I'm here in New York City – my first time ever. I'd always been a bit intimidated by the prospect of Manhattan, but it's so easy to get around, and people are very friendly.
I've been walking, walking, walking since I arrived last night, carried along in a sea of humanity, traversing streets that are an iconic part of the American culture — Park Ave, Madison Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Wall Street — cruising through Grand Central Station, looking up at the glittering Chrysler Building.
Tonight the Cornell Alliance for Science has its big event at the United Nations, where some of the 25 global Fellows will tell their own stories. Joni Kamiya, whose father's farm was saved by the creation of the transgenic Rainbow papaya, is one of them. It's been a real pleasure to meet Joni and her family, and to see the positive, inspirational impact she's had on the other Fellows.
It's been fascinating to meet people from various nations in Africa, as well as the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and the mainland U.S., all committed to doing what they can to end the hunger and malnutrition that plague so many on this planet.
Last night we walked over to the U.N. to check out the venue, and I was awed by the amazing view.
While taking the bus down from Cornell University yesterday, through the rural farmlands of upstate New York and Pennsylvania, cruising along past the office parks of New Jersey, I interspersed my sightseeing with a bit of web surfing.
I was interested to read a piece in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. Sen. Josh Green, one of those who has been so outspoken in opposition to biotech crops and ag pesticides, was all pissed off because the Department of Health wasn't doing enough — as in spraying and medical check-ups — to stave off dengue.
And why? Because it would be so bad for tourism if dengue gets established.
Interesting, how people change their tune about pesticide use when they've got something at stake. I haven't heard Hawaii Center for Food Safety screaming about the DOH spraying pesticides to control mosquitoes in residential communities on the Big Island.
I wonder how Green and CFS would feel about using transgenic mosquitoes, developed by Oxitech, to help eradicate dengue. When the transgenic males mate with wild females, their so-called self-limiting gene is passed on to their offspring, and the larvae die before they can transmit disease.
When I was at the Transgenic Animal Conference in Tahoe last summer — yes, mosquitoes are animals — I interviewed a Brazilian researcher who had experienced excellent results in field trials done there to control dengue.
While residents in the test areas were initially concerned, the researchers did extensive outreach, and addressed people's worries and fears. And when folks saw the positive results, they started asking for more releases, because they had experienced a direct benefit: people weren't getting sick..
The Oxitech mosquitoes were more effective at controlling dengue than pesticide applications alone — tests in Brazil and the Cayman Islands reported an 80 percent suppression rate of dengue.
Meanwhile, Jan TenBruggencate has an interesting piece in Civil Beat about the stinkiness of stinkweed, which can cause people to experience headaches, nausea, clamminess and other ill effects. His piece is aptly titled “The Malodorous Shrub That Launched Kauai’s Pesticide Wars.” As Jan points out:
In November 2006, students and staff at Waimea Canyon Middle School complained of a bad smell that made them nauseous and left them with throat irritation, watery eyes and dizziness. Many attributed it to agricultural spraying on a field next to the school.
The incident continues to be attributed by opponents of Hawaii’s seed industry to pesticide spraying, even though the initial field investigations by police, fire and independent botanical experts said it was stinkweed, a finding that was confirmed by a University of Hawaii study.
|Photo by Jan TenBruggencate
This is one of the lies repeatedly told by Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser, Center for Food Safety and crappy journalists like Paul Koberstein and Chris Pala — that Waimea school kids got sick from ag pesticides, when in fact, Syngenta hadn't even sprayed those fields when the incident occurred.
Through their intentional misrepresentations, driven by their desire to stick it to the seed companies, they've drilled that bit of folklore into people's heads.
In reality, there has never been one case in the entire state of seed company pesticides causing school kids to get sick or be evacuated.
Though Jan's well-written and well-researched piece should help to set the record straight, as we all know, it's so much harder to dispel bullshit than it is to spread it.
And on that note, I'll leave you with this photo of contrails — not chemtrails — taken one chilly dusk at Cornell.