Friday, July 17, 2015

Musings: Beyond Wrong

The other day, I received an email that contained this photo and Facebook post by Kathryn Xian, an activist with the Alliance to Stop Slavery:

It was "liked" by 225 people, shared by a whopping 394 and followed by a string of 91 comments expressing sadness, grief, outrage and aloha for the man and his family. Others derided the Departments of Health and Agriculture and a few railed on Monsanto. Several lauded Kathryn for being a "true people's champion." Not one expressed any skeptism.

They all accepted the post as Truth, even though it had so many unanswered questions, and some of it didn't make any sense, like blaming the EPA for black market chemicals, or the misuse of restricted use pesticides that it heavily regulates?

My own curiosity was piqued. Why was Kathryn using a psuedonym for someone who is dead? What did that picture actually tell us about the man or the circumstances of his death? If you are trying to stop farm worker trafficking and misuse of pesticides, why not name the farm where the poisoning allegedly occured? Had authorities been notified? What's this about a pesticide black market? And since cancer takes a long time to develop, had "Tom" actually contracted it on a farm in Hawaii?

So I sent her this message:

Hi Kathryn, I saw your sad post about your friend "Tom." I was wondering if you could give me a little more information. How long was he working here in Hawaii? Did he report his pesticide exposure to DOH, and if so, how did DOH respond? When you mention there's a black market for restricted pesticides, do you mean RUPs that are banned in the US? Where are these chemicals coming from? Looking forward to learning more. aloha, joan

The answer, as I expected, was crickets. Which confirmed my initial suspicions that there was more thaCenter for Food Safety, n a whiff of bullshit in the post — aside from its description of Gary Hooser and HAPA, the Babes and Walter Ritte as "amazing advocates fighting to protect our 'aina and 'ohana."

Still, I was bothered by the idea of bootleg pesticides, unprotected farm workers. So I contacted a friend who is akamai about agriculture throughout the state, to see what he thought. His reply:

Cancer has many causes, that said, it's not outside the realm of possibility that this man died of pesticide induced cancer. The immigrant farmers are known to be very poorly trained in pesticide use on their own farms (you saw this in India). If a pesticide works they will use it regardless of whether it cleared for that crop or not, or even if it has an ag application at all. This is a well known fact in the ag community. The HDOA and CTAHR have outreach programs to educate immigrant farmers on safe practices but it's an uphill battle because of language and cultural barriers.

I think that it's unlikely that he was exposed to fatal doses of pesticides on a large ag operation; those guys are monitored by the regulatory agencies especially if they have employees. They are also aware that if residues of pesticides show up on their products it makes for very bad press. They would never use a black market product on their crops. As for the small immigrant farmers, I don't think it's a case of black market products as much as the misuse of restricted use pesticides. But even the sale of these products are tightly controlled and someone with a RUP license would have to purchase it for them. Importing black market pesticides would be hard to do and the penalties would be severe if you were caught.

If your goal is to reduce pesticide misuse and help immigrant farmworkers, it seems to me you'd support the DOH and CTAHR outreach efforts, make a report to the DOH of any possible pesticide poisoning and publicly hold the agency's feet to the fire, publicize the farm(s) that improperly use pesticides so that people could avoid their products, humanize a man who allegedly died from pesticide exposure by telling his story, using his real name, and providing some documentation to back it up.

But if your goal is to foster outrage, build blind opposition to GMO crops and conventional agriculture, promote a group of people and farms that you consider “pono,” garner support for your group and cause, well, then, you exploit an unnamed person's death in a tear-jerker post that tugs at the heartstrings and disengages the brain.

It's called propaganda, and it's being used widely and intensively by the anti-ag and anti-GMO groups in Hawaii and elsewhere. 

While it's always tragic to see people blatantly manipulated into believing a certain way, what really bothers me is this: Groups with no credibility and legitimacy have co-opted the pesticide issue in Hawaii and adopted antics like these that make it easy to dismiss valid concerns. 

They are actually setting back, rather than advancing, efforts to address real problems associated with pesticide misuse. 

And that's beyond wrong.


Anonymous said...

There's lots about Ms. Xian that is not pono, notwithstanding the good work that she has undoubtedly done.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions

Anonymous said...

If this was anywhere near true it makes a strong case NOT to buy from those small farmers the ANTI's tell us we need instead of the bigger farms... Those small guys at the farmers markets or road side stands. We should just do away with agriculture and make all our food in the lab... Soylent Green. I like the new acronym CAVE... Citizens Against Virtually Everything. This fits here.

Anonymous said...

"Farm worker Trafficking" we ust alert the border control people, FBI, NIS..REALLY

Anonymous said...

Xian is a questionable one:

John McHugh said...

As one who has worked in the ag industry in Hawaii for the last 41 years I can attest to the fact that there are farmers that do not follow the labels and will spray RUPs and non-RUPs (please note there is no General Use Pesticide designation as far as EPA is concerned, it is either RUP or non-RUP) on their crop whether it is labeled or not. Approximately 15 years ago I had a business, Crop Care Hawaii, that worked with immigrant farmers, in cooperation with CTAHR, to train them in the proper use of pesticides. At the time there was a clear acknowledgement by the Hawaii Farm Bureau that the activities of farmers who were not familiar with U.S. laws on pesticide use were giving the industry a bad name because of improper, and in many cases, illegal, pesticide use. At that time there were a few of these farmers or their employees who ended up in the hospital because they had not applied pesticides according to the label. This applied to non-RUP as well as RUP products. The outreach effort that we undertook, with the support of the Hawaii Farm Bureau, was funded by the American Farmland Trust, USDA Risk Management program, and other government agencies. This led to the creation of the LIFE program at CTAHR. LIFE is an acronym for Local Immigrant Farmer Education.

The LIFE program has been very effective in reducing pesticide misuse but, of course, there will always be those (farmers or others) who will do what they need to do to protect their livelihood. It does not help the situation when farmers have pesticides, non-RUP and/or RUP, stolen from their storage areas which are then pedaled to farmers who purchase them because they are unable to purchase those pesticides from legitimate sources. Thus the probable reference to the black market referred to in the Face Book post.

As Joan points out in her column it is best to report violations of labeled pesticide use to the authorities immediately. It serves no useful purpose to allow such a situation to fester with the ultimate result being sick farmers or farm employees. The requirements of the pesticide label are unambiguous and those who violate that label can be subject to severe fines and/or prison time. Those of us whose livelihood is in agriculture want, as much as anyone else, that violators of the pesticide label be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The only sure way that will happen is if the abusive situation is dealt with immediately! I am not sure why anyone would let their condition drag on for years, especially if they are showing signs of pesticide poisoning which can occur just as easily with exposure to non-RUP pesticides.

Perhaps the biggest misconception that is circulating out in the Facebook world is that, somehow, RUP pesticides are more dangerous than non-RUP pesticides. A pesticide, by its very nature, be it an insecticide, fungicide, herbicide, bactericide, termaticide, nematicide, rodenticide, organic or non-organic is a poison. Its safe use is a mandatory condition of the label. We need to stop pointing the finger at "large" farmers as being the source of pesticide abuse. This is, in fact, the furthest from the truth in regard to how farmers use pesticides. In fact, the bigger the farm, the more scrutiny it comes under so it does no good, at all, for a farmer who is committed to the safety and welfare of their employees and the relationship with his/her market to take a risk with doing something that jeopardizes their entire business!

So, please, please, please if their are details regarding this employee's situation let those facts be known. If that does not happen then those who use the death or ill health of others to further their own agenda are as complicit in this problem as the farmers who are violating the label.

Anonymous said...

Joan- in the not so distant past. And techniques used by the thousands of Sugar Workers that are now in their healthy 80s and 90s, was to "free pour" herbicides into "vienna sausage cans". Recipe - one, two, three or four Vienna Sausage cans to the Big Galoon (5 gallon sabedong sprayer, little galoon was quart).

If the Fistees really want to see the bad effects of Big Ag, look at Hawaii's healthy elders. Of course, a lot these plantation guys also ate a lot of fish and exercised. And they ALL HAD little houses and gardens to supplement their pay.
No more housing for the people. JoAnn has taken care of that. Hawaii's and Kauai's Seniors are a healthy and sturdy group.

As we get older, we will all get something and we will all die. The Fistees and their Hero Obama is now funding end of life hospice care at a rate of 400 times that of any other health area division. The Mission, to get people to accept the end of life with dignity and not feel they need hip replacements when thy are 90.
Get ready Fistees, the value of life is already being modified by your leaders.

Anonymous said...

O'Boy another self proclaimed Haole political expert Jeff Demma probably lived her about 1 year. Jeff, I hope the dogs continue barking at you until you move back to the mainland. We don't need you here! Take Hooser and Yukimura with you too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you John. As another long-time ag professional; I concur with all you wrote. Hope folks will listen to knowledge and experience instead of the nonsensical misinformation/propaganda that is being used by Hawaii "Center for Food Safety," HAPA, and others to promote their own agendas. Sad that our leaders, and the public, are being distracted from solving real issues by these cunning manipulators.

Anonymous said...

You've got it right, the real issue is about educating the farmers and the public , not blowing on the ambers in the hope that you will start a fire that will burn everything down.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Xian is good with promoting one's emotion to the highest level... She has won awards doing this when filming her documentaries. She should make a documentary about the people starving throughout the world and then the savior would be a flying GMO bus with all the GMO food to feed the starving people. GE is a another biggie. All the Prince and Princess are GE people. In the Korean Dramas the King had his concubine and he did his GE thing to get a Prince to be the next King. What wrong with this?

Anonymous said...

Just a point about sugar. Sugar itself generally needs little pesticides. It is a hardy grass that grows quickly and can take care of itself. The primary pathologies were fungus and mold and because of the size of the crops, genetic solutions were sought and found. To keep the irrigation ditches open, a variety of very potent herbicides were used. As said, small cans were used to measure the poison for based poisons. Poisons that would be considered absurd today, such as oil based arsenic sprays. Diesel oil, etc. these poisons were kept well away from the mill, the flumes, and field special poison houses only authorized personnel were allowed in.Application for field usually was only in the exterior of primary ditches.the poison gangs constituted a very small portion of the labor force.,
Also it is true that these people are still around to day, in there old age.Somehow we all lived in spite of the hysterics urged upon us now.,

Manuahi said...

Wow! I get it now!!! The cause of cancer is pesticides! What an incredible medical discovery! I'm so grateful to Dr. Kathryn Xian who was able to prove, where most others physicians and scientists in the medical community have failed, that this poor soul's cancer was the result of pesticides. I only wish she could share her discovery with other doctors and medical personnel as to how she was able to bring this travesty off criminal science to light. Of course, knowing the exact cause thanks to Kathryn Xian, the deceased's family has all the evidence it needs for a major court award from the evil, vile chemical companies that drench the land in poison and tricked this poor soul into working for them. Awe!

Anonymous said...

My friend got cancer because he used to drink a vodka martini every day!!! Down with Vodka!! Support traditional gin martini's...especially those made with organic juniper berries! There ought to be a law to protect us from the vodka death merchants. Mr. Hooser, please pass a law to regulate vodka use! After all, 9 out of 10 fatal car accidents are caused by VODKA!!! Think of our children!!

Manuahi said...

@3:10PM - The Hawaii Sugar Planters Assn developed a G. E. variety of cane that was able to resist the problematic lesser corn borer infestation that was decimating sugar yields on Kauai. The lesser corn borer was first discovered outside the continental U.S. in July 1986 infesting sugarcane in Kauai (Hawaii) (Chang and Ota 1987). This species is also found in Mexico, Central America, and South America (Luginbill and Ainslie 1917). If it wasn't for the good G.E. work of the HSPA, sugar would have gone out a decade or so before the low third world sugar prices put it under in Hawaii.

Anonymous said...

If I feed the chickens, they reproduce and soon there are WAY too many chickens.
This is my problem with GMO food. It's cold and all, knowing some people are hungry, but the counter argument to the well-intentioned "feed the world" mentality of the GMO companies is that the more well fed the people are, the more they reproduce - just like the chickens.
Things get out of balance.

Ho Stage said...

The Honolulu press & even alternative media have never vetted this "activist", her group, or her claims. Nor have they wondered why she changed her name from Kathy Zang to what it is now, when she entered politics. Her shenanigans have negatively affected numerous people from within the creative, houseless, and even sex worker communities, on Oahu. Performers at her now dormant event "Girlfest", claim to have not been paid. A houseless family she purportedly helped off the street attempted to expose her false claims on YouTube (search her name or check out, with no follow-upp from the media. She also partnered with another dubious organization to pen a "trafficking ban" that the Governor vetoed, in part because it focused on sex workers, with no consideration for people in the sex trade by their own volition. Sadly, any public scrutiny or skepticism just rallies her cult following, fueled in part by her diversionary tactics on social media. Now, as her credibility slowly crumbles, she is resorting to further deceptions, in order to distract her supporters from the accusations she faces. Since her actions are framed as efforts to help those in need, her followers have so much invested in her, they are either blind to any corrupption she embodies, or hopeful she can absolve herself of it, so as to avoid the shame & rage they will feel once her fraud & scams fully come to light. At is a few posts about some of the questionable practices this quacktivist engages in. There are other examples pending, as the public learns more about the charade she's been perpetrating against the people of Hawaii.

Ho Stage said...

Aloha. You guys, in Kauai, and where ever else. I need to say something, and it's that I DO NOT wish ill upon Kathryn. I wish she would take a break. Chill. We have multiple mutual friends who support her. I've heard about some positive things she does, like testimonials and stuff for houseless issues. I don't know farming stuff, so I won't comment. I have experienced "her passion" over one issue that I can speak to, and that's sex work. We strongly disagree, but I haven't had my hand in any bill-drafting, so maybe I should learn more. The veto of the trafficking ban bill was the first step toward really addressing the issue of trafficking. In turn, people are discussing sex worker rights more now. Whatever is going on with Kathryn, I wish only better things for her. She could just step back. Relax. This publicity might not be fun. I don't know the extent of Kauai Eclectic's readership, and I've only read this one post. Excuse me, Joan, if I was inappropriate. The email link in your profile didn't work. What's a good way to contact you? I'll try facebook, so something might go to your alternate mailbox. My pic has blue eyes and a shaka. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

@12:02, you are incorrect, birth rates go down in well-fed populations.