Saturday, January 2, 2016

Musings: Fired Up

In the wee hours of New Year's Eve, North Shore Oahu farmer Derek Agader suffered a “suspicious fire” that destroyed a tractor and two more pieces of farming equipment.
 He blamed the arson on anti-GMO/anti-pesticide activists. According to Hawaii News Now:

“We hate to call it a hate crime, but it just seems that there's no other way to put it," Agader said. "There's no motive for anything else but people who just don't agree with our practices."
“I've been worried about him and his farm since I started seeing him post farm realities and explanations in response to the rabid activists' claims about farming and use of pesticides on the Oahu North Shore Community Facebook page,” a friend emailed.

Anti-GMO groups like the Center for Food Safety (led in Hawaii by Ashley Lukens) and Gary Hooser's HAPA have been trying to rile up folks on North Shore Oahu since their efforts to destroy biotech on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island were overturned by the courts.

“Ashley and the rest of them are convincing people that they are being poisoned and that DOA [Department of Ag] is incompetent and corrupt, so they think they need to take matters into their own hands.,” my friend wrote.
Just a few days before the fire, Hooser had taken to the opinion pages of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser to rail against pesticides. His piece — titled “Good neighbor policy not enough when neighbor uses risky chemicals” in the S-A and “They truly are poisoning paradise” in a Dec. 30 re-post on his blog — starts out:

Our community cannot rely on “good neighbors” to protect our health and environment. Government intervention is needed now.

Hooser's piece, which railed against the pesticide chlorpyrifos, was riddled with his usual misinformation, innuendo, twisted facts and flat-out lies. But Hooser's recurring message was clear: farmers using pesticides are not “good neighbors.”

Is it any surprise, then, that somebody decided to torch Derek's equipment? From the get-go, the Hawaii anti-GMO/anti-ag movement has engaged in property damage, vandalism, threats and bullying attacks against anyone who stands up to them or dares to question their rhetoric. 

Thousands of papaya trees were destroyed on the Big Island and Oahu, a Kauai taro farmer received death threats and had his ditch vandalized by thugs who left anti-GMO stickers behind, public property was defaced with anti-GMO messages on Kauai and Maui. The sugar-haters on Maui also burned two of HC&S's tractors, valued at $500,000 each.

Yet the Hawaii leaders of this anti-ag movement — Center for Food Safety, Babes Against Biotech and Hooser — have never once condemned these tactics. Indeed, from the time that Hooser issued his infamous call for “a million little fists,” it has condoned and even provoked the most despicable tactics.

There's an objective here, and it's called silencing the opposition. The anti-GMO movement has worked very hard to silence scientists through the kind of harassment instigated by the misnamed US Right to Know. 

Now, with farmers finally starting to speak up, they're trying to silence them, too. How many farmers want to risk having their crops vandalized, their equipment burned? So much easier to just stay out of the fray, keep your head down, hope it all blows over.

Meanwhile, these very same groups, led by HAPA, are hosting a so-called “Food Justice Summit” this month. They're bringing in anti-GMO activists from Mexico, Switzerland, Nigeria and Malaysia to supposedly start “restoring a fairer and more sustainable food system.” Not coincidentally, it's timed to culminate with the opening day at the Lege.

Where are the Hawaii farmers — any farmers? you might ask. Why aren't they providing a platform for people who actually know what's happening in agriculture locally? Why aren't they calling upon the expertise of those who have spent their lives understanding how ag does, and doesn't, work in the Islands, rather than import activists who do not even farm?

Good questions.

Here's the answer: This isn't about farming. This isn't about a more fair and sustainable food system.

This is about GMO crops, and the international campaign to abolish them.

And in Hawaii, it's also about destroying agriculture so the land can be developed.

I noticed that Jonathan Scheuer, someone I like and respect, had been tapped to serve as moderator for this "Summit." So I sent him a Facebook message:

Was very sorry to see you affiliated with HAPA. I have detailed so many of Gary Hooser's lies and transgressions on my blog!

To which he replied, in part:

I'm not endorsing everything or any particular thing Gary says, or any of the speakers. But I thought when they asked me to facilitate I could be of service to what I think is an important discussion.

It is an important discussion. But it's being held by the wrong people, who have very specific agendas that have nothing to do with actually producing more food or supporting agriculture in Hawaii or anywhere else. 

Through their actions over the past few years, they've created a political climate where farmers don't want to participate. So they're able to set and control the agenda.

When good people lend their good names to corrupt entities like HAPA and Center for Food Safety, they help these activist groups gain influence and credibility, simply by association. These groups and their leaders need to be called to account for their actions in the Islands, duly discredited and then ostracized socially and politically.

Besides attacking agricultural biotech, HAPA claims, ironically, that one of its goals is “reclaiming democracy.”

How, exactly, do you reclaim democracy while fear-mongering, intentionally spreading lies and simultaneously seeking to silence, through the most extreme and distasteful means, those who disagree?

It may be a new year, but in Hawaii, the same old bullshit is under foot. It's time to give these posers the heave-ho and bring actual local farmers into the discussion about food, land and agriculture in the Islands.


Anonymous said...

Joan don't you think it is a bit of a stretch to blame Hooser for fire on the north shore of Oahu? You are over the top with this ongoing anti-hooser rant. Slow down Joan and please focus on journalism. You say "Hooser's piece, which railed against the pesticide chlorpyrifos, was riddled with his usual misinformation, innuendo, twisted facts and flat-out lies." But you mention not one lie, twisted fact or any misinformation. I have not read the Star-Advertiser piece (damn paywalls) but on his blog he has links to the sources of all his statements.

Joan Conrow said...

No, I don't think it's a stretch at all, 2:40 p.m.

Did you actually read the links to the sources for his statements? If you do, you'll find first, the EPA has never "stated its intent to ban chlorpyrifos." It's reviewing the pesticide. The EPA also never said "it is unable to confirm chlorpyrifos’ safety and that our drinking water may be at risk."

As for, "A 2013 air sampling report by the state and Kauai County showed, “Five pesticides (including chlorpyrifos) were detected in the indoor and outdoor passive air samples and the high volume outdoor air samples collected at Waimea Canyon Middle School” -- they were extremely low levels, far below the threshold for harm. Several of those same chemicals were also found in samples taken at Hanalei, which is far from any seed fields.

Furthermore, as I reported in a previous post, the EPA has found that since "no toxicity occurred even at the saturation concentration, which is the highest physically achievable concentration, there are no anticipated risks of concern from exposure to the volatilization of either chlorpyrifos or chlorpyrifos oxen." In other words, even if it were the air, it wouldn't hurt you.

Hooser goes on to claim: "In 2013-2014, state stream water testing found chlorpyrifos in the Kekaha Ditch on Kauai and in Hawaii County streams." Since there are no seed companies on the Big Island, where did it come from? Some other user, perhaps? Like the pest control companies, who get a total free pass from Hooser and his gang? He continues: "The amounts found were small. But as noted in reports such as Columbia University’s cited above, study after study showed chronic long-term exposure to even very small amounts is harmful, especially to a developing fetus and the neurological systems of young children." Yes, but who says there is chronic, long-term exposure in Hawaii?

Are those enough lies, twisted facts and misinformation for you, or shall I continue?

Anonymous said...

The same people that pay you to say what you say, are paying off the EPA too

Joan Conrow said...

Well, since no one pays me to say anything, guess your conspiracy theory about the EPA is similarly bogus.

Anonymous said...

How long have you been doing this work? The facts he quoted are facts and the opinion he quoted was his opinion, from my read he did not cross the two. The Star-Advertiser normally vets their commentary before just printing anything. Did you ask them?

And why do you accept at face value the fellows blame of anti-gmo people being the culprit? More likely a disgruntled employee or a disgruntled neighbor. But this source of the fire could be any variety of things.

You are a big part of the ramped up rhetoric. Be part of the solution Joan, not part of the problem.

Joan Conrow said...

Every time I call out Hooser you or another of his apologists tells me I'm the problem. Sorry, but I'm not gonna shut up so that he can speak unchallenged. It's not my job to be the solution. It's to tell people WTF is going on. No, the S-A does not vett the commentaries, and I think the farmer would know best who might be motivated to torch his tractor. Why are you so keen to dismiss his claim when we already have proof of anti-GMO vandalism and property damage? It's not far-fetched.

Anonymous said...

The solution is to get rid of Hooser.

Anonymous said...
The lighter side.

Anonymous said...

It appears that Mr. Hooser is getting rid of himself by planting both feet into HAPA (my former neighbor's dog was named Hapa - ha ha), and absenting himself rather often from Council business. The next election should be telling.

Anonymous said...

If Hooser can mouth off everywhere and when, I think Joan can voice an opinion once a week or so. That is not asking too much time for a bit of sanity.
And the fact that these far left nut bags are approaching violence is very telling.

Anonymous said...

I don't see Da Hoos advocating violence. His actions and words may promote others to do foul deeds, but Da Hoos is really a big pussy. He is a soft man. In spite of his vitriolic "Bite Me" the Big Fist is really a Big Flaccid Fist
The next election may be a surprise. More of Da Hoos' fistees move to the island every day. His main benefactors Hawaii Life Realty and Bali Hai Realty are selling Agricultural estates frequently to big shot mainlanders. These new elitist farmers will vote and want to bring the Carmel/Malibu atmosphere to Kauai.
Da Hoos, JoAnn and Mason epitomize the cute little bike paths, cozy coffee shops and sweet smelling croissant shoppes that these Rodeo/Beverly Drive attired malihinis adore.
It ain't about RUPs, its about power. If Big Ag goes down, Big Land will have to come to the Council to get zoning changes to survive. If Ag goes, the Hana Wai ditches go, mauka access goes and then government will have more control over the the land.
Right now, thanks to GF, A&B and G&R, Kauai has the most pristine areas in the State .
Gary and JoAnn want the power to control the land. Mason doesn't understand that Land is Power, but he will follow along.
I don't know if Gary has made any deals with his former employer Bali Hai Realty or his big benefactor Hawaii Life Realty, or not, but I do know that he will not listen to the regular ol' local folks in any of his decisions. JoAnn is harmless, because all she will do is talk. Gary is conniving and he will always end up on top.
The rest of the Council will be in a minority when Felicia and Dylan Hooser get elected.
Gary's misuse of the word HAPA (still pisses me off that he takes a word that describes 25 percent of the islands population)....The name of his HAPA should be Kukai, which is what we will all be in if Big Ag goes down.

Anonymous said...

So your saying the Cornell Alliance for Science doesn't have their hand in the GMO cookie jar and neither do you?

Anonymous said...

No, 2:40 PM, it's not at all a stretch to blame Hooser and CFS and SHAKA and all of the other instigators who, for their own egos and power, lie, twist, and manipulate to convince others that they and their children are being poisoned by farmers.

And there are plenty of sick people out there to carry out their missives:

Posted on Facebook by a Maui guy:
Ahh, I long for the good ol' days, when we practiced a different form of democracy... When everyone was in agreement that someone/something was hurting everyone else, we would just send someone to slit their throat, or we would burn down their castle. Then someone with vision and mana and some kind of integrity would just take the wheel, and we would move on to the next. Am I alone?
December 31, 2015 at 4:47am

Joan Conrow said...

6:59. Yes, I'm saying neither of us have a hand in the "GMO cookie jar." And what about you? What cookie jars do you have your hands in?

Anonymous said...

Joan you should really disable anonymous commenting, it makes it difficult to hold these cowards accountable when they are hiding in the shadows (where they belong of course). //Bronson

Anonymous said...

"But Hooser's recurring message was clear: farmers using pesticides are not “good neighbors.” Just read Hoosers blog Joan and he never once critisized farms for using pesticides. He was beating up exclusively on DowAgroscience who are chemical manufacturers and sellers of that particular pesticide.

John McHugh said...

Hi Joan, Joni Ito recently posted a blog regarding agricultural pesticide use. The focus was on chlorpyrifos (Lorsban). In my comment on her post I noted that her comments regarding chlorpyrifos (Lorsban) use are right on target. In fact, at one time chlorpyrifos was the most commonly used pesticide in the U.S. It wasn’t until the passage of the Food Quality Protection Act in 1996 that the use of chlorpyrifos changed. The accelerant for the change was the “risk basket” EPA used to determine whether a pesticide should be allowed for food crop production. The thinking behind this was that there were a number of pesticides with the exact same mode of action. That included the organophosphates and the carbamates.

For chlorpyrifos, as an organophosphate, the interpretation that EPA made was that because there were so many pesticides with the same mode of action being used on food crops that they needed to restrict its use in other areas. The first to be lost was the homeowner use. Then the EPA mandated change for chlorpyrifos from non-Restricted Use Pesticide to Restricted Use Pesticide. That’s right, chlorpyrifos used to be a non-Restricted Use Pesticide! The thinking was that if it was made an RUP then its use would be further limited to those with an RUP license. Finally, the labeled uses in other areas started to be whittled back. Today there is only a fraction of the former uses of chlorpyrifos that are even allowed. The use of chlorpyrifos on food crops is strictly regulated and the number of applications on a crop during a crop cycle are limited along with number of applications allowed on a specific piece of ground within a 12-month period.

Because of the widespread use of chlorpyrifos in its “hey day”, which was over a number of decades, it is not unusual to find residues in any number of locations that persist until today. So, should we be concerned about those residues? That’s tricky because everyone’s sensitivity is different. However, if the insecticide is being used around where children play and congregate (and the impact on children was the main impetus for the Food Quality Protection Act) then it may be prudent to discontinue that use. But, when chlorpyrifos is used in areas where ag production is taking place then the opportunity for direct exposure to children is limited or even non-existent. The bottom line is that pesticides are poison and the way to mitigate the exposure to that poison is to follow the label. This is the mantra that we follow in production ag and probably the reason why the complaints associated with agricultural pesticide use are much smaller than in other circumstances, such as homeowner use.

I hope that this long-winded explanation brings some clarity to the discussion of pesticide use. There is a process that is used in order to even get a pesticide registered for use. This process can take many years and cost untold millions of dollars. The U.S. EPA requires pesticide manufacturers to abide by numerous guidelines including a battery of toxicity studies. Once the determination is made that a pesticide residue has minimal risk in causing an untoward health reaction then the EPA allows for the registration of the pesticide at a residue level that is 1/10 that of the lowest harmful level of the pesticide, as determined by the toxicity studies. Further restrictions are imposed on how, when, where, and how much of a product can be applied, further mitigating the risk of a harmful pesticide reaction to sensitive individuals, primarily children.

Finally, I admire you Joan for being willing to post the comments of individuals who, clearly, do not know what they are talking about. That one characteristic alone should be sufficient reason for trust for those who, wrong-headedly, think you are an agent of the chemical corporations. Please keep telling it like it is. There are many of us in the ag community who look forward to your blog and the clear-eyed and sane commentary you provide.

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks, John. I always appreciate comments from people who do know the topic, especially when, as you noted, so many do not.

As for 2:58, you might want to work on your reading comprehension.

Anonymous said...

With regards to chemical sensitivity. This is a real problem that actually affects real people. However imagination often is the root cause of much. Chemical sensitivity of concern is when a person reacts to a substance below the normally tolerated threshold. A true reaction is quite uncomfortable. Often involving taste, sweat, congestion, sneezing etc. One of the first things you want to look for are metals. Extraordinarily easy to test for. Bring an individual near a metal that the same is sensitive to and the symptoms will be exactly duplicated. Blind test it. Except for industry personnel, an individual rarely knows the metal that caused the over exposure.
Fortunately, it is also curable. Stay away from the metal in its concentrated forms. Two years or so and the metal is washed from the body and the reaction becomes normal, within thresholds.

Anonymous said...

My theory is simple. 2015 wasn't a profitable year on the farm, so best to start off the new year with an insurance claim. Uncle lit the match at 12:01 AM.

Joan Conrow said...

@ 9:28 -- Your theory isn't simple, it's downright stupid.

First, if you had read the post carefully, or looked at the TV news link I provided, you would have known the fire occurred on the morning of Dec. 31, not Jan. 1. Second, insurance typically covers only the appraised value, not the replacement value. Third, there's usually a sizable deduction required. So people who suffer property losses frequently incur out-of-pocket costs. And fourth, your comment expresses the lack of compassion and questionable ethics characteristic of too many anti-GMO activists.

Anonymous said...

"However, if the insecticide is being used around where children play and congregate (and the impact on children was the main impetus for the Food Quality Protection Act) then it may be prudent to discontinue that use."


Joan you need to disclose who this guy John McHugh is. Obviously he works for one of the chemcos. Is he a scientist or a pr person or a manager? Has he read the label? If so he would not say "may be prudent" and instead know that it is criminal to use this stuff around children. I don't want him living next to me that is for sure. With neighbors like him, who needs the government?

Joan Conrow said...

John McHugh holds a PhD in Entomology focusing on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) from Purdue University. He has 41 years of experience in agriculture in Hawaii. He invented an intermittent overhead irrigation system for use in watercress to control diamondback moth and cyclamen mite, cutting pesticide use by 90%. He is currently the site Agronomist for DuPont Pioneer's doubled haploid program in Kunia/Waipahu Hawaii.

And what are your qualifications, 7:12? Do tell us, and be sure to give your name so we can see if there's something that needs to be disclosed about you. Surely if you feel so strongly about these issues you're willing to stand behind your public comments. Unless, of course, you're just talking out of your ass.

Anonymous said...

Center For Food Safety should occupy a Dept. of Ag building somewhere remote. I'll lend them my slingshot and lighter.