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?