Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Musings: Money is King

Temperatures plunge, black sky rumbles, cracks, flashes, and the deluge hits with nickel-sized hail, a rush of brown water coursing through dry washes. Next morning, the cool air is heavy with the fragrance of sage, coyote tracks appear in the sandy mud of the arroyo.

It's monsoon season, a time when the desert — hot, dusty, dry — is transformed into a very different place, at least for a while, and the dramatic contrasts of nature, of life, become vividly clear.

I thought about contrasts when I read a National Public Radio blog post on how some food manufacturers are quietly developing GMO-free products, even while fighting labeling proposals. It stated:

Right now, non-GMO food fetches a premium. Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt says that premium is likely to come down if this part of the agricultural sector gains more traction and an efficiency of scale can kick in.

Ultimately, the consumer is king. And the question of whether or not consumers will want non-GMO products is still up in the air.

Ultimately, money is king. The food-makers don't want the costs associated with labeling, but they do want to be ready to cash in on the growing “GMO-free” market, which “is one of the fastest growing sectors of the natural food industry, representing $6 billion in annual sales,” according to the Non-GMO Project.

Then I got a news release from the National Center for Public Policy Research, a “free market corporate activist group” that has been sending its people to corporate shareholders' meetings, trying to convince them to oppose labeling. Most recently, they prevailed at Safeway, where 90 percent of the shareholders rejected a proposal to label all GMO ingredients.

The group maintains that anti-GMO activists are using “fear-mongering and deceptive narratives” to advance their cause, which is funded in part by the organic food lobby. It's now trying to get food manufacturers like Kraft to start promoting the benefits of GMOs to counter the activists.

And the activists on both sides are making money off their activism, using the issue to raise cash for themselves and their causes.

Meanwhile, I followed a link to a Scientific American blog post about a study, published in the journal Environment and Development Economics, that delved into how anti-GMO opposition has impacted the development of “golden rice.” Syngenta, after figuring out how to insert the Vitamin A -producing gene from carrots into rice, had “handed all financial interests over to a non-profit organization, so there would be no resistance,” according to the post.

Twelve years later, however, opponents have prevented the cultivation of that rice. As the post notes:

 [The researchers] quantified the price of that opposition, in human health, estimating that the delayed application of Golden Rice in India alone has cost 1,424,000 life years since 2002. That odd sounding metric – not just lives but ‘life years’ – accounts not only for those who died, but also for the blindness and other health disabilities that Vitamin A deficiency causes. The majority of those who went blind or died because they did not have access to Golden Rice were children.

These are real deaths, real disability, real suffering, not the phantom fears about the human health effects of Golden Rice thrown around by opponents, none of which have held up to objective scientific scrutiny.

One of those opponents is the Center for Food Safety (CFS). The nonprofit organization played a big role in drafting Kauai's GMO-pesticide regulatory bill, Ordinance 960, and is currently helping to defend it against a legal challenge mounted by the chem/seed companies.

As I've reported previously, CFS gets the bulk of its funding from the Rockefeller clan via the Cornerstone Campaign, which recently created a website.

So I visited that site, and found this, under the heading of Biological Pollution (emphasis added):

AS WE CONTINUE the difficult task of trying to control and eliminate a multitude of chemical environmental pollutants, from pesticides to global warming gases, corporations using genetic engineering are imposing a new form of pollution on us—biological pollution caused by the release of gene-altered microbes, plants and animals into the environment. This biological pollution presents fundamentally different problems than chemical pollution. Chemical contamination whether an oil spill or factory exhaust, while harmful to human health and the natural world, generally becomes diluted and less concentrated over time.

By contrast, the biological contamination fostered by genetic engineering increases over time as the polluting organism reproduces, disseminates and mutates.

in other words, oil spills and even climate change pale in comparison to the evils of biotech, according to those who benefit from the sale and consumption of fossil fuels.

Ah, yes. There we have it: Big oil vs big chem, with consumers and activists the witting and unwitting pawns.

And then I read further and found this:

The drive for corporate profit cannot be allowed to foster and control a technology which threatens human health and the balance of nature upon which all living things depend.

What an interesting sentiment to be espoused by those living on fortunes derived from the drive for corporate profit and the exploitation of a resource that threatens human health and the balance of nature.

I can't say for certain if GMOs are harmful or helpful. Like most of what humans have developed, biotech is part good, part bad. I do have my concerns about the technology, and those who control it. 

Yet I also have my concerns about the distorted and deceptive campaign that is being waged against GMOs by the scions of oil barons and an organic food industry. It can't possibly be argued that they're neutral, or concerned only about human and environmental health. Not when such hefty profits are to be made by the demise and denigration of GMOs.

As we continue to discuss and debate this technology, and particularly its application in Hawaii, it becomes ever more important to look beyond the rhetoric, resist the aggressive fear-mongering and consider the many agendas at play here.

Because ultimately, it's all about money, and money is king.


Anonymous said...

The CFS said, "Chemical contamination whether an oil spill or factory exhaust...generally becomes diluted and less concentrated over time."

I guess then the Anti's here can no longer claim that the seed companies are destroying the soil because the CFS says in effect that it will recover over time.

Anonymous said...

Without the ability to think critically, the argument against GMOs is so convincing and scary. They really do a great job of creating fear. This whole issue is proving to be so twisted and deceiving. Thanks for your research and putting the time into this subject so that the rest of us can better understand the big picture. It's really unfortunate for all those people in India who didn't receive the Vitamin A. This war between Organic vs GMO and "good" vs "evil" are really selfish and spoiled when you think of the rest of humanity who are just struggling for survival. It's like we really have no threats so we create them in our imagination at the expense of sanity, peace, relationships, etc... The hatred and fear this issue has created is the real poison.

Anonymous said...

You really are a moron aren't you? What happened to your critical reading and thinking skills. Finding some obscure money connection of oil companies to CFS is like the numbskulls who think that vaccines are bad because the FDA likes them. What's next Joan- 911 Truthers? Chem Trails? Don't publish this- it's too embarrassing for you.

Anonymous said...

@12:33 I think you have a reading comprehension problem. Your comment doesn't make sense. Critical thinking and research is exactly what Joan is doing. Did u read the blog or just skim? Your comment is only embarrassing to yourself.

Luke Kambic said...

"Vitamin A -producing gene from carrots into rice"

I think golden rice is awesome, but I just wanted to point out that the "carrot gene" explanation isn't quite accurate. The current version of the rice has a gene from a common bacterium and a gene from corn. Together, these genes fill in the missing links in the biochemical synthesis chain for carotenoids in rice grain endosperm. The result is very similar to carotenoid synthesis in carrots (transferring the genes from carrots directly turns out to be less straightforward to perform.)

Anonymous said...

Joan- Thank you for your blog. You evoke many thoughts.
There definitely is a balance somewhere, but the fact is, our lives have become healthier, more comfortable and vital with advances in chemistry and chemicals.
The words - “fear-mongering and deceptive narratives” are exactly the methods used by the fistees in their BS filled diatribes.
It seems that da Hoos, Jackpot, Felicia and Chock have a coalition of campaigners pushing a collective of the four candidates.
This is a FACT - a vote for Hooser, Bynum, Chock or Felicia is a vote for the same organism.
Hang on to your sombrero cattle ranchers, throw away your sabedong sprayer you real farmers, get rid of your investment properties you greedy land owners. A vote for any of these four is a vote for more government control, higher taxes, fewer choices and less freedom (economic or social). The tentacles run deep and tho' these fistees are individuals, they share a common mania, they want more control over your life, money and freedom. Ideologues, who will not compromise.
Jumpin' Jehosafat, how did the island allow itself to be dissected by Mainland style and have a fistful of fistees as viable candidates?

Where have all the Locals gone? Long time passing.....

Anonymous said...

We're pushing for,

Mel Rapozo
Ross Kagawa
Arryl Kaneshiro
Arther Brun

Oh and Sandy Kato Klute and two others.

Anonymous said...

" I do have my concerns about the technology, and those who control it." That is my concern as well. Corporate funding glasses distort the "free inquiry" upon which science is based. Like the mass media which can't tell us what to think but does tell us what to think about, corporations increasingly tell scientists what to look at and if they don't like what they see they keep those proprietary studies to themselves.

Anonymous said...

The best thing for Kauai is to VOTE all incumbents out of office. The Mayor has to go too.

The single most important thing is fiscal responsibility. In the 6 years the Mayor and this council has been in office, has equated to an increase of 45-50 percent bed get incease. 120 million to over 180 million per year. These people in office should be ashamed of themselves.

That is a 10 million a year increase with no drug rehab, buss up roads, decaying infrastructures at the county parks, gas theft, millions of dollars in lawsuits, millions of dollars in consultant fees with nothing to show for, no solid waste facility, increase in solid waste fees, increase in taxes, faux furlough that they spent 40-60 million to cover up; all because someone said try needed the TAT from state which is what 10-20 million?, retaliation suits, sabotaging an auditors duties and responsibilities by cutting funds, broken primary and secondary water main pumps that shut down a whole community for over a month, more hiring of unqualified friends an families, shut down of a street to accommodate parking at the family reunion building in lihue, and about a thousand of other things that are wrong with the County of Kauai.

Tax breaks for big landowners, chem/bio aka seed companies, the rich and GOBAG.

Not one council member or the Mayor had an alternate budget. A reduced budget to save taxpayers money. They all agreed to suck the blood out of te heart and soul of Kauai. The people should not forget and always hold people accountable for their actions or inactions.

The bike path fraud, waste, and abuse that is a luxury and not a necessity. The fraudulent wasteful spending of the wailua bridge.

I cannot stress how important this years elections are but with historical data showing only 25-29 percent of registered voters voting, it all seems like the good ol boys and gals might just win again. If and only if the public on Kauai realize what a mess this islands government is at, then maybe the voters will come out and VOTE these incumbents out of office like they did with the tyrant of a former prosecutor.

If not than Kauai seems to have exhausted the HOPE for a better and more responsible county government. Kauai might as well separate itself from Hawaii and the USA because it's already a third world country.

Anonymous said...

Are any candidates addressing climate change? Big changes already happening and nothing but silence.

Anonymous said...

The reference to the National Center for Public Policy Research saying antiGMO activists are “funded in part by the organic food lobby” needs some additional information because in America, this conjures up a vision of underdogs digging deep in pockets and giving a hard earned ten spot to help save their tiny organic farm.
In Europe, organic farmers are organized into huge organizations like Bio-Austria. These organizations provide $271 million annually to Greenpeace to fund antiGMO campaigns. That's just one thing they do collectively. They also have political clout throughout Europe, especially in Germany.
Locally, Walter Ritte and his daughters in law, Jeri DiPietro on Kauai and Mercy Ritte on Molakai, through their Hawaii Seed organization, have directly received millions from a Minnesota foundation known as Ceres Trust, which calls itself an “organic research” organization, but is actually a huge endowment fund that mostly funnels money to anti-GMO campaigns. Millions of dollars of mainland funding is funneled by The Sacharuna Foundation, a Virginia based foundation closely tied to Nancy Redfeather. Hawaii Seed's Big Island leader. These four have founded multiple smaller groups, like GMO Free Kauai, in order to give the appearance of “grassroots” and to spread [read hide] the funding.
This money trail was reported by the Star-Advertiser, Forbes and The Genetic Literacy Project.
My personal opinion is that Walter Ritte could care less about GMO even though his relatives are long time fanatics. I suspect he's out to radicalize Neighbor Island Councils and pave the way for other efforts in activism.

Pete Antonson

Anonymous said...

Actually itʻs about the land. And land is king.

-Ross Kagawa
-Arryl Kaneshiro
-Arther Brun

Really? Are you serious? Canʻt we get this stinky little clan out of government already or do they need freeloader jobs right about now?

BTW, whatʻs an ʻArrylʻ-not good enough tobe a ʻDarrylʻ or a mistake at birth records?

Anonymous said...

Mahalo Joan for taking the time to point out these issues in our islands, not just Kauai. It's really sad that paranoia and fear narratives have overridden any sane, logical, and rational conversations about agriculture in Hawaii. I may not live on Kauai, but what's being said there by the activists hurt my dad's farm as well as so many others. It's so contradictory that these same people will state that they want more local foods and then attack producers of it in their war against "companies." It's a war of misinformation right now and your voice puts some semblance of sanity back.

Anonymous said...

Re 8:57

Reverting to name calling is a typical sign of a whining crybaby.

Anonymous said...

8:57: i agree!!!! Arryl didn't tell the listeners at the Waimea Theater that he is employed by Grove Farm. Arthur works for Syngenta. Look at all the campaign signs as you pass Dow's field--Brun, Kaneshiro, Kagawa, Kanekoa, Klute, Abercrombie--does this tell you a story?! To 10:04: The producers being asked to be transparent and create buffer zones are the seed companies whose pesticides create problems for their neighbors----not the small farmers, ranchers.

Anonymous said...

What about the story behind the Hooser. Barca, Cowden, Bynum signs? Fear, deception, wasting tax $, ego mania. Give me the real people any day.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line this election is for the non-Locals (local caring style) to completely take over the County.
Time to get rid of the barking dogs, roosters, Cattle ranchers, kids, loud trucks, fishing on the beach, bonfires, Roundup, big box stores, all new housing, all housing for locals, new roads, golf courses, PMRF and time to tax Big land, hotels, 2nd home owners, vacant land owners, condo owners to death.
"We will tell you how for live" Hooser,Bynum, Chock, Cowden

Anonymous said...

What about buffer zones around golf courses like the Hyatt and Princeville where they use tons of pesticides and use the shit to water the grounds??

Anonymous said...

8:57 You bash 3 local born and raised guys. You must be a Hooser and Bynum transplant. Live here a couple years and you think you know it all. We'll see if you're the minority or majority, just 11 more days. When you see where you stand please do all of us a favor and take your stinky attitude about our locals and move back to where you came from.

Anonymous said...

12:13 Unfortunately, many Kauai people are too busy raising their kids and working to vote. Locals have given up hope and know that the island is destined as a land of rich know-it-all Hooserites and Jackpot Bynum sycophants. They should pass a law that we get a rice cooker and get busted for illegal rentals and pocket 300K or not pay taxes (What me worry, Hooser?) and become a lifelong politician.

Anonymous said...

who needs expensive GMO vitamin A rice?

The poor?

Its cheaper to eat peppers, and vegetables......then no worries about Vitamin A.

This is just more BS from the GMO companies.

Fear tactics? Duh?? Look at the GMO......fear hippies and red shirts......organic is dirty.

Eat healthy and you won't need GMO foods.

Get a brain and an education....
and you won't be manipulated by Fear.

Da "lo lo" prevails....and is running the show on this island.

Pad the pockets of the politicians and they will believe that Jesus is coming next week.

Lots of GMO pros on this blog...hanging round like monkeys waiting for the banana man.

Zero Seven.

Anonymous said...

Zero Seven: Beautifully put. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

If every food GMO food or product that saves lives or makes life better needs to be posted, this blog will need many pages.
Deepwater rice- Bangladesh and India, another GMO achievement, this rice survives monsoons and will save 40,000 in Bangladesh alone each monsoon season. Of course, there are North Shore crazies over there also, that prefer to have thousands die instead of putting a little rice in their bowl. Get a grip, there is a balance out there, as you drink your bottled water from a GMO infused "plastic Bottle" or drive your car with GMO ethanol gas..whackee is as whackee does. Shucks ma'am, I think even my patchouli oil has GMO.