Monday, June 23, 2014

Musings: Appreciatively

Sitting in a meadow in a forest burned two years ago, where skeletons of charred ponderosa pine reach toward a cobalt sky, I am marveling at the lushness of the land in this high desert place. Opened by the blaze, the forest floor is a riot of life, profuse with thistle, milkweed, yellow dandelions, delicate wildflowers of pink, lavender, white, blue. 
It is a bursting banquet of food for birds and insects; the elk, deer, rabbits and rodents that feed coyotes, bears, us. In days of old, people, too, would've relished the succulent dandelion and thistle greens, fresh and purifying after the monotony of winter's dead diet.

And now we dismiss them as weeds, deem them bad, unsightly, douse them with poison, eradicate them with a vengeance. How do we come to forgot the value of such things?

I have been appreciating small things in this arid climate: sprinkling salt easily from a shaker left always open; keeping chocolate in its original wrapper, at room temperature, secure in the knowledge it will not be chewed or licked by geckos, ants or cockroaches; towels that dry quickly, even when folded in thirds on a rack.

Some of us are learning to appreciate the importance of pollinators, which are celebrated with a national week of their own. This series of amazing photographs gives a glimpse into the incredible beauty of bees, which come in far more colors than the standard yellow and black.

But the recent Cascadia Times article on seed company pesticide use — rehashed in The Garden Island, though TGI staffer Chris D'Angelo did no original research or verification of his own — is nothing more than the standard propaganda now regularly served up by the anti-GMO/anti-"big ag" forces.

As I reported last November, the Media Consortium is funding a series of supposedly independent articles about “pesticide-based pollution, GE food, corporate influence and other important topics” here on Kauai. The Cascadia Times article is the latest.

So far, every report published has reiterated all the same stuff, including the Cascadia Times piece, which also compared pesticide use on Kauai to the mainland.

The reporter came to the alarming conclusion — dutifully and unquestioningly regurgitated by TGI's Chris D'Angelo — that the seed/chem companies are applying restricted use pesticides here at a much greater rate than most mainland farms. But Dr. Steven Savage, a former manager of research at DuPont and a former professor at Colorado State University whose research is cited in the Cascadia Times article, contends the reporter misinterpreted data.

One example is the restricted use pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is applied in much higher quantities to California crops like walnuts, pecans, sweet potatoes and asparagus than Kauai seed corn, according to Savage.

The Cascadia Times article also compared unlike figures, including the total amount of land leased by seed companies today to the total amount of harvested cropland in the U.S. in 2012. It also extrapolated annualized pesticide use on Kauai by using several months of data reported by the seed companies, which they say is not representative of yearly use. That figure was then compared to mainland pesticide data from 2009.

In short, the article used shoddy “research” to achieve sensationalized results. But that didn't prevent Huffington Post, The Progessive and other like-mined media outlets and blogs from lazily reprinting its findings without question, just like TGI.

And just like the other Media Consortium articles, the Cascadian Times piece quotes only those who tout the party line. Like Councilman Gary Hooser, who previously took the chem/seed industry to task for “employ[ing] an army of industry bloggers and social media experts that attack the credibility and integrity of their opponents at every step.”

But I haven't heard Gary or any of his anti-GMO supporters speak against the blog that was started solely for the purpose of attacking me, Luke Evslin, Joni Kamiya-Rose and anyone else who dares to question the movement, its tactics, its funders, its objectives or its fallout.

The Cascadia Times article includes this quote:

Kaua‘i is Ground Zero for the testing of GMO crops,” said Gary Hooser, a member of the Kaua‘i County Council and an author of Ordinance 960. “It is also Ground Zero for democracy in action.”

So how, exactly, is an active effort to force dissenters to “shut the fuck” up an expression of “democracy in action”? It's not unlike the recent commenter who could only come to one conclusion for my critique of the movement he endorses: I must be in the pay of the seed companies.

No, as I've stated numerous times, I've never gotten a penny or anything else from those folks. My criticism of the anti-GMO movement and its divisive, simplistic, “with us or against us” mentality is based solely on my disdain for any propaganda-promoting totalitarian crowd. 

It's bad enough that the anti-GMO movement has discredited itself by taking such an approach. But it's even worse that it seems totally blind to the fact that it is behaving exactly like the chem companies it reviles, pushing those of us who appreciate dialogue and discernment into the fertile landscape of middle ground.


ariajuliet said...

I completely agree that TGI is lazy and irresponsible for republishing articles blindly but its no surprise that people would think you have a severe slant towards biotech, offering up Dr Steven Savage as the counter argument.

I'm trying to understand the critiques that Dr Savage is addressing...."One example is the restricted use pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is applied in much higher quantities to California crops like walnuts, pecans, sweet potatoes and asparagus than Kauai seed corn, according to Savage." So there is higher quantities to CA crops, say...3x amount to HI corn crops x amount, the overall amount used is still the same...

"The Cascadia Times article also compared unlike figures, including the total amount of land leased by seed companies today to the total amount of harvested cropland in the U.S. in 2012. "

If we had the harvested cropland figures for Kauai, wouldn't that make the lbs per acre on Kauai even greater because the number currently incorporating land out of use and fields out of rotation?

"It also extrapolated annualized pesticide use on Kauai by using several months of data reported by the seed companies, which they say is not representative of yearly use. That figure was then compared to mainland pesticide data from 2009."

Do you think that a full year of data would significantly shift the results that the author observed in the analysis?

Where can we really find an unbiased analysis out there, with everyone discrediting everyone....

For the record I think that blog in mention is disgusting and immature.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you mentioned the ugly blog that is very crude. Note no one comments on it, you can only comment by posting your name and they (whoever it is that writes it), do not use their names.
Nice attempt at stifling thoughtful discussion with meanness.
But it also seems to be a Dustin campaign platform and that is really scary that he allows his campaign materials to be used on a site like that. It speaks volumes and nothing good.
Who writes it?

Anonymous said...

"Who writes it?"

Nomi Carmona and Juan Wilson, among others.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:48am: How do you know? Who/what is your source?

Luke Kambic said...

The Center for Food Safety sponsored a "home rule" concert event in Waimea (Big Island) on Saturday. Pretty bizarre to see a bunch of lawyers from New York intervening in local politics. From one of the ads on their facebook page:

"We need to have the power to determine what is right for us on our own islands. We need HOMERULE!

Your voter registration is your ticket in!"

That ad was posted the day after Kamehameha Day.

Anonymous said...

8:59 -- It's easy to recognize Juan and Nomi's style.

Joan Conrow said...

To Aria Juliet -- I wasn't offering Dr Savage as the "counter argument," but pointing out he was disputing the use of his statistics. Deliberately distorting my reference as a way to attack and discredit me is yet another example of how your movement operates.

Anonymous said...

seems Andy contributes possibly too. and since the writers read this blog,
if you are proud of your work, own it

ariajuliet said...

Counter argument was the wrong wording I guess, my apologies. I really don't think pointing out why people always say you are pro seed is attacking you. Dr Savage makes his living defending biotech. Is there anyone who doesn't work for biotech and doesnt work against biotech who we could look to to give us an analysis. Does anyone else even care? And if they told us one thing or another, would we just discredit it because they don't work in the field?

And I just have to say, corralling me into the 'movement" is just as offensive to me as someone calling you a paid shill for biotech is to you.

Unknown said...

The "blog with no name" denies anonymity to others while granting anonymity to themselves. "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." -George Orwell

People that treat themselves fairly but deny such fairness to others are creating an unlevel playing field. They make others out themselves so they have a known target to attack,
while preventing attacks on themselves.
If you post, you have made yourself a potential target for unfair and unknown people. Priceless!

Anonymous said...

The Garden Island hasn't been a source of news for years.
I hope that this election will not be purely based on GMOs, there are many issues facing Kauai.
The Anono Blog is much ado about nothing. Lots of Vicodin, Booze and a sprinkle of Zoloft in that estrogen fueled dither. It will burn out, but it is a real compliment to Joan Conrow, for a group to target her, steal her name and reach deep for velly velly bad things to say.
Sorry Joan, I guess you really are a bogey person.
Perhaps someone can help out, the link below,(if this comment gets on Kauai Eclectic) is a short segment of a recent Council meeting. Did Joann Yukimura set Tim up? She certainly is calm, cool and collected. And, will Tim Bynum be made to apologize to the Council for pencil throwing and arm (fistee) waving antics?
Copy and Paste

Anonymous said...

JoAnn didn't set Tim up, she just played politics well. He was being disingenuous demanding his poor tax change pass. Why rush yet another not well thought out piece of crap?

Anonymous said...

Barca seems like a thug.
If he showed up to mow your lawn would you worry?
High school drop out with self confessed violent tendencies on a mission from god.
He does have a cadre of over educated underemployed rabid anti gmo activist, social media experts. Some great instagram youtube clips
He's the anti gmo warrior, just don't let him talk too much away from the accepted sound bites.
Never mind the documented delusions on the level of X Files season three,.
Chem trails, 9-11 denial, Anti Vaccination, Glen Beck One world-ism.
Also thuggish threats on a rogue "anonymous " website.
Andy better check Dustin's position on Jews or he may feel a little uncomfortable at the torchlight rallies. Also sad to see the female apologists who feel "attacked" by truly snarky comments calling BS on their hysterical, hyperbolic over the top anti toxin public rants, condoning actual physical threats of violence on a female journalist who "disrespects" them.
Welcome to the Taliban mindset.
The end does justify the means.
We must live chemical free or else.
Anyone caught with oven cleaner or Chlorox beware. It IS a poison/ toxin that is a sin to our precious earth mother Aina.
Cut/ Paste/ Spin/this Snark.
May you reap what you sow.
The earth is flat , if you go too far you do fall off the edge.

Anonymous said...

The internet has everything, good, bad, truths, lies, pure hearts and devils. Seriously, who opposes full disclosure and reasonable buffer zones? And what is wrong with the precautionary principle? But using women as window dressing to catch the eyes of teenage boys or psychologically stunted adults? And running a high school dropout as the big ticket candidate? This movement is more bowel than historic.

Anonymous said...

I support buffer zones , unfortunately the buffer zones Dustin and the Babes got for us, do not allow crops to be grown in them and DOES allow pesticide use with 24 hours notice. If the corn companies cannot grow anything, they will resort to pesticide use in order to comply with the nothing growing there thing.
Buffer zones that don't allow pesticide use is what we wanted but not at all what they demanded,just what they said they got, maybe that is where the lack of education comes in. And yes, they have fabulous PR working on this to tell us what they want us to think things say. The reality seems not to matter.
Our poorly educated kids here were ripe for the taking. Big egos make it possible.

Anonymous said...

I get the feeling that when the anti-GMO movement first began, Joan was on board, for a while. But then it got crazy, illogical, and turned into something more about votes and less about what's good for this island.

I've said it before and i'll say it again: In today's world of genetically modified and pesticide protected foods, we live longer than we ever have in human history. Ask a hungry sudanese orphan if he gives two shits whether his food is genetically modified or was grown with pesticides.

My friend worked for a "organic" farm on a work-trade contract where they let her live in a shack in exchange for farm work and help bringing their stuff to market. They mixed their vegetables liberally with what they bought at Cost-Co and sold them as locally grown organic at a %300 mark-up. EVERY WEEK. She told me. I asked her if she'd tell a police officer that and she said no and she was afraid she'd be in trouble for doing it too.

I got a family to feed. I'm buying from Cost-Co and Wal-Mart and whatever else comes cheap. Is my kid's fruit-loops made from GMO corn? Yea probably. So were the fruit-loops I've eaten all my life. I'm healthy, fit, and still alive at 33. 150 years ago, that was 3/4ths my life expectancy.

Anonymous said...

American Association for the Advancement of Science

“The science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.”

World Health Organization

“No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”

National Academy of Sciences

“No adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.”

American Medical Association

“There is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods. Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.”

European Commission

“No scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms.”

French Academy of Science

“All criticisms against GMOs can be largely rejected on strictly scientific criteria.”

Union of German Academics and Scientists

“In consuming food derived from GM plans approved in the EU and in the USA, the risk is in no way higher than in the consumption of food from conventionally grown plants. On the contrary, in some cases food from GM plants appears to be superior in respect to health.“

Anonymous said...

Not everyone is living longer. The rich are living longer while the poor are dying younger. It is something to think about if you are buying whatever seems "cheap" in the short term. Often times there is a cheaper and healthier choice that may not have as colorful packaging, or any at all. The most important factor may be where you work and live. They call it the Longevity Gap.

Anonymous said...

That's pretty stupid. Even the poorest in our country live longer today than the life expectancy of the richest in past eras. But hey, ignore what your eyes see and keep reading magazines.

Anonymous said...

Froot Loops is 41% sugar! plus all those dyes and GMO corn sounds like child endangerment. Way more than making them walk home from school. But, hey now that the corporations control the government, anyone that thinks safety comes before profits is delusional. Tobacco science will prevail until we all start dropping dead from radiation related illness. The only protection we are getting is from the precautions we take in out personal diet.

Anonymous said...

read the NYTimes article. Doesn't say that poor people are dying earlier. Just says their life expectancy isn't increasing as fast as rich people. You simply read into it what you want it to say.

The example they have is a girl who dropped out of high school and started drinking/smoking/drugs at age 16, then had a stroke at age 21. You want to blame that on money, or life choices? It sure wasn't the cheap GMO foods that caused her stroke and early death. That article has no business being brought up in this context.

Anonymous said...

Suggestion: Find a way to get "like/dislike" feature on your comment boards Joan!

Anonymous said...

“…anyone that thinks safety comes before profits is delusional.”

A common mis-statement of the anti-corporate left. The truth is that safety comes back to bite the crap out of you financially like it has GM and other car manu’s so that safety IS a big concern because lack of it does impact profits heavily. And it’s not just the recalls; it’s the lawsuits. So your statement merely reflects your lack of understanding of the business world. Only places like China and the other communist, or former communist countries, is that true where their legal systems are government controlled as it appears this country is moving towards with Eric Holder and the judicial system’s ignoring of government lawlessness.

Anonymous said...

3:14 GM knew they had a safety problem for over 10 years and did nothing to fix it, cheaper to pay out the lawsuits than recall and fix. life is cheap at GM.
On February 7, 2014, General Motors (commonly known as GM) recalled about 800,000 of its small cars due to faulty ignition switches, which could shut off the engine during driving and thereby prevent the airbags from inflating.[1] The company continued to recall more of its cars over the next several months. As of June 16, 2014, GM has issued 44 recalls this year, which have involved more than 20 million cars worldwide and over 17 million in the United States.

The fault had been known to GM for at least a decade prior to the recall being declared. Some have suggested that the company actually approved the switches in 2002 even though they knew they might not meet safety standards.

The company is facing multiple investigations into why it did not attempt to fix these faulty ignitions sooner, including a federal criminal probe,[4] as well as a probe led by Anton Valukas, the latter of which produced a report which GM made public on June 5, 2014.[5] On March 31, 2014, GM's CEO, Mary Barra, met with the families of some of the people who had died in car crashes as a result of the faulty switches.[6] Barra testified at a House Subcommittee hearing on April 1; in her testimony, filed in advance of the hearing, she told the United States House Energy Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations that "When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators and with our customers.

Anonymous said...

What we really need is some type of regulations and accountability to address the out of control behavior of some of these anti's. Attacking people just because they disagree with what you are promoting should not be tolerated in a civil society.

They systematically attack those who are actual experts in the science as well as government agencies that serve to protect the public by spreading all of these ridiculous lies about corporate bribes and corruption. We really need to adopt zero tolerance and strict accountability for this behavior.

Anonymous said...

I take issue with your last sentence "But it's even worse that it seems totally blind to the fact that it is behaving exactly like the chem companies it reviles...". At least here on Kauai, I find the companies and their employees to have behaved professionally and, if anything, too reserved in the face of vicious provocation.

Anonymous said...

Joan "offers up" Dr. Savage because he is claiming his own work was misinterpreted by Mr. Koberstein. In science, the fact that one may or may not like Dr. Savage due to his career choices is irrelevant to a discussion about the data and interpretations thereof. This is not a popularity contest. I actually have the same question as you regarding per acre useage but, unfortunately, Mr. Koberstein does such a poor job of, among other things, explaining his methodology that it it pointless to spend any time debating it. It remains an open question.

Paul Koberstein said...

Joan, a couple comments on your post. In my story I used 2009 USGS on annual pesticide use because it was the best publicly available source. My review of USGS data over the previous 17 years showed me that the average amount of pesticides used on farms doesn't vary much from year to year.

I used 12,000 acres as the amount of acreage under the control of these four companies. I could have used a smaller figure, but they would have looked even worse relatively to the mainland, as one of your readers pointed out.

And yes the pesticide usage on Kauai in future months may go down. That would be a good thing, right?

Paul Koberstein

Joan Conrow said...

Thank you for your comments, Paul.

However, you did not address my primary concern, which was your comparison of a snapshot of pesticide use on Kauai to national annual applications.

The question is not whether pesticide use in future months may go down, which would be a good thing, but whether your article's sensational assertions are based in fact.