Monday, September 26, 2016

Musings: Agreeing on Facts

A recent contentious post prompted a comment from a reader lamenting, “where's the center?” in conversations about GMOs and pesticides.

It's a good question, and one that's certainly relevant as Kauai, and hopefully the rest of Hawaii, begins the process of healing from the social rift and community polarization caused by pesticide/GMO activism.

In responding, one of the first things that came to mind was a recent guest editorial in the Star-Advertiser by Joni Kamiya, who wrote that we need to “start to agree on the facts.”

Yeah, the facts are a really good place to start. So in this and upcoming posts I'm going to be scrutinizing claims and facts, in hopes the reasonable among us can find some agreement.

Because right now we have people saying really extreme stuff like, “the chemical companies are totally unregulated and the GMO crops are poisoning people.” Most recently, that ludicrous claim was revised to assert that they are having "an unjustified disproportionate and adverse effect Native Hawaiians.”

In fact, according to the state Health Department, the number one cause of poisoning fatalites in Hawaii is drugs, which “caused almost all (93%) of the poisonings, including 37% from “sedative-hypnotic and psychotropic drugs”, and 29% from “narcotics and hallucinogens”. Pesticides are way down the list, and they are associated primarily with home use, not agriculture.

These graphics from the state's Poison Prevention Hotline annual report offer more detail:
We also hear a lot about how we have to protect the keiki from ag pesticides,with mandatory buffer zones the most frequently touted remedy. But what is really poisoning Hawaii keiki?
And again, products found in the children's homes are the most likely to cause harm.

Though a Center for Food Safety "fact sheet" asserts that "there have been at least six episodes of pesticide-induced illness at schools since just 2006," it leaves out the good part: not one came from agriculture. In fact, there have been 16 such episodes since 2006, with the culprits identified as a school janitor, a turf company and household pesticide use.

The seed companies, like anyone who uses pesticides, are indeed regulated. They're regulated by the state, which issues their pesticide applicator license, and by the EPA, which sets the standards for pesticide use. You may not think the regulations are sufficient, and no doubt some will claim that the EPA has been infiltrated by the chemical companies. None of that changes the fact that they are regulated, and those who violate the law are subject to both civil and criminal penalities.

As I've previously reported, the seed companies in Hawaii are actually subjected to far more rigorous and frequent oversight than agricultural entities on the mainland. Because there are so many growers on the mainland, they may encounter a pesticide inspector only once every five years, compared to several times annually in the Islands — or more often if people are complaining.  

We also hear “pesticides are poison.” It's a favorite tactic of groups like Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice to pad their complaints and literature with all sorts of scary data about pesticides.

No one is disputing that pesticides are poison. They are designed to kill insects and weeds. That's why they are so carefully regulated. But when it comes to health, there are two issues at stake: Are people being exposed to pesticides from agricultural operations? And if so, is that exposure occuring at harmful levels?

Thus far, we have seen absolutely no indication that either is occuring. Indeed, every study that has been done — even those by the antis — detected pesticides at only trace amounts, far-far below federal safety standards. 

Though people like Joint Fact Finding facilitator Peter Adler are trying to build a case for harm from chronic, low-level exposure, those threshholds have not yet been set by the federal government, which is the responsible entity, not the state. 

So when Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff claims, "The public is at risk and the Department of Agriculture is asleep at the wheel," he's telling a bald-faced lie.

We also hear often hear that "no exposure/residue is acceptable." Again, that's a belief system. 

In fact, the EPA conducts a lengthy, science-based review, based on federal safety standards, before manufacturers can sell pesticides in the United States.  As a result of this process, the EPA determines applicable buffer zones for the product, whether it can be used indoors, the safe re-entry time, acceptable exposure levels for human and environmental health and many other factors. 

In setting exposure rates, it builds in a large safety buffer. The EPA also has a science-based risk-assessment process, with a robust public comment process, to assess and set pesticide tolerance levels for each crop.

After hearing Earthjustice, Center for Food Safety and Councilman Gary Hooser make a big hoo-haw about chlorpyrifos, I actually waded through the EPA's risk assessment on the product. I came away reassured that the EPA looks at these products carefully, and convinced that it would be nearly impossible for anyone on Kauai to be exposed to chlorpyrifos through drift from the seed fields, as the antis have alleged. And county tests showed it's not in the water. 

So it's highly unlikely anyone on Kauai is even being exposed to ag uses of chlorpyrifos, much less harmed, even though critics can point to a long list of bad things that can happen to people who are exposed.

We see another example of intentional dishonesty with Kimo Franklin's  letter to the editor, published in Sunday's Star-Advertiser. The Maunalua-Hawaii Kai activist writes: 

The problem is, seed-crop companies and all the land they occupy in Hawaii don’t grow one ounce of food for local consumption. Properly managed diversified agriculture should be the agricultural priority for Hawaii. Bottom line: Grow food for Hawaii’s population first. Then Hawaii can decide how to help feed the rest of the world.

The fact is, there is plenty of land available for growing food, and whatever people want to grow. As I pointed out just last week, the seed companies control roughly 10,000 acres, about half of which are actively planted. This represents but a tiny fraction of the 2 million acres of ag land available in Hawaii today. What's missing are farmers, markets, an economically competitive crop.

What's more, the seed industry is defined as diversified agriculture, and its efforts to preserve irrigation systems and other ag infrastructure support all farming. So it's totally in keeping with the state Constitutional directive to “conserve and protect agricultural lands, promote diversified agriculture, increase agricultural self-sufficiency and assure the availability of agriculturally suitable land” — even if Kimo wants to pretend otherwise.

It's patently false to claim that the seed industry is somehow taking away any effort to grow food for Hawaii's population. Indeed, it's actively supporting food production, as I discovered when I toured Pioneer's Waialua farm and saw all the ways it's helping local farmers. 

Though I've been called a chemical company shill, I have no real interest, economic or otherwise, in the agrochemical companies operating in Hawaii. I got into this issue primarily because I saw a lot of fear-mongering lies being treated as fact to promote Bill 2491. 

And that's when I started drilling down to find out what's real.

At the time, I found a video, based around a song parody, that had been produced by a UC-Davis livestock lab that uses both conventional and genetic engineering breeding. As one lyric goes, "Tiny lies, turn to big, suddenly they're known as truth."

That's exactly what I saw happening on Kauai, and elsewhere in the GMO debate, and it reaffirmed my own commitment to look for the facts. They're an ideal starting point for reasonable, rational discussion, and the best hope for reaching some sort of agreement. 
So can we agree on these facts? 

1) The seed crops and other pesticide users in Hawaii are regulated. 

2) There is currently no evidence of human or environmental harm from seed company operations. 

3) Homeowners are the primary source of pesticide poisonings. 

4) Drugs, not pesticides, are the primary source of poisonings in Hawaii. 

5) The seed companies are not a deterrent to food production, and in some instances are actually supporting it.

If you disagree, please be prepared to present some facts to back up your claims.


Lisa Z said...

Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful piece, Joan Don't expect much response from the anti crowd. When you traffic in fear, facts are not part of your toolkit.
To paraphrase a line from the classic film Treasure of the Sierra Madre:
"Facts, we ain't got no facts. We don't need no facts. I don't have to show you any stinking facts?"

Anonymous said...

Joan, thank you for that fact video link. Those who already do understand the difference between fact and innuendo, or those who would allow themselves to understand, will enjoy it. Others will not, as is clearly depicted in the video.

Regarding JFF, the intent was never to find the facts. No, that was too simple, and not suitable for Mr. Adler and the JFF, primarily because facts are quantifiable, and the allegations did not support the facts of the bases of 2491. Peter Adler did have a lot of help, but he alone is responsible for not bringing clarity to the obvious. Why else would three members resign, if they weren't stonewalled from the beginning.

Since you have opened this can of worms again (but no panic, worms are organic!), let's go back to the start, and fact-find the 13 or 15 or whatever allegations on which 2491 based.

Those who will accept the facts, will. Others still will not. As Yogi Berra said, "When you get to a fork in the road, take it."

Anonymous said...

This is the "truth" from this blog that I enjoy reading. Tongue tied or cat got your tongue, writers cramp...yes, where is the evidence?

Anonymous said...

As Sargent Ftiday said, "Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts, please."

John Kauai said...

Excellent Joan. I emailed Burley asking him to republish your article. I hope others will do the same.

WRT your questions:
1) Absolutely
2) Probably
3) Assuredly
4) Positively
5) Of Course

I've recommitted myself to never taking another Tylenol

WRT Malathion: Hobson's Choice. Zika anyone

Why does the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center provide the data on Hawaii? I don't mean to insinuate anything. Just curious.

Which brings us to the question of how do we address these questions about pesticides? I still think the lawyers are going to be right about glyphosate and so I only use it where I must. (I think once in the last two years on a small area isn't a lot.)

Also, I would hope you might interview Don Huber and Bob Streit about glyphosate. These guys are not Doctor Oz or Vandana Shiva. Especially Streit. I've met him and exchange emails with him. He sees problems that need to be studied.

BTW, the debate just started. I recommend the Sky News stream. It uses the "pool stream" and so is just one camera.

John Kauai said...

"Trump is plugging his new DC hotel! DRINK!"

John Kauai said...

"Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?"
Howard Dean

If this is too off topic, don't post it. It's fun!

Anonymous said...

John "Kauai" could you please, please, please give us all a break...

We really don't care knowing your current thoughts every fricken time Joan posts. We read Joan for her well-considered thoughts, if you so want yours to be heard start your own blog.

I could personally care less about Sky News and breaking news. If its important enough it will show up on my radar. What I do like is thought out positions from someone who has earned the right to get my eyeballs.

I got so sick of trying to figure out what the heck WRT means that I just looked it up. "when it is not immediately apparent to which conversation or to whom it is directed...." which about sums up your incessant comments.

John Kauai said...


I put my screen name on my comments (as opposed to "the anonymous" you). You don't have to read them. You (and maybe others but who knows since you're all anonymous) have complained about my posts for a long time, so why in the world do you bother reading them? I think I have something to add and anonymous comments telling me to STFU will have no effect.

I, on the other hand, have to read your's because there's nothing to indicate who you are. (Not that I would not read them since I find just about everything on this blog to be "enlightening" no matter what I think of the content.)

Pretty much, if you want to have a voice that people pay attention to, you at least need some kind of a screen name that identifies you. Or are you afraid of being "outed"? (Which leads to the question of whether or not that is even a "nice" thing to do. Personally, I would not find any "reward" in doing so. It just doesn't seem "right". But that's my opinion which you can ignore if you like.)

Just because you want to remain ignorant of what is going on in the Presidential contest doesn't mean others who read this blog want to. (And I totally endorse Joan's prerogative to NOT approve my posts if she finds them to be too off-topic or whatever. It is her blog.)

While we're at it, you know (or should know) who I am in the "real world". I looked into changing my google account to reveal my full name, but it just wasn't worth the trouble. Nor do I want to establish another one. In any case, it is the same account I use to post on dozens of other sites. Why would I want some guy in Mumbai to know? It is standard practice across the Internet to use a pseudonym. It is uncommon to post one's real name. It is extremely rare (as in this is the only site I'm aware of that allows it) to be able to remain completely anonymous.

Anyway, I manage to piss off just about everyone because no matter who or what I almost always find the "other side" of the argument. I have a "knack", why let it go to waste.

Perhaps you should direct your ire at Joan. This is a moderated blog. She doesn't have to pass my "crap" (your opinion) on.

Finally, while I believe Clinton slammed Trump tonight, don't confuse me for a Clinton supporter. I live in Hawaii. The 4 electoral votes are going to Clinton no matter what I do. I despise Clinton only slightly less than Trump so there's an excellent possibility that my ballot for President will be blank in November.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Joan.
What makes the Herbicide/Pesticide dilemma on Kauai more confusing, is that Da Hoos, JoAnn (perhaps with Mason in the loop) were actually going after GMOS in the beginning of this mess.
GMOs and Roundup. Then as the a few people brought the reality of what Da Hoos and JoAnn were doing, the subject changed to herbicides only.
Joan, you have been instrumental in educating many Kauai citizens on 2491 and Big Ag.
One lady and a pen. Smart and good looking.
Hopefully, the result will be Da Hoos pimping real estate and "advising" his mainland groupies. But as political fortunes come and go on this island, once you are are OUT. IE Jay, Bynum etc.
Da Hoos' legacy will be the Haole/Local divide he ignited. Shame. Shame. Pilau.
And by the way, John California...your acronyms suck. STFU.

Unknown said...

Aloha starts from within, Joni Kamiya.

Anonymous said...

Toxin exposure has a cumulative effect. But exposure in the name of food production is ok?

Are Europeans close-minded for banning most of Monsanto's And Syngenta's products?

Anonymous said...

Marjorie, it's easy to criticize others when you and your family are not constantly under unwarranted and outrageous attack.

Joni is an aloha-filled sweetheart but had to finally stand up to all the lies and the disingenious agenda being put forth by the anti-GMO crowd.

And BTW, I am not Joni, nor Joan.
But I have watched this scene for a very long time.

Anonymous said...

What a ridiculous statement! What are the liver and kidney functions? If toxins are cumulative, the recommended two glasses of red wine per day will kill you over time. Think before making statements such as that. It only promotes the stupid getting more stupid and reflects your own lack of intellect.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:19 sure why worry about herbicides and pesticides...that's why we have a liver and kidneys right?

Anonymous said...

@10:11. You should know dosages make the difference in determining toxicity. For instance, one would think that you are not one who bathes, cleans, eats with a pesticide named chlorine. Kidneys and liver takes care of the up to 5 ppm allowed in drinking water. Not knowing the subject matter and commenting are as stupid as stupid can be. Benefits vs. detriments are always a consideration for anything. To make rash statements is an indication of lack of forethought.

Anonymous said...

5:24 It's hard to gather from your profound statement "Are Europeans close-minded for banning most of Monsanto's And Syngenta's products?" whether you know next to nothing about European regulation, the extensive product lines of Monsanto and Syngenta, or are just plain stupid or all three (my choice). You probably missed the fact Bayer (headquartered in Germany in case you missed it) is buying Monsanto for $66 Billion- the Mother of All Mergers. Hardly a sum Bayer would pay for a company with "most of Monsanto's products banned". Maybe in your feeble mind. If you are going to spread bullshit, kindly step up your game.

"Toxin exposure has a cumulative effect. But exposure in the name of food production is ok?" Wow, Comes the Dawn. Yes! Did you read and look at the lists provided in the blog, or do you just enjoy hyperbole,hyperventilation and hypocrisy because that's the level of intellectual candlepower you can muster?

Anonymous said...

@10:35 drink all the chlorine you want at least the quantity you're 'allowed' to.
Herbicides and pesticides are bad for humans period. Problem is we have too many hired experts who's job it is to convince the Sheeple otherwise

Anonymous said...

@11:45 You're clearly one of the aforementioned 'experts' diligently working the blogosphere

Joan Conrow said...

I see the antis haven't been able to come up with anything to refute the facts.

Instead, Marjorie resorts to a personal dig and the others throw out the usual misinformation and opinion, topped off with not one, but two, helpings of the tired old shill gambit.

Really? Is that the best you guys can do? Pathetic. But thanks for proving my point! And we're only getting started.

Anonymous said...

Ooh watch out someone pressed Joan's shill button
I'm Pro Ag though feel families on the west side should be entitled to a healthy life without having to fear long term consequences of exposure
There's better places away from communities for this type of agriculture

Joan Conrow said...

And we have yet another person who can't refute the facts or provide any evidence to support his/her emotion-based opinion, and so falls back on the shill rhetoric!

Anonymous said...

12:16. Wish I were a highly paid shill for big ag. Unfortunately, am retired and could use the bucks. Have followed this 2491 debacle from its onset. Calling me a sheeple,like you,is furthest from from reality. If brains were needed in a fight, I hate to say it, but you're unarmed.

Anonymous said...

@4:44 pm,,,,,,, Touché ! ! ! !

@5:21 pm , Putting a screen name that ain't your name is the same as being anonymous.

Anonymous said...

The amount of chlorine in drinking water is not 5 ppm. That figure would be a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act which allows up to 4 ppm. The actual counts of chlorine in most drinking water is <.5 ppm. The county keeps most of its systems in the .2 ppm range. That is TWO TENTHS OF ONE PART CHL TO ONE MILLION PARTS OF H2O. If water is allowed to set out for a few hours, the chlorine will oxidize and dissipate. Chlorine and some (not all) pesticides are easily removed with filtration. The majority of chlorine used by the county is for disinfection of wastewater, not drinking water.

The problem with discussing the impact of pesticides on Kaua'i is the lack of long-term data collection. There have been "snapshot" studies, but the paucity of information leaves everyone on both sides of the issue offering nothing but conjecture. The DOA is planning to invest in a long-term study of water in the ditch systems and this should be informative.

As to GMO seeds, with the instability of commodity crop prices, the high cost of GMO is turning some farmers away. In 2015, farmers were buying more and more conventionally produced commodity seeds for economic reasons.

Gilbert Hostetler, president of Illinois-based Prairie Hybrids commented:
“Our non-GMO seed sales are significantly higher than last year.”

Mac Ehrhardt, president of Minnesota-based Albert Lea Seed reports that he is selling more conventional (he describes conventional corn as non-GMO) corn seed by the end of November than he did all of last year. He says that farmers are turning to non-GMO to cut costs and to earn more money for their non-GMO yields.

Ehrhardt says:
“There is a continued increased demand for non-GMO.”

His observations are corroborated by Wayne Hoener, vice president of sales for eMerge, an Iowa-based seed company, as well as Tim Daley, an agronomist at Stonebridge, Ltd., an Iowa-based buyer of non-GMO soybeans who are also seeing a marked demand for non-GMO seed by farmers.

Daley says:
“Some companies have seen a 50 percent increase in sales of non GMO seed, and some have said they’ve sold more non-GMO seed this year than in the last five.”

Syngenta is being sold to Chem China. The situation in Kekaha with Syngenta suddenly looking for a "new operator" is occurring throughout the country. Syngenta has many operations in close proximity to military and other sensitive operations in our country. The US security and trade regulatory agencies are not asleep at the wheel on this (hopefully). Chem China is directly run by the Chinese government as are all major enterprises in that communist country.

The comments in this blog about JoAnn Yukimura are absolutely incorrect as to her part in the 2491 hearings. JY was very reluctant to support this effort and she, along with Nadine Nakamura, both felt that there was insufficient conclusive data to support much of the regulation. Hence, Nadine and JY drafted section of the bill relating to the JFFG and both repeated many times that JFF should have been done first before any regulations were introduced. Nadine bailed before she had to vote on the bill. The whole bill was watered down from its original and Nadine and JoAnn were responsible for that.

Anonymous said...

Nadine did vote for 2491. She left the Council before the vote on the override of the mayor's veto.

Anonymous said...

9/28@6:14am. Great post regarding limits on chlorine in drinking water. Such precision is achievable on if you have the instrumentation, manpower, and control systems in place. The small drinking water system we managed did not have the luxury of all of that. We relied on color determination of water samples daily to ensure residual chlorine levels indicated bacterial activity was halted. Chlorine is a gas and not filterable. Its byproducts with bacteria may be.

Bill 2491 was a blatant effort to target west side agribusinesses. Writers of this bill failed to research who actually had the responsibility. Simple check through the Federal Register would have given the answer. JoAnn, with her law degree, should have researched that herself, instead of being part of the gang of four that overrode the mayor's veto. If JY was unsure, why did she become a conspirator? Don't give her any credit because we have been stuck with a $500K bill and strange bedfellows who have no interest in our health and welfare - CFS, HAPA, PAN, Surfrider, EarthJustice and more.

Unknown said...

@ 4:44 DITTO

@ 5:24 am

Toxicity=dose * exposure

Further, some pesticides, like organophosphates, bioaccumulate (they keep accumulating in the body, with each exposure, till a toxic level becomes lethal). Conversely, Roundup doesn't bioaccumulate, and is excreted in our urine. (That's how Dr. Shelly MCGuire was able to prove mom's across America's breast milk study was bogus.)

In other words, many exposures to a low dose insecticides (that is an insecticide which does't bioaccumulate), is not lethal. (Yes, those exposures at high levels can cause organ damage. That topic is well covered in the second link provided.) However, one breath of cyanide gas is lethal. Also, several years of repeated exposure to high levels of organophosphates is lethal. That's a really simple answer to a very complex question. For more in depth information, please consult the following NEBGUIDES.

Unknown said...

@ 10:26 Any farmer that didn't fall asleep in of their pesticide recertification class would know 2491 didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of surviving a legal challenge to FIFRA. Seriously, it's covered in the first slide during the first 10 minutes of the class. FIFRA has been the law of the land since 1947, and no silly little county ordinance was going to override its authority.