Monday, November 10, 2014

Musings: A Closer Look

A reader left this comment yesterday:

Want to comment on the Maui vote Joan? How is it that over 50% of the Maui voters passed the anti farming initiative? Is there that many crazy people on Maui? Monsanto spends $8,000,000 and loses? How can this be? Facinateing. Regardless of the language of the proposal and its legal viability, it seems pretty amazing that over half of Maui voters chose to send the gmo companies packing. Maybe we will see the fistees and Barca all moving to Maui?

With 52.7% of the registered voters casting ballots, the final vote on the anti-GMO initiative was 50.2% in favor, 47.9% opposed and 1.9% blank.

I took a careful look at all the precincts on Maui, and found the measure had strongest support in areas where GMO crops aren't even grown. But it was repeatedly rejected in communities that actually have GMO fields and workers. 

Molokai, with all its GMO acreage, overwhelming opposed the measure, while Hana, with no biotech, soundly supported it. Haiku — the largest precinct in Maui County, but with no GMO fields and a big population of newcomer mainland haoles — also voted overwhelming for the initiative, which pushed an initiative that was running pretty much neck-and-neck throughout the county over the top.

So we see the same dynamic playing out as it did in the Kauai elections, where voters on the westside soundly rejected anti-GMO candidates. And that dynamic is this: 

People who are not working in or even exposed to the GMO fields are all for banning and regulating them, while those who actually live nearest to and work in the fields have no desire to be “saved” from this alleged agricultural menace.

Sounds an awful lot like ye olde “white man's burden” colonial mindset, which was expressed so well by this comment, also left yesterday, in all its “sic” glory:

west side generations of migrant sugar and pineapple hordes were forced to drink the kool aid decades ago...they abide by what is told TO them. Theres no rationale or creative thinking...can't go against the machine,theres no popular advocay for a better way. anger in your face/kick your ass fuels the discourse as if its amazing dialogue. the poisons theyve lived immersed in taint the world thats bigger than them.they don't get they don't get it ...two steps removed. Defending against a psuedo enemy keeps them believing the nemesis is out there and not from them. The whole ploy of the corporations is to keep it that way. pawns line up quietly and dont question.

This is the underlying attitude that is driving much of the anti-GMO sentiment throughout the Islands and creating much of the polarization. It's incredibly offensive to the “migrant sugar and pineapple hordes” who actually built modern Hawaii, whose manual labor created, ironically, the economy that allows so many of the mainland haole anti-ag folks to now live in "paradise."

Meanwhile, another commenter left a link to a new paper that purportedly links GMO crops and glyphosate (Roundup) to “the deterioration of American health," thus becoming gospel for the anti-GMO crowd.  I sent the study to a friend who is very akamai about scientific papers to get his take. His response:

I've had some time to look over the glyphosate-disease study. Entire fields of red flags.

The first one is the authors. Three of them work in geological imaging, as best I can determine, with no indication of health care or statistics credentials.

The lead author, Nancy Swanson, is a math and physics professional who did her early career work at the Naval Surface Warfare Center and advertises her specialisy in remote sensing and imaging, optics and laser light transmission.

The corresponding author, Leu, is president of the activist organization, International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements. One of its core principles: "IFOAM opposes genetic engineering in agriculture due to the unprecedented danger it represents for the entire biosphere and the particular economic and environmental risks it poses for organic producers. Leu (who appears from his photos to be haole) is a tropical fruit grower in Australia who wrote "The myths of safe pesticides." He has no medical or epidemiological training, or at least claims none in his bio. So we know where he's coming from.

And it's no surprise they found a bunch of apparent correlations, because that's all they were looking for: "Databases were searched for epidemiological data on diseases that might have a correlation to glyphosate use and/or GE crop growth based on information given in the introduction."

Did they find any negative correlations that might disprove their thesis? We don't know. They didn't report it. I think the term of art for this is cherry-picking.

One caution is that almost all of the statistics show significant increases in disease before the use of glyphosate. The authors don't address that anomaly, but it seems to be to be a significant one.

Example, there is a 100% (that's kind of a lot) increase in death from hypertension from 1982-1992, before glyphosate and long before GE crops---this is from Leu's own data. Several of the charts show disease levels doubling in the decade before glyphosate.

The elephant in the room, it seems to me, (although I hurry to say I'm not an expert) is overweight. The authors don't consider that obesity could be causing everything else. But we all know this, right?

Obsesity alone is about the most significant disease-causer you can think of.

Obesity is closely associated with Parkinson's. Here's a study of Japanese men in Hawaii.

Here's what Mayo says about obesity and kidney disease. 

Primary risk factor for diabetes? Overweight. 

Are obesity and chronic gastrointestinal disorders linked? People think so.

And it goes on and on.

Here's a fun one, The authors [of the critiqued study] assert that glyphosate is linked to autism:
Maybe we can blame the sugar industry, because this problem tracks sugar use for far, far longer than it does pesticides:
In short, things aren't always what they first appear, whether it's a supposedly objective study  claiming to link GMOs and glyphosate with disease, or an election that seems to show "over half of Maui voters chose to send the gmo companies packing."


Anonymous said...

Banning McDonalds and other fast food restaurants could have a much greater direct positive affect on health than anything having to do with GMO's in Hawaii.

Allan Parachini said...

The person who jestingly proposed banning McDonalds is actually onto something. The nexus between fast foods and poor health is undeniable. Let's get in on the ground floor here and have an initiative ordinance that bans fast food sales. Of course, defining "fast food" could be a challenge, but semantic challenges can almost always be overcome, as the anti-GMO crowd has proven. It truly would be worth the struggle to define "fast food" if we could throw all of those outlets off the island. Don't you wonder why the anti-GMO crowd is always curiously silent about fast food???? Sort of like smart meter opponents and people who won't tolerate cell phone towers within 10 miles of their homes, but still
staring incessantly at their I-phones.

Gina Lobaco said...

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to outlaw "big gulp" sodas in NYC and it was struck down by state courts. Legislating personal conduct is not easy and frankly leads to a slippery slope of increasing regulation and diminishing personal freedom.I understand the social arguments and the impact on health care from the obesity epidemic, but outlawing fast food outlets is a nonstarter from a practical perspective. Although not as pervasive as it once was, tobacco consumption is still an unfortunate choice for millions even after most tobacco advertising has been banned for decades, increasingly dire and large warning labels appear on the packaging and huge taxes are levied to discourage use. Cigarettes in Europe carry giant skull-and-crossbone type labels and cost a fortune, yet people still consume them. Education at an early age is the key to discouraging unhealthy habits and counterposing misinformation with accurate, evidence-based information. Which thankfully, Joan does.

Anonymous said...

What your science-akamai friend forgot to point out is that the paper was published in the Journal of Organic Systems (who? what?), which is not even listed as having an impact factor at all, and it's not indexed in PubMed. Therefore, from a scientific, peer-review standpoint, it's toilet paper.

Anonymous said...

The people in Hana are very spiritual and will protect the aina as best as they are able to. The people on the westside of Kauai vote for their relatives, friends, have a very high rate of free/reduced lunch (get my drift?). Joan, you must know how the local folks do things on Kauai----appears that you have lived here for quite a number of years and have learned the racist, bigoted ways of the locals. And also the ones who are so mousey, that they will put up signs because they can't say no. Many don't use their voices because they are afraid of what others will think of them. One must truly understand the culture of the westside before making assumptions.

Anonymous said...

2:47, so how does that work when people go into the voting booth and they are free to vote their conscience?

Dawson said...

2:47 PM said:
The people in Hana are very spiritual and will protect the aina as best as they are able to. The people on the westside of Kauai vote for their relatives, friends, have a very high rate of free/reduced lunch (get my drift?). Joan, you must know how the local folks do things on Kauai----appears that you have lived here for quite a number of years and have learned the racist, bigoted ways of the locals. And also the ones who are so mousey, that they will put up signs because they can't say no. Many don't use their voices because they are afraid of what others will think of them. One must truly understand the culture of the westside before making assumptions.

Talk about racist and bigoted... and elitist!

Anonymous said...

Whoa, don't know if this is for real or facetious.
Whichever it is, this is why "locals" despise "haoles." (Nothing to do with color of the skin.)

Anonymous said...

3:06 pm
Dawson said,

"Talk about racist and bigoted... and elitist!"

A great big DITTO on that!

from a Westsider

Anonymous said...

One of the problems of our age is, just to give one rather common example: If a very nice person wants to send a very nice ecard to their brother, and uses Care2's free ecards, they, and their brother, will then be bombarded with 5-6 emails per day of vegan, PETA, Greenpeace propaganda packaged very slickly for very nice well meaning people and using phrases like "studies show," while the only alternative for these nice people, who never got anywhere near a postgrad course involving research or critical thinking is a mean sounding online retort like: "What a load of unscientific crap!"
That's one way the crap wins!
Pete Antonson

Anonymous said...

Obesity is a huge problem (no pun intended). There is a growing body (no pun) of research linking the increase in obesity to the increase in drinking and eating from BPA plastic containers. They have even shown an dramatic increase in obesity in rats that live nears dumps that hold lots of plastics. And more recent studies suggesting that cow milk consumption makes humans age prematurely. So buy your kid another Frappachino in a plastic cup. He will thank you when is a 200 lb 15 year old who looks 28.

On GMO, we just don't know. There are generation skipping genetic possibilities, even. Maybe they are great. Maybe they will have terrible unforeseen consequences. Like religion, we should admit that we are guessing. In a hundred years people will look back and either say humans were real smart, or real reckless as to the GMO thing.

Anonymous said...

Updated birth defect statistics for Hawaii for 2000-2012 is available. I'd like to see what the anti's will say this time.

It's not 10 times they're all screaming about on Kauai.

Anonymous said...

Methinks it boils down to some folks trying to tell other folks have for live.
If you want you McDonalds, you can have your McDonalds. If you want Fritos, cigarettes, pop tarts, Big Gulps etc., you should have the choice. Live your life.
What is up with the "evolved" dictating their beliefs on others?
Ultimately, your health, diet or narcotic intake is your business. Society may pay for the additional medical costs, but so be it.
Every one beats around the bush regarding the new power of the Malihini vote. F*ck people who try to control others.
Sugar is the reason for the diverse ethnicities, and they weren't "migrant workers". Sugar needed labor and other countries had starving people, so Big Sugar took "indentured" workers as politics allowed...Chinese, Japanese, Hearst's War brought the Puerto Ricans and Filipinos etc. The big mix of people, all from Sugar, somehow evolved and strongly influenced by Hawaiian peoples acceptance and the aloha that permeated the hot dusty camps....Hawaii's people popped out..a special people..A very special people.
The newcomers have a "I got mine, I am smart and now I gots my paradise, and I will nor control it" dogma, while the locals, even tho' they have been financially overwhelmed by the new guys still have a way about them, that makes a "local", local. Kind, accepting, quiet and respectful.
This island should be about the people, of course the beach and mountain are part of it all, but if the new F*cking comers, don't realize that the beauty of the island is the PEOPLE first...welp then, in my small mind, go the f*ck back to wherever you came from. Maybe you can try to change the Business environment back in Orange County or Malibu.
I say, bring back the old ways, when a loud mouth F'ing Haole popped off too much, it was a trip to the airport (or worse)...Let the locals do the political business for a while. After your family has been here for a few generations, then maybe you can talk.
This whole thing is like the Hooser/Fistee thinking. I been here a while, I am smart and I will be a tellin' all you poor locals how for live. BS to the max.

Anonymous said...

Oh Please! Every time you eat or drink you are ingesting a chemical cocktail full of compounds that have not been tested for their effects on human health. So why such hysteria about a naturally occurring variant of 5-enolpyruvoyl-shikimate-3-phosphate synthetase or the cry protein? Though it is hard to see how consuming them via plants would wreak physiological havoc on people, our regulatory system nevertheless requires them to be screened and tested for impact to human health. Just to be, you know, precautionary. The same cannot be said of those natural organic almonds, whose recall was recently announced by Whole Foods.

Anonymous said...

"In a study done by Dr. Pusztai at the Rowett Institute in Scotland, rats were fed GMO foods, especially potatoes. ALL rats showed damaged immune systems, pre-cancerous cell growths, along with smaller brains and livers, in just the first 10 days of the project."

Anonymous said...

"If you want you McDonalds, you can have your McDonalds. If you want Fritos, cigarettes, pop tarts, Big Gulps etc., you should have the choice. Live your life."

Yeah sure, but don't ask me or Obamacare to foot the bill when you are rushed to the ER with a stroke. That is the flaw in your logic- it belies the fact that the healthy ones, who don't eat all that crap and work out have to subsidize the medical care of lazy low cost crap food eaters with all of their health problems.

And the insurance industry is begging to agree.

Anonymous said...

November 10, 2014 at 7:10 PM
It is called freedom or liberty. We have had enough Fascists for a while. The Food Fascist party, vee vill haf Caloric Cleansing und eine pure peoples. Stand in line and obey. What size is your "brown shirt"?

Anonymous said...

"In Pusztai’s [1998] experiments, the control potatoes had a different history than the transgenic potatoes". (

Meaning, his ability to draw a conclusion was hobbled by poor controls. In addition, it is not surprising that the health of rats suffered when their only sustenance was tubers of the Deadly Nightshade family.

Anonymous said...

@ 7:06
I'm really curious as to what you thought there was to gain from posting a 16 year old study that was also peer reviewed and completely discredited 16 years ago.

Two peer panels of experts found that "Based on flawed and inconclusive scientific conclusion can be made from the work."

I mean, really!...did you just now start skimming over Jeffrey Smith's book? During the past 10 years, the peer reviewed studies that support several aspects of GE safety are roughly 2000 to zero (zero supporting unsafe). That overpowers the "They bought them off" innuendo you're preparing for your next post! Over 300 of those were prepared or financed by the European Union which is "politically hostile" to GE.
Pete Antonson

Anonymous said...

7:06. Don't know you'd quote a hack like Pusztai, but consider this regarding that "study."
The Royal Society, Britain’s senior scientific academy, reviewed the work and declared it “too flawed to draw any conclusions about the effects of the transgenic potatoes, in part because the experiments had lacked proper controls.” The editor of the Lancet wrote, the paper “is flawed in many aspects of design, execution, and analysis and that no conclusion should be drawn from it”.

Anonymous said...

Joan. I am in total disbelief that a person of your sensitivity and integrity would allow such overt racism to be posted om your blog ,

Joan Conrow said...

Why? That's the reality of Hawaii.

Anonymous said...

5:05 Which comment is racist?

Leialoha said...

Ai dont get the graph comparing organic sales to autism rate, that assumes that eveyone that has autism case eats organic? i dont think so. Most people cant afford it and its choice of our leaders that eat organic - wealthier people, or people that have choosen to eat organic ....

Astrid said...

So wired that this supposedly new Birth Defect Data is not available anymore... wonder why that is... And for everybody to keep in mind that Mothers with risk of Birth defect babies in most cases not birth on Kauai and get flown depending on case to mainland or HNL, and dont show Kauai Stats. So Data that as there for a second is inconclusive. HNL birth rate tripped in last 12 years, over US average. 2005 Hawaii stopped having a birth defect surveillance program. And Gary never said 10x more of all birth defects... A local Doc said he sees a certain Birth Defect on the west side 10x higher (not all Birth defects) Anyhow Birth Defects are rising. We need to know more better....