Monday, July 18, 2016

Musings: On Water, Egos and Food

In his typical smarmy fashion, Councilman Gary Hooser said nothing critical to Beth Tokioka's face when she appeared before the Kauai County Council regarding her appointment to the Board of Water Supply.

Indeed, he lauded her many years of public service.

And then he turned around and complained to Civil Beat

“I think appointing a representative of Syngenta to this particular position is insensitive and shows poor judgment.”

And its typical smarmy fashion, Civil Beat asked Ashley Lukens of Center for Food Safety and Paul Achitoff of Earthjustice to weigh in.

Why, pray tell, should either of those Oahu residents have any say in who serves on the Kauai water board? Especially since they're avowed enemies of the GMO seed companies, and are involved in litigation against Beth's employer. 

Though reporter Anita Hofschneider included comments from non-residents eager to advance her smear job, she failed to report that 18 Kauai residents submitted testimony in support of Beth's appointment, including Dr. Daleep Bal, the Kauai District Health Officer. Not one person is on record in opposition.

As Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura observed at the July 6 Council meeting:

“I don't think we've ever gotten as many letters of support for a nominee as we have for you. I think that's a real testimony to the level of support that's out in the community for you.”

It's so ironic to see Civil Beat printing quotes about how a “perception of a conflict is a problem” when it refuses to acknowledge that its own funder and founder, Pierre Omidyar, is also funding the Hawaii Center for Food Safety. Indeed, it's actually deleted every comment I've left pointing out that very real conflict.

But then, the financial connection does helps to explain why Civil Beat goes out of its way to quote CFS and keep the group in the limelight.

Beth's appointment will come up for a final vote on Wednesday. Since Civil Beat sat on the story for a week, its publication today appears timed to generate opposition.

Also on the Council agenda is a request for yet more legal fees. Seems the mayor isn't willing to accept the Intermediate Court of Appeals ruling that authority to discipline the police chief lies with the police commission, not him. 

He's seeking $30,000 for special counsel to pursue an appeal to the Hawaii Supreme Court. Another $15,000 would be allocated to represent the chief and police commission.

Do the taxpayers really want to bankroll this expensive game of egos?

And finally, though I was glad to see Dr. Lee Evslin offer some sound healthy-eating tips — cut down on sugar and refined foods — in his new column, he made several dubious assertions. Since The Garden Island inexplicably disabled comments on his column, I'll address them here.

Evslin wrote:

Pesticides in our food is a new and perhaps frightening line of research. If we take children, test their urine for pesticide metabolites and then put them on an organic diet and check them again, the level of pesticides in their urine drops dramatically and quickly.

In fact, the key study done on this topic included this caveat:

Children and their families participating in this study do not reflect the general U.S. population, and therefore no attempt should be made to extend this conclusion to other children.

Furthermore, the study looked only for synthetic pesticides, and not for the pest control products used on organics.

In head-to-head comparisons, natural pesticides don't fare any better than synthetic ones. When I compared the organic chemicals copper sulfate and pyrethrum to the top synthetics, chlorpyrifos and chlorothalonil, I found that not only were the organic ones more acutely toxic, studies have found that they are more chronically toxic as well, and have higher negative impacts on non-target species.

And in any case:

Almost all pesticides detected on foods by the USDA and independent scientific studies are at levels below 1% of the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) set by government regulators.

Systematic reviews of dietary pesticide exposure all come to the same conclusion: that typical dietary exposure to pesticide residues in foods poses minimal risks to humans.

As a detailed study in the Journal of Food Science noted:

"from a practical standpoint, the marginal benefits of reducing human exposure to pesticides in the diet through increased consumption of organic produce appear to be insignificant."

Evslin also wrote:

If it fits into your budget, buy organic dairy, produce and bread. The more organic we buy, the more it is produced and the cheaper it gets.

Though the sale of organic food has skyrocketed in recent years, prices have not declined and remain high. Why? It's more expensive to produce organic food, and consumers like Evslin are willing to pay a 10-40 percent premium for a product that offers no real advantages over its conventional counterpart. In other words, they're paying for marketing hype.

Evslin also wrote:

Eat much less bread. [T]he wheat for the bread is often sprayed with pesticides right before harvesting.

This claim, which first surfaced on a pro-organic blog, was deconstructed on the myth-busting Snopes site, with additional insights offered by a Canadian wheat farmer.

Evslin is, of course, free to believe what he wishes. But his column bothered me because it confirmed the biases that Evslin brought to his role on the Joint Fact-Finding Group for pesticides, which resulted in deeply flawed recommendations.

Furthermore, it needlessly incites worries among parents who are unable to afford organics.

On an island where one in five residents lack sufficient food, it's the epitome of elitism to preach the organic sermon. The message should be: eat lots of fruits and veggies, regardless of the source.


Anonymous said...

Are you aware that Syngenta is moving much of their operations to South America? This has and will affect many jobs. Not sure if it has anything to do with the anti-GMO movement on Kauai / in Hawaii.

Anonymous said...

Typical Gary Hooser. When he had the opportunity to ask questions of Ms. Tokioka, he chose not to. I'm sure he will have some piercing comments on Wednesday to justify his "no" vote. I hope Ms. Tokioka shows up to be able to respond to Gary's wild ass comments. Time for him to go.

Went to Arthur Brun's fundraiser yesterday. Lots and lots of influential people there. I'm sure Gary sees the writing on the wall. Expect more dirty crap from him as he becomes more desperate.

Anonymous said...

Is disabling GI comments like sticking your head in the sand?

At least it makes you immune to criticism, well almost... ;-)

Anonymous said...

I had the same thoughts reading Evslin's first installment of his new column and was unhappy that I and others more familiar with the topic than Evslin, and far less biased, were unable to comment.

It's also unfortunate that The Garden Island feels it's necessary to continue to condone this kind of unwarranted bias and foster more community discord against America's extremely well studied, safe, and highly regulated food production sector.

And you're right-- the incessant fear-mongering lines the pockets of the Whole Foods executives while harming those who cannot afford to buy into the "organic" marketing scheme.

Anonymous said...

Joan the stuff you come up with! Really what an insult to hard working organic farmers that just want to create goodness for people

Joan wrote: "willing to pay a 10-40 percent premium for a product that offers no real advantages over its conventional counterpart. In other words, they're paying for marketing hype."

Joan Conrow said...

Organic foods offer no nutritional and environmental benefits over their conventional counterparts, and only negligible reductions in pesticide exposure. So other than marketing hype, it's hard to see what consumers get for the 10-40 percent premium they pay.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that places like Costco are offering more and more organic options while doing away with the non-organic versions. I don't care if people want to waste their money on organic and I'm glad they have a choice but I hate having to pay extra for bullshit marketing when only the organic option is being carried. Hope this organic shit is just a phase.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a shame that places like Costco are offering more and more organic options while doing away with the non-organic versions. I don't care if people want to waste their money on organic and I'm glad they have a choice but I hate having to pay extra for bullshit marketing when only the organic option is being carried. Hope this organic shit is just a phase.

July 18, 2016 at 11:39 AM

Organic food production is what started civilization. It is not a faze. High priced designer seeds are a faze. People prefer organic. Sorry. Just eat organic, and move on to something else to occupy your time. If as Joan says there is no difference I am sure you will enjoy it. Perhaps its because it's harvested by hippies rather then migrant brown skin farm workers or the thought of Neem or guano fertilizer scares you?

Do not worry you will be ok.

Anonymous said...

"The Swiss-based company sells seed corn and pesticides and has a checkered history on water quality. Four years ago, Sygenta paid $105 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by water utilities in the Midwest that said the company contaminated their water supply with atrazine, an herbicide that Syngenta manufactures, sells and applies to its crops. The Kauai Board of Water Supply even voted to join that class action suit to receive up to $10,000 for testing water for atrazine."

The above is a quote from the same Civil Beat article. Of course, Joan is not so interested in facts like these and prefers to react to and malign personalities and groups which consider such facts worthy of consideration.

Anonymous said...

12:04 - Well... the only difference for the consumer is price, which is why choice matters. You realize Neem causes sterility in mammals, right? :)

Anonymous said...

Reminder to all:
As verified by the State Department of Health, Kauai has no drinking water or surface water quality problems related to pesticides.

Anonymous said...

In the olden days. The days of idyllic little farms, gardens, a few cows and chickens when the kids helped with the milking and y'all worked till the hay was in were great.
Except most of these farms were sandwiched between little towns and they sprayed great gobs of horrendous poisons. Herbicdes that were part of every farm town in the country. Poisons have been used for centuries.
Now that the the small farms are gone there are less herbicides being applied.
Just like the old days on Kauai, many Camps spread out over the fields.
Better living thru Chemistry.
Maybe the most destructive pest in all of Ag's history was the Boll Weevel. Destroyed thousands of lives...maybe millions.
That ol' Boll Weevel just gotta have a home.

Anonymous said...

Civil beat, shriveled meat.It's an organ waiting to be dispatched to the electron vacuum of vaporous reporting. A place for Hooserian proctological proclamations and CFS rants and grunts engineered by the Kimbrell gnomes. All we want is a selection of good people to guide the Department of Water. No one is trying to impanel a College of Cardinals here, so (using the favorite word of JY) Sainthood is not a required attribute- a smart, hard working, cooperative and knowledgeable person is needed. Beth is all of that.

Anonymous said...

As an organic farmer here on Kaua'i for over 30 years, I can tell you that the price of certified organic produce from local Kaua'i farms is NOT 10% to 40% higher than conventional. We compete with conventional Kaua'i farmers in our marketing every day. As to Costco offering more organic options, the Kirkland OG corn chips are amazing and LESS EXPENSIVE than most of their non-OG options. The organic coffee and other goods also compete.
Across the mainland, farmers are being paid to convert to OG due to demand. (07/14/2016 NY Times by Stephanie Strom) Guess what? People want Organic and it is quickly becoming mainstream and is quickly becoming more affordable.
What is not sustainable on this island is buying bananas - organic or conventional- that were grown in Ecuador and shipped in...even though the price tag may be cheaper?
There is a lot of ragging about organics in this blog by people who have very little to zero knowledge of the USDA National Organic Program. As to organic pesticides being toxic or more toxic, the use of the majority of OG-approved pesticides is only allowed after management practices are unsuccessful. This must be documented prior to the use of inputs for weed, disease, and insect control. Comparing mono-crop farming to bio-diverse farming will always see biodiversity and agro-ecology come out on top in terms of health of the soil, waterways, wildlife, farmworkers, and ecosystems. There was a recent reference to the use of manure in OG farming (which, by the way, is a common practice in conventional systems that may raise livestock). For OG, manure must be composted and temperatures recorded prior to application to food crops UNLESS there is a 120 day withhold for crops where the edible portion is in contact with the ground and 90 days for orchard or similar crops where the the crop does not touch the ground. The vast majority of OG farmers prefer to compost manure because this process produces a product that is biologically alive with beneficial microorganisms that fight diseases as well as nutrients that are long-lasting and complete. Disease pathogens in composted manure have been destroyed due to the high temperatures in the composting process (131 - 160 degrees F).
Our family manages 10 acres organically and our main methods of maintaining crop health and plant nutrition are based on essential microbials (EM), indigenous microorganisms (IM), composting according to NOP standards, mulching for weeds, crop rotation, inter-cropping, and planting companion plants that attract pollinators and insects that prey on pest insects. OG farmers are extremely scientific in their methods and certified organic farmers are some of the best record keepers in agriculture. They are inspected annually. In addition, each certifying entity must have an expert staff of reviewers and inspectors that also must be trained annually. Each certifier is extensively audited annually by the USDA. 7CFR Part 205 is a labeling law that is consumer driven to make the OG label conform to standards set by USDA. The whole process ain't run by uneducated hippies or yuppies or any such.

Anonymous said...

Joan, given the choice, wouldn't you prefer to ingest zero versus 'negligible amounts' of pesticides each meal you consume?

Joan Conrow said...

@6:25 Given the definition of negligible — "so small or unimportant as to be not worth considering; insignificant" — my answer is no. Furthermore, many organic foods also contain negligible amounts of pesticides. So it's not like you're getting zero, anyway.

I used to buy everything organic, except John Wooten's veggies, which aren't certified organic. I ate that way for about 20 years. But once I started learning about the marketing tactics and political actions of the organics/anti-GMO industry, I grew weary of the smug self-righteousness. Nowadays I buy whatever looks freshest and tastiest, at the best price. And for whatever reason, I've never been healthier.

I support all farming. Farmers, like consumers, should have a choice. But I don't like tactics that try to portray organic as holy and conventional as evil. Organic has its own environmental harms and human health risks. And as it becomes more popular and lucrative, it's being produced on the same "industrial" scale that many of its supporters decry in conventional ag.

To me, the issue isn't organics vs conventional, it's healthy, fresh, whole food vs highly processed food. There's a lot of organic junk food out there that's no better than its conventional counterpart. It's also about ensuring that food remains affordable so the world's expanding population can eat. Organic will never be efficient enough to meet that demand.

Anonymous said...

I echo Joan's thoughtful and valid response above to the out-of-context question from 6:25 PM.

After working hard for decades to support myself and my family, and get myself educated, I am finally financially stable enough to afford to choose whatever foods I want to eat .....and "organic" is not on my list of criteria, for those reasons.

Anonymous said...

@ 5:13 PM who said, "What is not sustainable on this island is buying bananas - organic or conventional- that were grown in Ecuador and shipped in...even though the price tag may be cheaper?"

Why is it not sustainable? Are you still basing that on the old and outdated "peak oil" model?

Anonymous said...

I did not post that comment though I agree when possible we should buy local for many reasons including having that money circulate a little more here on Kauai doing good things like maybe supporting Hawaii Children's Theater for example
Also we are on the most isolated islands in the world so self-sustainability is a good thing

Anonymous said...

Because every banana, avocado, mango, etc. imported into Hawaii where we grow the same crops and even better varieties, takes a coin out of the pocket of our farmers, our neighbors. Some day, that ship will not come in (as has happened many times in our not too distant past), and we will all regret that we did not support the local grower. Peak oil? How about food security on an island that is extremely isolated by thousands of miles of ocean? Not to mention the loss of nutrition and viability of a fruit that is picked too green to develop full nutrient value and then shipped in refrigerated containers to further lose storage value and food value.
As to any reference to a smug self-righteous farmer, that definition is as oxy-moronic as they come. Any farmer who makes a living from the land, doesn't have time to be self-righteous or smug. All the farmers I have ever met or been akin to were humble, pono, and salt-of-the earth. Farming is hard work, whether conventional or organic, and lucky you, who does not want to eat organic. You have that choice because organic is labeled!!

Anonymous said...
“The National Organic Program (NOP) is a regulatory program housed within the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. We are responsible for developing national standards for organically-produced agricultural products. These standards assure consumers that products with the USDA organic seal meet consistent, uniform standards. Our regulations do not address food safety or nutrition.”

No farming system is superior. All farming systems share the same science and many of the same practices, only some tools are different. The USDA Organic program is not scientifically based, but is part of the USDA Agricultural Marketing System. We are fortunate to have choices, but don’t turn your choice into a false sense of superiority due to it being fashionable. Let’s make it fashionable to respect all farmers for what they do for us every day and understand the similarities instead of creating false divides based on ignorance and mis-information.

Anonymous said...

To some the difference between a Hershey's chocolate bar and Lindt chocolate may be negligible but for some reason people are still willing to pay more for Lindt chocolate despite Hershey's marketing hype

Anonymous said...

@10:18 AM

I read no material reasons from you why I should buy locally at higher expense all for this vague unfounded ideal of food sustainability.

The few, not "many", times hurricanes have hit us only stopped shipping for a couples days at most and food was easily air-freighted in for that short period. Plus, the hurricanes devastated local crops. You'd know that if you were here during them. And after the devastation, it took a long time to grow things again from scratch. Thanks to imported mainland food we didn't starve.

Buying imported food takes no money from the pocket of a local farmer as that money never was in their pocket to begin with. DUH! And what the heck has any local farmer done for me anyway...ever? Just because they grow food doesn't mean I need to financially support them; directly or by way of my taxes.

The fact that we're thousands of miles away from the mainland was only valid during the days of sailing ships and horse carts. Ever heard of modern transportation?

All of your reasons are false, 10:18 AM, and only serve your feel-good emotions; not logic or fact.

Imported foods have less nutrition because they're picked early? All foods? Bullshit! Some maybe but that certainly hasn't effected anyone's health and is probably offset by the large size of imported fruit and vegetables. Another personal preference you wish to sell as a societal necessity. Crap!

I could care less how you wish to spend your money, but don't make up false or immaterial reasons to try and force me into buying local produce.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the willingness to pay more for for Lindt chocolate centers on conspicuous consumption, 10:31? There's more than enough of that in many product categories from food to homes flooding in to these islands in the last two decades.

Anonymous said...

Joan you have to approve 10:31 before 11:35 'anonymous' can reply ;)

Joan Conrow said...

There was no 10:31 comment. I can only assume 11:35 made a -- gasp -- error, 11:54.

Anonymous said...

Guess old 11:27 hasn't been around that long and has missed out on the shipping strikes that have disrupted food supplies to Hawaii.

Of course, not shopping locally hurts the local economy. that is unless you would like to see ZERO farms here. Just keep browsing your way through Safeway and know, those big square energy sucking caves where food comes from...and relish in your choice of personal preferences.

As to the hurricanes, it took Kaua'i almost two months to fully restore electricity after Iniki. Iwa less than a month. Food storage was in itself a problem due to lack of refrigeration. Local livestock producers and some crop farmers filled in important gaps in our food supply. Neighbor island growers also were an important source of fresh food during the hurricanes. It takes about 50-60 days to grow most vegetable crops, longer for roots and starches. Most of us survived on REM's. Remember it quite well. YUCK.

Man does not live (well) by rice and canned foods alone.

Joan Conrow said...

oh, I see what happened. 10:31 was a reply to my comment this morning so it shows up there in the mobile feed, not in chronological order.

Joan Conrow said...

loved the song, 4:17. thanks for the link. And with the GMO cotton, farmers can control the boll weevil and increase yields while reducing pesticide use.

Anonymous said...

5:13 p.m. July 18th. Congratulations to being an OG, it's not easy dealing with the documentation.

Here's some food for thought to you and the general public. when you go to the farmers' market, just show everyone your USDA organic label. that should prove you're doing it right (in your own market's eyes).

if you can't place this label on your product, then you're not totally organic certified / totally organic. Organic certification is as you said, documentation / documentation.

when the general public goes to the farmer's market, and the vendor / farmer tells the buyer "this is organic," (buyer) ask the farmer / vendor to see their circle usda seal.

If you're organic, show the seal. if no seal, you not totally organic. so don't promote yourself as such.

So, here's my concern of all this labeling BS. Organic products have a "LABEL" on their product. why does the other industry have to label their product. that means both conventional crops and organic crops are labeled.

My opinion is; usda has a label for one product which is / was the industry with less producers (organic). this thought process should have been ok. no circle, means it's the conventional crop.

Congratulations 5:13 p.m.! Wear your label proud. Get the price to maximize your output. But don't bad mouth the other industry just to promote yours.

This BS is what Joan's trying to tell all of us. there's conventional and organic. pick what ever products you want. that's your choice. BUT! Respect the other person's choice.

Good information on the pride you take in raising your crop / soil caring, remember the statistical data. Nationally, organic crops / products had XXX amount of the total market share. Conventional crops / products has XXX amount of the total market shares.

Majority of the population really don't care about the grower's farming practices are. After all 1% - 2% of the population feeds 98% - 99% of the population. All they (99%ers) know is when it's time to eat.

What's my point! I'm kind of echoing 10:19, 11:27 and Joan's 5:15 post in my own way, with my own spin on what data I know and what logic I use in life.

Anonymous said...

It took longer for us to get electricity and running water.

MRE's was nasty and Red Cross would come around and provide 1 hot meal for about a month.

Yukimura screwed the people over big time and regressed the island of Kauai with her ill advised decisions or lack there of.

Plenty babies were made and a lot of people sold their houses and left.

Over 6-8 hours to go to town and back. Food, water, ice, gas and other things were rationed.

They opened some haul cane roads to travel on so we could get into town and back home because all the telephone poles fell on the highways.

Ron Wiley was the voice everyone listened to and Joann would try to temper people's frustrations over the radio.

Plenty mosquitoes and a lot of cleaning and rebuilding. Sanchez and Keapana pig farms gave away a lot of free pigs.

Neighbors worked and helped each other and people showed their true aloha by selling $100 cases of juice that was bought for $8 prior to being hit by the hurricane.

It was a learning experience and I hope our dept heads are better prepared than they were when iniki hit.

Anonymous said...

5:06's comment was as cool as the moon tonight. And it was red when it rose.

Anonymous said...

My family comes from cotton farming. My dad, grandad, and uncles operated cotton gins. Still have one cousin that farms cotton. Those who stuck with it generally have a host of health issues.

Joan, you could not be more incorrect about cotton farming if you think that GMO cotton has helped reduce the use of herbicides and pesticides. GMO Cotton is one of THE MOST chemically bombarded crops on the planet. RoundUP Ready crops require more applications of stronger herbicides due to acquired resistance in most weed species. Pre-emergent, post-emergent, and growing season herbicides, fungicides, pesticides are applied liberally. Then it is blasted with "harvest aids" aka defoliants to drop the leaves. Crop dusters are the favored method of application for some of these products.

Joan, here is a link that may wither your rosy misconception and repeated ignorance about GMO using less pesticides.

I am a farmer and I love all farmers. Period.

Joan Conrow said...

Dear 6:28,

I'm glad you love farmers, and you obviously have your own point of view. I agree that cotton is a chemical-intensive crop. But I beg to differ with some of your assertions. Also, your link doesn't speak at all to rates of pesticide use. It merely identifies pest control products.

I conducted numerous interviews with GM cotton farmers in India, and they all reported that they have been able to significantly reduce their use of pesticides by growing GM cotton. Note I said REDUCE and not eliminate. The same is true of farmers growing Bt corn and Bt eggplant.

Why do you think farmers are adopting these crops if there's no advantage? Over and over farmers told me they are spending less on pesticides and achieving more yield due to less pest damage, all of which translates into better profits.

The issue of herbicide-tolerant weeds predates GM crops, so you can't blame it all on Roundup Ready. But even so, farmers have told me that they're applying fewer products with the RR and Bt crops. I recently printed information about how farmers growing RR sugar beets use fewer pesticides and herbicides.

Overall, federal studies show that while the use of herbicides has increased with the use of GM commodity crops, the use of insecticides has gone down. And in the overall scheme of things, herbicides tend to be less harmful than insecticides.

Anonymous said...
When you rely on Bt, ole Mother Nature will catch up pretty quickly with resistance. Mono-cropping makes for much greater pest numbers.

Farmers that rely on these "marketing programs" have forgotten how to manage and work with nature. See a weed..blast it, see a bug...kill da buggah. Patented seeds that come with patented poisons. It's all a marketing strategy by our good friends Ole Farmers Dupont, Dow, Syngenta, BASF (the Chemical Company), and Monsanto.

"Feed the world - let 'em eat Corn"