Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Musings: Do-ers and Talkers

Syngenta plans to sell its operations on Kauai and Oahu, and contract with the buyer to grow its seeds.

The company is not ending seed production in Hawaii, merely pursuing a different operating model. Its activities and staff will remain status quo until the sale is finalized, likely in the first half of 2017.

The announcement reflects some of the many changes occuring within the global seed industry as companies merge and adjust their operations. Locally, that has included returning leased land to the state.

Which means there's never been a better time for all those farmer wannabees to get public land. So where are they?

In a recent video interview, Ashley Lukens, director of the Hawaii Center for Food Safety, asserted that CFS wants to “support the [indigenous] food system and help it re-emerge.”

Yet CFS has done no farmer training, no loi restoration. It's done no consumer education or outreach to build public acceptance of a diet based on taro, sweet potatoes, banana and fish, and a lifestyle requiring nearly every resident to be involved in food production.

It's done no marketing to build support for local products, opened no poi mills, funded no research into reducing disease among native taro varieties.

Indeed, neither CFS nor its allies, such as Councilman Gary Hooser's HAPA, have taken even one small step to secure state ag land for food production. Meanwhile, thousands of acres of public land — much of it irrigated, some of it ancient loi — lie fallow as the activists sow seeds of rhetoric.

Ashley went on to ask:

Do we want a food system driven by large-scale, multinational corporate interests? Or do we want a food system driven by the grit, tenancity and creativity of local people, local businesses and local farmers?

So why haven't they come up with a plan to help local farmers, support that “grit, tenancity and creativity?” Why haven't these groups pooled their resources to actually get people on the land, growing food? Why are they more familiar with the Lege than a loi? Why aren't they aggressively modeling the food-farm change they want to be in the world?

Perhaps because, as Ashley admitted, “We're primarily a law firm. We're a think tank.” 

In other words, they don't get their hands dirty. CFS makes money by suing federal agencies — taxpayers have deep pockets — and soliciting donations to fund its legal work.

Their interest is not farming, but exploiting a romanticized notion about farming to change laws to achieve an organic-only political agenda. As Ashley noted:

If they're growing organic in Kunia, I won't knock them.

But the rest — the family-owned papaya farms, Hanalei taro growers, tropical flower farmers, dairies— in short, any ag enterprise that uses synthetic pesticides and/or GMO crops is fair game. Though the antis love to talk about food and farming, in practice they're all about destroying GMO and conventional ag.

And they do that, in part, by spreading lies, such as Ashley's oft-uttered claims:

What they do here by and large is herbicide-tolerant corn and soy. So they are by definition using high volumes of herbicides to demonstrate the virility of what they're doing.

Children are doing to school right alongside where this [Chlorpyrifos] is being sprayed.

In fact, the companies have already created voluntary buffer zones and notification policies for schools. None of them are spraying Chlorpyrifos next to school kids. 

As for what they're growing, herbicide tolerance (HT) is but one biotech trait. They're also growing varieties with traits such as enhanced yield, insect and virus resistance, efficiencies in nitrogen utilization, drought tolerance, increased growth rate, improvements in flowering and photosynthesis enhancements, as well as conventional hybrids.

Though Hooser, Lukens, Hawaii SEED, Earthjustice and other anti-GMO activists love to claim that it's all about growing plants to sell more pesticide product, the reality is quite a bit different. 

And as I've pointed out numerous times, they are not spraying the crops here to see if they can withstand herbicides. That testing is done in confined labs on the mainland. They are merely growing plants that produce seeds with the HT traits.

Ashley goes on to justify her fear-mongering and deception with this bizarre statement:

If they're going against you, you're doing something right. The amount of ire our movement has earned, tells us we're being effective.

No, Ashley, people are mad at you and your movement because they're tired of your lying, narcissistic, delusional, self-serving, fear-mongering bullshit. It's time to leave la-la land — she's currently at Burning Man — and join the world of science, morality, ethics, justice.

Ashley concludes with:

We really need to say yes to what we want.

So do it. Get people out there farming the way you say you want it done.

But until you do, leave the people who are actually growing stuff and addressing food security issues alone. 

Which leads me to a really excellent piece in Wired.  It featured an interview with a man — beekeeper Jerry Hayes — who, like me, once considered himself an environmentalist. Like me, he came to the same conclusion once he started looking critically at both the enviros' tactics and the reality of the demonized “other:”

I saw how they were using terms like Monsanto and Bayer as fund-raising mechanisms. But if you believe in science, if you take a hard look at the science and data of some of these groups, they’re cooking the books in order to make themselves look better and others look evil. So they can raise money. To be successful.

The rhetoric offended Hayes’ sense of fairness.

As it did mine.

Unlike me, Hayes went to work for Monsanto, where he is trying to improve the health of bees. Like most scientists, he believes they're facing multiple threats: varroa mites, inadequate forage and nutrition, viruses and exposure to a range of ag and garden pesticides.

But environmental groups and their followers want only to focus on a very specific class of pesticides — neonicitinoids — because it supports their agenda against “industrial agriculture.”

They'd rather retain their rhetoric — and its fundraising prowess — than address the problem. Meanwhile, as Wired reports:

Despite unremitting losses, the number of bee colonies globally has held steady.

There’s also this stubborn fact: While neonic use continues in the US, the particular symptoms of colony collapse disorder have not. “I haven’t seen CCD in five years,” says [University of Maryland entomologist Dennis] vanEngelsdorp, who surveys the nation’s bee losses twice a year. He now believes what he saw back in 2006 was some sort of emerging viral infection.

You won't see that inconvenient truth shared by the fear-mongerers at Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Center for Food Safety, etc., etc. Not so long as there's money to be raised fighting pesticides — but only those associated with agriculture.

As we move forward to address pressing issues in agriculture, we must distinguish between the do-ers and the talkers — especially those who are just talking shit.


Unknown said...

excellent observations and summary of our current situation. as a beginning farmer on the Big Island, I would love to have any kind of coordinated help in starting an agro-enterprise, as with many systems in this island-state the bureaucracy is convoluted, often incomplete, and puts up many more barriers to entry rather than providing support, services, and incentives. just getting someone to call you back is an achievement.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Gates Foundation can toss in some coin for food production rather than for gmo propaganda.

Joan Conrow said...

@8:53 -- Really???

To date, we have committed more than US$2 billion to agricultural development efforts, primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Unknown said...

I regards to 8:53, maybe you should do a simple Google Search to verify the truthfulness of your comment prior to make said comment.

Unknown said...

The antis took the opportunity to show how big AG should be doing their job. Many showed up for the planting party with Neil Young and Darrel Hanna. However, the day-to-day grunt work of weeding and watering showed little fan fair. Autumn Ness begged and begged for help, but the weeds won the battle. The plants withered and languished as a result. Did they take a stab at a second crop? Does the land lay vacant over grown with weeds? Do they really have the "tenacity" to grow "clean" crops as cheaply as they promise? ummmm..... no, yes, and no. So why do we give them credibility when they fail to lead by example?

Anonymous said...

Chinese seeds finally come to Kauai. Li Hing Mui and all the assortments. LOL.

Anonymous said...

Joan, not sure where you got your info but from what I hear and read, Syngenta is gone. They are bailing out on Kauai and will be selling their assets (land) and canceling their leases (which they have already started doing via ADC). Employees have been notified and it could be as early as the end of this year. Read the StarAdv today and it is easy to figure out. They even allude to the sale already being made by saying it supposed to be over by June. Syngenta is just trying to soften the blow to their employees but the truth is they are gone.

Joan Conrow said...

I think you may be jumping the gun just a little bit, 12:22.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see more of the West Kauai fields restored and leased out. Likewise the remaining East fields. Those are primarily on the Midler property and perhaps could be leased to those who would rebuild the loi. The water is there.

Joan Conrow said...

@12:22 Syngenta spokeswoman Beth Tokioka's response to your comment:

Absolutely not true. We will sell the assets and contract with the successful buyer for the current level of services.

Anonymous said...

Yardener activists are now begging the Maui County Council to purchase land for an organic farming ag park.....267 acres for $9,495,000.

That's over $35,000 an acre from our tax dollars. Can't wait to see which of them steps up to do the hard work and what they plan to grow.

Anonymous said...

so a chinese corporation buys a swiss corporation. good move for china in that with a population of 1.3 billion and limited farmland and water it seems their government is doing the smartest thing by owning the best seed company on the planet. superior seed stock is a no brainer.

Anonymous said...

Beth Tokioka is a puppet. She and you will be proven wrong

Anonymous said...

seems like the chinese are moving forward on many fronts. now they own the premiere seed company and are agressive on their space program. coupled with russian tech they might, and probably will, surpass the western world as the predominant world power. add to that, the US petro dollar is also threatened. that may cause the US to start the big war. lucky we live outer island in a way except for PMRF is surely a target. 20 mile radius from there could be toast,

Anonymous said...

Joan - check your sources again. MANY Syngenta employees have already been notified that their employment will end by the end of 2016. Some have already taken other positions on the mainland which was part of the offer they received.

Anonymous said...

@12:22PM and 3:35PM

Try reducing the frequency of crack pipe hits. Hopefully at some point you'll regain the ability to distinguish between your wet dreams and reality.

Joan Conrow said...

@6:56 OK, I did check again, and got this:

That's just not true. Employees have been told their employment status will continue, as is, up to the time of the sale, which we hope will be complete by June 2017. Some employees may be seeking other Syngenta job opportunities on the mainland and elsewhere, which they have every right to do.

The person may have us mixed up with BASF, which announced earlier this year they would exit Kauai by the end of this year. Some of their employees have already relocated.

So 6:56, unless you can provide us with the names of Syngenta employees who have been terminated, copies of their notifications, or some other documentation to back up your claims, it's hard to take you seriously.

Lisa Z said...

If you wouldn't take medical advice from your tax guy, don't take advice on farming from anyone in a law firm. Simple. None of them are educated in farming, genetics, breeding or any other agronomic subject and haven't the slightest idea what it takes. They have done zero to help any farmers here...none of their vast donations go to improving educational opportunities for farmers or even to any nonprofits who are struggling to provide that technical assistance. All they wish to do is propagate lies about an industry they don't know and put hard working people out of a job that they just don't like or understand.

Anonymous said...

it's all about the $---like many have said before, they come, they take and then they leave! Yes, now they are leaving it to China------sure you're gonna say it's a Swiss company, but it's the same all over the world. The sad thing is that we allow them to use our land,water and other resources to make billions------use, desecrate then leave. Has happened too many times in too many places on this precious earth! Money talks and bullshit walks! AMEN

Anonymous said...

7:32 am keep drinking the cool aid

Anonymous said...

Please read what happened to Japan in the 70's-90's when they were up an coming super power with so much wealth that they invested into bankruptcy. China like the former uber wealthy Dubai is heading towards that direction for the greater good.

indatube said...

Novartis' sale of Syngenta to China's largest state owned agrochem biz was bound to run into conflict with Navy DoD over PMRF AEGIS Ashore installation, especially with talks of making it an active installation. They would be forced to divest eventually to get the sale thru the FEDs, so no surprises.

FYI, no one I know working there has been given a pink slip.

But wouldn't it be great if they do grant some leases to farmers who want to farm? N Shore farmers sell out all their good stuff, and I bet the state could offer up significant discounted leases if the ADC would just stick to their charter, "Grown here, Sold here, Eaten here."

Just wonder how long its gonna take to make that soil uncontaminated. Some of the fields by Polihale have shown no growth of ANYTHING for years, even after good rains.