Through fear-mongering, relentless social media and the complicity of lazy media, the anti-GMO movement has succesfully established this false narrative: Seed companies in Hawaii are using unprecedented quantities of pesticides in a largely unregulated, wantonly reckless manner that is poisoning the keiki.
A key messenger for this meme is Kekaha resident Malia Chun, who serves as the token Hawaiian poster child for the movement. She is regularly trotted out to tell her manufactured tale of woe to publications ranging from Hawaii Business to Truth Out.
Malia has even used her children to help advance these falsehoods. As the Natural Society website proclaimed:
She flew all the way to Switzerland to attend Syngenta’s board meeting to draw attention to the fact that corporations like theirs are poisoning her children. Recent tests revealed that one of her daughters was riddled with 36 different pesticides – the shocking discovery was found from taking a simple hair sample to a lab.
This claim was followed by a plea to sign a petition to “help Chun and other families defend themselves against biotech’s careless spraying.”
Malia also submitted that hair sample to the Joint Fact Finding Group on agricultural pesticides, which included it in its report, and she used it in a press conference demanding Gov. Ige adopt all the JFF recommendations.
Like so much of the tripe put out by the antis, the hair sample was accepted by many as gospel — “proof” that kids are being poisoned by seed company pesticides.
As the anti-GMO movement again ramps up its efforts to demand the state Legislature impose buffer zones around schools, longtime science reporter Jan TenBruggencate got to wondering about that hair sample.
So he spent hours over the New Year's weekend analyzing the report, and published his findings on his Raising Islands blog:
It turns out that most of the detected chemicals listed as the most dangerous are not agricultural but home-use chemicals—consumer products. And those are also the ones in the highest concentrations.
They’re the chemicals people use to kill fleas and ticks on their pets, that they drip into dog and cat ears to kill ear mites, that are used for roaches and ants, that people use in their gardens for weeds and insect pests and molds.
Why is this important, other than to prove the antis love to lie and make stuff up? Well, it shines a spotlight on the real cuplrit in childhood pesticide exposure: the home.
As Jan notes:
The hair study--to the degree that it has value--confirms what the National Pesticides Information Center, and the EPA, and American Academy of Pediatrics have found—that the most serious pesticide threat to children is found in and around their homes.
Government inspectors keep track of our farmers' use of chemicals, but nobody's checking you and your neighbors. And if there is any danger, that's most likely where the danger is.
This is borne out by the state Department of Agriculture assessment of school evacuations, which determined that not one of the 16 incidents reported between 2006 and 2014 was caused by seed company pesticides. Ten were caused by homeowners.
Meanwhile, state water studies detected only negligible amounts of pesticides in agricultural areas on Kauai, while urban Oahu had higher pesticide levels than any rural area in the state.
As I previously reported:
Though 293 pesticide complaints were made statewide between 2010 and 2013 — just 42 were from Kauai — “less than half are due to agricultural activities.”
According to a summary of calls to the Hawaii Poison Center:
Of the 4,800 human pesticide exposure calls, approximately 90% of the exposures occurred in a residence, 4.4% in the workplace and 1% in a school. The remaining 4% consisted of miscellaneous locations (i.e., other/unknown, public areas, health care facilities, and food service.) At least 90 percent of the exposures caused no or minimal health effects.
Even Surfrider failed to find a smoking gun in its own still-unpublished report of its two-year water study. All of the results were in the “no concern” parts per billion level — with termiticides the number one contaminant.
So what is the real problem here, other than groups like Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety, which are using pesticides as a guise to destroy biotech farming in Hawaii — and the politicians like Rep. Chris Lee and Realtors like Wil Welsh, who play along?
If we're going to expend time, money and political capital, let's make sure it's for something worthwhile — not a manufactured concern drummed up to the satisfy the anti-GMO agenda of activist groups.