Does Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser own a mirror?
What prompted me to wonder was an exchange that went down at Wednesday's Council meeting. In testifying on a tax bill, a citizen criticized a former Councilman and the former budget director before concluding:
In my opinion, government is nothing more than a bunch of scum-sucking parasites off the hard-working people of Hawaii.
Councilmembers Ross Kagawa and JoAnn Yukimura both chided the man for his remarks — and he apologized — but Hooser couldn't resist adding his two cents:
You're symbolizing through your remarks, unfortunately, a community dialogue that has been going in the wrong direction in my opinion.
I would appreciate it if you and everyone addressed the issue and not the personality. It doesn't teach our children good lessons when they're talking and trying to get things accomplished. So people are watching this. You know, people's mothers and grandmother's and children and we need to look at examples we set in the community.
So I would hope that our community would get together and have conversations about the issues and respectfully agree or disagree and not call each other names.
I know we all get passionate, we get carried away sometimes, but I think it would be really good for all of us and our community if testifiers would just think a little bit more about the words that they chose because words matter and words can be hurtful.
You mean words like “bite me?” Which Gary uttered not just once, but twice, to Kauai Rep. Jimmy Tokioka in a televised public hearing of the House Agriculture Committee.
And folks wonder why the anti-GMO activists are so ill-behaved and hypocritical. Shoots, they're just following the example of their leader.
Speaking of anti-GMO activists and their often despicable tactics, Britain’s former Environmental Secretary, Owen Paterson, took them to task this week in his keynote address to the ISAAA media conference in South Africa. After speaking about the current agricultural opportunities for Africa, he said:
This is also a time, however, of great mischief, in which many individuals and even governments are turning their backs on progress. It’s a strange time, really, in which the privileged classes increasingly fetishize their food and seek to turn their personal preferences into policy proscriptions for the rest of us.
Not since the original Luddites smashed cotton mill machinery in early 19th century England, have we seen such an organized, fanatical antagonism to progress and science.
These enemies of the Green Revolution call themselves “progressive,” but their agenda could hardly be more backward‐looking and regressive. They call themselves humanitarians and environmentalists. But their policies would condemn billions to hunger, poverty and underdevelopment. And their insistence on mandating primitive, inefficient farming techniques would decimate the Earth’s remaining wild spaces, devastate species and biodiversity, and leave our natural ecology poorer as a result.
Unfortunately, few question either its credentials or motives.
Paterson goes on to report that “2014 was the 19th year of successful commercialization of biotech crops,” with some “18 million farmers, of which 90 per cent were small and resource‐poor, planted a record 181 million hectares of biotech crops in 28 countries....For the third year in a row, less developed countries planted more biotech hectares than the entire developed world.”
He also claims that “nearly 100 per cent of all those farmers who plant biotech crops have yet to go back to the old ways. They continue to choose to plant biotech year after year because biotech plants work.”
Paterson offers data to counter the oft-heard claims that GMO is all about selling more pesticides and corporate control of seeds. Monsanto actually donated the technology for a drought resistant maize to Africa, he said, and “by 2013, in fact, almost 70 per cent of all cotton grown in Burkina Faso was Bt, which increased farmers’ yields on average 20 per cent over non‐GMO cotton. It has also dramatically decreased pesticide applications – which in Africa are often done by hand, a 40 to 80 pound backpack filled with older pesticides strapped to one’s back. Bt-cotton has cut those applications from 6 to 2 or fewer and delivers a solution that is eminently more effective.”
In reading his speech, I couldn't help but think of how Vandana Shiva, the Center for Food Safety and Gary Hooser preach “home rule,” yet they would deny African farmers the right to make their own choices about what crops to grow. It's the old “do as I say, not as I do.”
Paterson then debunks the myth about GMO-induced farmer suicides in India — still spouted by Gary and Vandana Shiva — before going on to describe how Greenpeace and other anti-GMO activists have stalled the commercial production of Golden Rice, which is enhanced with vitamin-A-producing beta-carotene. This technology also was donated to the developing world.
Vitamin A deficiency is the principal cause of childhood blindness globally, affecting 500,000 children annually of which 50% die within a year or two. Vitamin A deficiency is also a nutritionally acquired immune deficiency syndrome, so common diseases which should be survivable are lethal. Two million young children die as a result every year.
So let’s be clear. Although these deaths are preventable, 6,000 children alive today will be dead tomorrow. (By comparison Ebola has tragically killed about 9,000 in the last year: about 25 a day.)
Paterson tells of how Greenpeace has destroyed biotech crop research in the Philippines and Australia, before saying:
The question must be asked, when did so many of our “humanitarian” organizations become so disdainful about the lives of the desperately poor, whom they are supposed to be helping? How long have they been putting ideology over humanity? Do Greenpeace supporters understand that the conduct of the organization that they give to has been truly wicked?
Sadly, the same questions could also be asked about Gary Hooser, Center for Food Safety, SHAKA, Babes Against Biotech, Hawaii Seed, Ohana O Kauai and other anti-GMO groups in Hawaii, which have taken a "screw you" attitude toward seed company field workers, many of them impoverished Filipino immigrants, and advocated moving the "poison-drenched" fields elsewhere — developing nations — because Hawaii is "too pristine."
If you're at all interested in the GMO issue, I urge you to read Paterson's speech in its entirety. He is no doubt a die-hard cheerleader for the technology, but he also does a good job of refuting the anti-GMO myths and raises many provocative points about the elitism of Westerners who are seeking to impose their own often misinformed ideology on the rest of the world.
It's a good mirror for folks like Gary Hooser, Vandana Shiva and others who have gone on the attack against agriculture in Hawaii while lacking insight into both the bigger biotech picture and their own elitist hypocrisy.