I understand why good people have gotten involved in the anti-GMO/pesticide movement in Hawaii — they're genuinely (though perhaps misguidedly) concerned about human and environmental health.
What I don't understand is why those good people haven't said anything about the ugly dark side of their movement: the ongoing death threats against folks who express a different opinion, the intimidation, the lies, the dissemination of distasteful social media memes like this:
In the case of Alicia Maluafiti — former executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association — even her worthy volunteer work on behalf of stray dogs and cats was viciously targeted by anti-GMO extremists like Nomi “Babes” Carmona.
I've not seen even one public statement censuring these abhorrent tactics, not one instance of anyone distancing themselves from the nasties.
So one can only assume those out-front either condone such behavior, or they don't have the strength and/or courage to stand up against it. Either way, it doesn't speak well for the moral fiber, the character of the movement. Which is why I personally find it so repellant.
Now, thanks to the Center for Food Safety video “we are the movement,” we can attach names and faces to the “red shirts” — identify those in our community who overtly or tacitly approve of bullying, the stifling of dissent by any means, the promulgation of misinformation.
Sadly, some of these people identify themselves as educators, parents, health practitioners, politicians — folks one would expect to set a good example in their community.
In the video, I hear people who should know better repeating the same lies: we have very little information about what our families are exposed to; we don't know what they're spraying or when; the seed companies are unwilling to observe even modest buffers — none of which is true on Kauai.
And though the CFS website tells of how “residents organized to pass Ordinance 960,” it fails to mention the ordinance was struck down by the courts. Instead, it falsely claims: "The chemical companies responded by suing the county rather than telling the community what they are doing." In fact, all the companies are disclosing restricted use pesticides on the state website, and some are doing direct disclosure to those living near their fields.
Take a look at the video and see who you recognize — aside from Councilman Tim Bynum, Malia Chun (Councilman Mason Chock's sister) and Elif Beall, who is married to Matt Beall of the sleazy Hawaii Life Real Estate company.
Which brings us to the subject of financial backing. I haven't seen any of those involved in the movement publicly express concerns about their funders: Hawaii-based upscale Realtors and mainland-based oil and manufacturing heirs.
Besides the inherent hypocrisy, they don't seem to realize that the fundamental law of ecology also applies to funding sources: there is no free lunch. As with the money that backs politicians, at some point these funders will exact their due from the movement.
We know what the Realtors want: more land to develop, more sales. But with Center for Food Safety, a mainland-based group that has inserted itself quite forcefully into Hawaii elections, do we really know what their true agenda might be? Other than political power?
CFS has launched a political action fund that describes itself as “a non-partisan, not-for-profit, non-candidate committee.” But one look at the flyer for the Oct 25 “Rock Da Vote” event on Kauai makes it quite clear that they are indeed backing specific candidates.
First, there's Councilman Tim Bynum, who actually appeared on the CFS video. Then there's Councilman Gary Hooser, whose Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) is co-sponsoring the event. The HAPA board also includes many of those appearing in the video. So even while they're claiming "tens of thousands" have joined the movement, they're recycling all the same people.
Yes, Tim and Gary are closely aligned with CFS, whose very own website states: "Join our more than 500,000 members across the country saying no to industrial agriculture." And they wonder why they're pegged as anti-ag….
Another sponsor is Ohana O Kauai, the group led by mayoral candidate Dustin Barca. And one of the bands includes the son of Council Candidate Felicia Cowden.
So I think we know who CFS wants to "rock da vote" for: da "red shirt" candidates.
The CFS video states:
Our demands are simple. We want to maintain our biodiversity. We want to have good jobs that are healthy and safe. We want to know what these chemical companies are growing and spraying near our homes, schools, and hospitals. We want a food system that feeds local people.
The demands may be simple, but their implementation and delivery is not, especially when you have some of these very same folks opposing local milk production by Hawaii Dairy Farms and both Tim and Gary pushing to remove 24,000 acres from the agricultural dedication.
It serves no one to minimize the challenges inherent in these demands, or to pretend they will be automatically achieved with the demise of the seed companies.
I have no soft spot for the chem/seed companies, who brought much of this uproar upon themselves by walling themselves off and refusing to respond to questions about their industry and 10-year-old concerns about dust.
But neither do I have a soft spot for the anti-movement, which has seriously polarized communities across the state, offered no viable solutions for achieving its own demands and engaged in despicable tactics that undermine every tenant of aloha.
To regain some semblance of civility, address concerns with the seed/chem companies and find meaningful solutions to the many problems that face the Islands, voters need to start by rejecting politicians who have aligned themselves with the totalitarian “red shirt” movement. We aren't going to get anywhere with those extremists at the helm.
And then people need to stand up to the “red shirts” — just as they would a schoolyard bully — and say “hey, that shit don't fly.” Because if we don't nip it in the bud now, those jackboot strategies will continue to dominate the political arena in Hawaii, making civic engagement unpalatable and untenable for all but the die-hard ideologues.
It's election season, people. Use your power wisely.