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.
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.
And as Scientific American pointed out:
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.