s) will RULE!

Anonymous said...

Many people from other parts of the island go to KVMH to have their babies, are the referenced birth defects people from the westside whose babies have birth defects or people who go to the hospital there?

Anonymous said...

"Unfortunately, they're squandering the movement's momentum and enthusiasm on unelectable candidates, flawed laws and unconstitutional charter amendments."
Joan, Can give us examples how not to not squander, who are electable candidates, how to make the charter constitutional, and how to take the flaws out of the laws?

Joan Conrow said...

5:49 -- Examples of how not to squander: use the energy to do positive things, like open up loi, restore watersheds, clean invasives, restore archeological sites, build affordable homes, come up with some creative, culturally-based ways to address ice rehab. These things would mend bridges, build community, create credibility and actually accomplish something, which then nourishes a movement.

Also, why not put some of that energy into lobbying CDC for a health study?

The charter amendment is messed up from the start because it's actually an ordinance. Besides allowing people to be convicted without any evidence of intentional wrongdoing, the amendment has the same big flaw as the law: it discriminates. Just substitute black person or gay for big ag and you get the idea. The law also prohibits any ag in the buffer zone, so that's a taking.

As for electable candidates, I'm sorry, but the "red shirts" don't really have any, except Gary Hooser, and he's going to face a fight. Mason Chock may have a chance, but a lot of folks won't forget how he got appointed. Darryl Perry and Arryl Kaneshiro are the two non-incumbents with the best hope of breaking in.

Joan Conrow said...

And 4:49 pm, I saw a letter reportedly from westside Dr. Jim Raelson who wrote, regarding the lack of current birth defect info: "DOH recognizes this deficiency and importance of having the data and has started an effort to resurrect data going back to 2005."

Additionally, the DOH is doing the pesticide samplings and said the findings could identify the need for further studies.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that the county is out of control.

Fraudulent hiring of unqualified friends and family (nepotism), wasteful spending to hide surplus, abuse of position and theft of county property and money.

The County of Kauai is a joke. It's the single largest employer of dimwits.

They hired so many friends and family that they not only filled the front and back of the old gems/Woolworth/bigsave but they had to shut down a street for more parking. These county clowns think nobody is watching them.

Kauai is a BIG FAT JOKE!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I am glad that the Ethics Commission is finally looking into these anti groups. I hope that they do a thorough investigation of their funding sources. I hope that there will be accountability and action taken against these groups when it is finally brought to light that their funding is coming from sources who are profiting from all of their fear-mongering.

On the topic of what doctors spread rumors about cancer clusters and birth defects - well it is also the ones that profit from being able to sell some "miracle natural cure" for all of the GMO/pesticide health related problems that they are diagnosing.

I also think that there should be an Ethics investigation into any medical professional that makes false statements about birth defects or cancer clusters.

Anonymous said...

Lies or no lies.......
increased exposure to pesticides = increased risk of cancer = no lie.

Lie now about pesticides, and latter...Lie dying of cancer.

No fear

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

The pro gmo crowd is as ignorant in their rhetoric as they claim the anti's to be. My motto is better safe than sorry and for god sake question why the agri-chemical corporations are pouring hundreds of millions into fighting the labeling movement that is taking momentum across the nation? Why is their propaganda more platable than the redshirts? No different in my view. All one needs to do is look outside Kauai and see the legacy Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta have left in their wake across the world and I'd question the company rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

If you can't trust war profiteers who can you trust?

Anonymous said...

Is Barca with atooi?

Anonymous said...

Where are your sources of evidences that claim that people are getting sick from eating GMO product's? Many people are just as gullible as you are by hand picking from your Google searches. This is America! Since when do what other countries do...we know better! Science cannot be denied. Denying science in search of human knowledge will never happen! It's in all of humanity, but there will many non-believers!

Anonymous said...

We already know atrazine is bad. Don't need Tyrone to come preach to the choir. Total waste of $

Anonymous said...

Hey Joan: What exactly is a "cultural peacemaker"?

Is that something like a cultural _practitioner_ ?

Perhaps you need a new "spiel checker"

Joan Conrow said...

It's someone who uses culturally-based methods of peace-making. For example, the work of Kahu Patterson.

Anonymous said...

How shame his mom called in anonymously to talk up Dustin on KKCR Tuesday.