Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Musings: Rumblings and Grumblings

Over in the murky world of anti-GMO activist Dustin Barca, amid the conspiracy theories, chem trails, anti-Semitism and other inchoate ramblings, emerged a distinct note of discontent:
Hmm. It seems the target of his grumblings is Gary Hooser's HAPA and the Center for Food Safety.

Could it be that even the rank among the file are discovering that these groups, and their leaders, are self-serving demagogic shams? 

Or is Dustin just pissed because they're getting money, and he isn't? 
Actually, I try to avoid Dustin's postings, because it's so sad to think of people living their lives in deep fear and ignorance, absolutely convinced they're the victims of a vast conspiracy aimed at wiping out their insignificant selves, poisoned from the sky via chem trails and through their food via GMOs:
And through it all, never realizing their paranoid, ill-informed belief system is what's truly toxic.
Returning to reality, not enough attention has been paid to economist Paul Brewbaker's new report on the seed industry in Hawaii.

First, there's the total annual economic value, which is currently estimated at $323 million. That's down from its peak of $500 million, due to the global drop in commodity prices and subsequent shrinkage of seed operations. The companies generated some 2,694 jobs in 2015 — 927 of them on Kauai.

As Beth-Ann Kozlovich noted on HPR's “The Conversation,” that means the seed industry must be the dominant sector in Island agriculture. To which Paul replied: “News flash. It has been for the last 10 years.”

When Beth-Ann brought up the oft-made claim that seeds are squeezing out food production and other diversified ag, again Paul pulled no punches.

“I don't even know why there is such a discussion,” he replied, noting that the seed companies have control of 10,000 acres, about 5,000 of which are actively planted. Most of it is fee-simple land that the companies own.

The seed holdings represent but a tiny fraction of the 2 million acres of ag land available in Hawaii today. “Nothing is preventing everyone from going out and growing other crops,” he said.

Except, perhaps, for the will to actually do it. As the Hawaii Farm Bureau observed in a guest commentary on local food production published in Sunday's Star-Advertiser:

Though we hear a lot of talk about farming, it’s not translating into committed bodies on the land. Instead, we hear romanticized ideas about how we should be farming that don’t match the reality of food production in the islands.

In another guest editorial on the same topic, Joni Kamiya, who writes the Hawaii Farmers Daughter blog, noted:

Farming is one of the oldest professions in society and yet it has become so demonized by those with no attachment to it. When social media is filled with terrible things that farmers allegedly do, where’s the incentive for anyone to raise their hand to take on that challenge? We can’t cultivate more farmers if we continue to have a disregard for facts and truth about agriculture.

Which leads me to the oft-made claims about Roundup, or glyphosate. First, we have this from Michelle Miller — aka the “Farm Babe” — who raises lambs, beef cattle and almost 2,000 acres of row crops, such as corn, soybeans, oats and alfalfa in Iowa:
Roundup is applied at a rate of approx. 22 ounces per acre, (just over half a liter, or 650 ml) which is less than 2 beer cans worth over an area of land the size of an American football field. One acre plants 35,000 corn seeds which yield on average, say... 220 bushels or over 12,000 pounds (6 tons) of grain. Since the active ingredient glyphosate makes up 41% of this with an LD50 value of 5600 mg/kg and is sprayed before the edible part of the plant is present, trace residues are parts per trillion. Therefore, 86 tons of grain (about 14 acres) would be an approximate calculation to pose alarm in humans.

Then there's the latest from the EPA, which has conducted three reviews of the controversial herbicide in response to new studies. Its most recent determination:

“Not likely to be carcinogenic.”

As NPR noted, this finding joins others:

The European Food Safety Agency convened a group of experts who concluded that glyphosate probably does not cause cancer. So did the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.

I know, I know. The EPA and everybody else is in bed with Monsanto. Which is a curious belief system when you consider that groups like Earthjustice keep calling upon the EPA to exert more influence in Hawaii.

Oh, and you know how yesterday I mentioned that folks love to talk about sustainability, but actions are in short supply? Consider this, from the Kauai Surfrider's PR person:
Yeah. Enough of that. Laters.

When even those who are telling others what to do, don't want to do it, is it any wonder that it isn't getting done?

So can we please drop the holier-than-thou, pure-as-the-driven-snow rhetoric that frames so much of the talk about agriculture, economic development, sustainability, water, food and just about everything else?


Anonymous said...

haha. Good one.

Unknown said...

It's always easy to make plans on other folks' time, lives, land and future.

Anonymous said...

I often wonder what it must be like to be constantly scared of the world around you. It's got to affect your mind thinking there's some vast conspiracy running the world.

Anonymous said...

I love how some people love to tell other people how to spend their money.

Earn your own money (Barca) through hard work and risk and then you can give your money to the causes you believe in.

The amount of people who lucked into their wealth is overwhelmingly small compared to the people who have earned it. He has such a victims mentality. Barca is a blow hard tool!!

Anonymous said...

Joan, thank you very much for keeping the light shining on the hypocrisy of people with very little knowledge of basic science, in pontificating on complex subjects such as sustainability, conservation and genetic modification, only resulting in contradiction and hypocrisy.

It is of the grandest irony that Dustin Barca, no less, after working down on the farm, even a little, has had the sweat off his brow clear some of the Kool-Aid, tangerine, rose-colored vison from his eyes. Amazing what a little hands-on, reality check work does to one's perception. Nothing like the wrath of a convert!

The only organisms which are sustainable are those which produce, not consume, food/energy, such as plants and cyanobacteria, through the amazing process of photosynthesis. All other organisms are consumers, and are not sustainable because their energy comes from consuming/utilizing these sources, and processing them through the opposite chemical reaction of photosynthesis,which is respiration.

Through our self-proclaimed intelligence and ingenuity, we, humans, have elevated ourselves to the top of the food chain, and are wreaking havoc on our environment and the world, in no ways which are sustainable, only destructive, for what we call progress.

Conservation is a term and that we, particularly the first world countries, are not capable of, and hypocritical in discussing realistically, and are incapable of doing it, until we acknowledge and rid our inherent conflict of interest of needing, not wanting anymore, excessive conveniences and comfort.

For the likes of the Hooser's, Lukins, Surfrider, GreenPeace, ad nauseum, please just spare us the hypocrisy.

Anonymous said...

12:46 - your definition sustainable is too simplistic, as life on earth does not exist in a vacuum. In many cases the consumers of plants are connected to the survivorship and regulation of overconsumption of the resources (nutrients) by the plants themselves, hence are necessary for plant's existence in an ecosystem. Feed-back loops of resource consumption and reallocation are necessary for even the primary producers of energy. Plants (and producers) are not sustainable in their own closed system, either, as a closed system does not exist. Sustainability is precisely tied to predicting the interactions in a resource system that humans want to extract from, in the most long-term manner that humans can utilize. Don't get too carried away with 'sustainability' to the nth degree, as then chaos theory wins the predictability war!

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is "basic" as I indicated, and certainly not simplistic, nor would I ever say so. Your point?

Unknown said...

@ 12:46

Ummm.... actually, consumers are necessary to complete the "nutrient cycle"* Without these organisms, all matter would fail to decompose and plants would die from a lack of soluble (plant available) nutrients. IN other words, a system without consumers is not sustainable.
* nutrient cycling
A nutrient cycle (or ecological recycling) is the movement and exchange of organic and inorganic matter back into the production of living matter. The process is regulated by food web pathways that decompose matter into mineral nutrients

Anonymous said...

"Conspiracy theory" is a term used by government to belittle those who have serious and unanswered questions about events in the world. Unfortunately, so many past "conspiracy theories" have proven to be true in spite of the governmentʻs attempts at secrecy. Does anyone actually pay attention to the sky in addition to thousands of photos from around the world. Contrails? Chemtrails? Does anyone actually pay attention to the thousands of engineers and architects who question the governmentʻs explanation of 9/11 and the three buildings that all conveniently collapsed demolition style? Has anyone read about the civil trial in Tennessee, where a jury decided Martin Luther King was assassinated due to a government and criminal conspiracy. The real conspiracy is when the media hides these stories and tosses around the term "conspiracy theorists" as a means of belittling people and ignoring the real issues. With all that is available on the internet, there is no longer any excuse for the public not to do extensive research on our own, before making fun of others by calling them "conspiracy theorists." Conspiracies are rampant in our government, and it is wise to acknowledge their existence. But always check facts and do research first. And always question the media and government, because of their shameful history of creating and hiding conspiracies.

Unknown said...

hallelujah to that last sentence. talk about wasted energy and non-sustainable - duality and dissonance are the worst!

Anonymous said...

5:21 you must like Oliver Stone's JFK. At least I can buy that one. Maybe it's a coincidence, but Dow and Dupont sold a shitload of chemicals during the Vietnam War, and we're still fighting all over the world. Trump with access to military contractors, now that's a match made in hell.

Anonymous said...

The Grim Weeper was whining about the lack of support for his protest of one (and a half) and now they're calling each other out on social media. Joan, you owe these guys money for the hilarity.

Anonymous said...

"conspiracy theorists" = too much TV.

Anonymous said...

"When even those who are telling others what to do, don't want to do it, is it any wonder that it isn't getting done?"

Right. Or its this sort of mix between narcissism and guilt. I am going to do this because I want to even though I am against it, but I will be sure to post that I feel bad about doing it. Time for some therapy.

Anonymous said...

"When even those who are telling others what to do, don't want to do it, is it any wonder that it isn't getting done?"

Does this also apply to you jetting around for Cornell Alliance for Science or are you saying everyone's a hypocrite so just give up all hope ye who enter here.

Joan Conrow said...

Unlike Surfrider, I'm not trying to legislate sustainability. But yes, you did manage to grasp the point that there is a great deal of hypocrisy at play in our lives. And that includes me.

As for abandon all hope, I guess that's true if people (you?) are unwilling to engage in introspection and/or change their personal behavior.

Anonymous said...

Wonder how much pop corn you need to eat to feel the ill effects of roundup.

Anonymous said...

Barca's hashtag #blindleadtheblind......he got that right!

Not sure if he's one of the leaders or one of the followers but he should definitely take off the blinders.

Unknown said...

@ 10:40 There is no Roundup ready popcorn. In fact, there are no GMO traits for popcorn, at all. Therefore, you'll never feel ill effects of Roundup from eating popcorn. SO, enjoy and I'll keep going popcorn. Popcorn pays about 3 times better than field corn now and I'd like more contract acres.

Anonymous said...


You'll probably suffer ill effects from the butter and salt, not the popcorn.

Anonymous said...

Wow Joan, Finally admitting to your own hypocrisy? Congratulations. Thought I would never see the day. Thanks for joining the club!

Joan Conrow said...

Well, if you'd been paying better attention, 3:26, you would have known I admitted it long ago! Cheers!