An Open Letter to Hawaii Politicians about Agricultural Technology

Dear Governor, Legislators, Senators, Representatives, County Council Members, City Council Members,

I am writing to you as a daughter of a long time farmer, Kenneth Kamiya.  Our family has been long time farmers for over 4 decades on the Windward side on Oahu.  My grandfather farmed the land with beans, Okinawan potatoes, cucumbers and finally papaya, which my dad and brother continue to this day.  I am asking for your support in these contentious times of dealing with the issue of agricultural technology, specifically GMOs.

The First Kamiya Farmers

I speak out not only for our family but for all other families in our islands who use this technology to run the farms that they do.  Our state cannot afford to be left behind because of the maligned fears of the public of this technology.  You as a leader also have to be able to separate fears created by the black marketing strategies and consider the evidence that is presented.  That is your responsibility to us as your constituents, even though the farmers and ranchers make up 1-2% of the public.  Those are the voices that should ring loud and clear in your minds.

What does the evidence show us?  Worldwide, there is a consensus that biotechnology is safe.  Read below for the worldwide organizations that have made statements about biotechnology in food:

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Given this evidence, will you accept what the worldwide scientific community states?  Or will you fall prey to the fear mongering of the environmentalists and the organic industry’s tactics like this:

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The public sure has become beleaguered with fear which is evident when you see these kind of events happening across our islands:

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The same people that join in these protests are so fear mongered that they have even done this to farmers or anyone who speaks out for biotechnology:

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namastestpeh MV RGV tw2 tw TC manaai agroterrorism

Activist groups too are guilty of promoting hate and crop destruction as in this meme from the Babes Against Biotech with Roseanne Barr’s quote:

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Notice how much hate there is because fear has made many people irrational already.  Ignorance is evident here in many of these comments.  And it’s not pretty to be at the receiving end of it.

We know that many of you have become the receiving end of these activists, especially the Babes Against Biotech who went after Senator Nishihara last year.  We know that many of you have also been portrayed as targets too.

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As a result, not many people want to speak out for agricultural technology here and when you do, many times, you get threats like this sent to you.  Here’s one I personally received a few days ago:

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Or you might get called a name or something, but it doesn’t bother me for I know what the truth is:

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So when leaders like you decide to reject the evidence presented, you are feeding and fueling fear.  This same fear happens because so many people have little to no knowledge about agriculture or the technology around it.  They may be loud and demanding but you must also listen to the quiet ones who toil in the fields every day.  My family like so many others are just regular people who want to have access to the tools to do the job we have at hand, which is to feed people the best way possible.

Kenneth Kamiya, my dad

Kenneth Kamiya, my dad

When it comes time to listening to your constituents, all I ask is that you listen to your most valuable ones.  The farmers!

Aloha,

Joni Rose

The Hawaii Farmer’s Daughter

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What can a Farmer do?

Kenneth Kamiya, my dad

Kenneth Kamiya, my dad

Growing up as a kid and having to work on the farm, it is easy to not appreciate the things you have until you’re older.  As a kid, I hated having to wake up early on the weekends to go down to the farm.  We never had the chance to lounge around watch cartoons in the mornings.  I used to think that this was so unfair that we were the only kids who couldn’t do this.  It was like drudgery every weekend to know that we were the workers.  From the time I was about 8 until I was well into my twenties, it was working on the farm at least once a week.  Even during the summers it was working for me and my siblings.  The work got easier when we realized that we could negotiate being paid.

My parents always taught us that if we ever wanted something, we had to earn it fair and square.  You couldn’t make deals with them if you wanted that new cassette tape of Wham! or Madonna.  If you wanted it, you had to work.  There was no other option to them.  We did learn that grandma and grandpa were great ways to just get things easer though.

Well, you can bet that as a teenager, when I had the first opportunity to get a job elsewhere, they were all for it.  It felt great to not be working in the fields, or in the shed processing papayas for hours.  To scoop ice cream in an air conditioned mall and decorate cakes was fun!  The work was way easier than the farm any day.  I was happy to be free as teen and later as a college kid.

As I step back, my views of the farm have changed now that I have children.  I realize that as much as I hated working on the farm, I truly had the best childhood growing up and an amazing farmer father.  He was a tough guy as a dad and very strict but the lessons I learned stick with me to this day.  He may have officially retired from his regular job, but he still works more than 40 hours a week doing what he loves the most:  farming and agriculture.  His family always comes first but those are his other true passions in life.

His own early lessons in life helped to build his values to what they are.  My dad grew up very poor.  His dad was a dairyman and farmer himself.  He spent his childhood playing around in the dump searching for handy reusable trinkets or other recyclables.  His way of recycling would put the modern day green person to shame.  They reused everything and saved many things.  He has some of the same tools that his father used on the farm that is still usable to this day, some 60 years later.  Talk about durable!

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As a farmer’s kid himself, at a young age, he learned the ropes of how to do everything.  He could ride a water buffalo to use it to plow fields, tie knots of every kind, drive any vehicle, and fix it too.  He was always tinkering. Later when he realized that the military could give him an education and other skills that also shaped his life.  Soon he was in Vietnam fixing aircraft in the Air Force also.  Those experiences gave him the skills to do practically anything, which he indeed does.

My dad is unbelievably skilled at nearly everything which is no understatement.  He rigged up his own tractor to become a forklift, welded the picking platform, built bins, built the shed and processing portions, plows, drives a backhoe to dig up stuff or uses a bulldozer to grade the land, can diagnose plant pests and diseases, knows how much and when to fertilize the fields, lays out drip lines and irrigation systems, knows which cover crops to grow and when to plow them in, delivers and packs the fruits and can instantly spot a ripe one from 10 feet below, hauls 50 lb. boxes of fruit several hours a day, knows how to control any weed and what to treat it with, knows almost every kind of plant there is to know and how to grow it, can reuse old fence posts to build a new fence, fix big rigs and trailers as well as park those things, can maneuver in the tightest of spots in Chinatown when delivering the fruits, and so many more skills that I could not list.

Farmers like my dad and others across the world are truly amazing people.  Until you know one personally and see exactly what they do and how they do it year after year, you can appreciate the depth and dedication that these people live and breathe each day.  Farmers were considered one of the noblest of professions which should still indeed ring true today.

In the words of Thomas Jefferson:

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.”

The Anti-GMO Club Needs a Lesson in the Golden Rule

Remember as kids were were taught in school the Golden Rule?  I think that once again we have to go back to small kid time and remember that simple rule that kept the world more peaceful and civil.

The anti-GMO activists might benefit from taking a lesson in walking in another person’s shoes.  Remove those Monsanto goggles for just a few minutes and think on your own two feet.  It might do some good here.

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Imagine being a long time farmer.  We’ll call you Farmer Aloha.  Farmer Aloha’s parents and grandparents did it and now you have taken on the farm.  Your family has a proud heritage of farming and you want to continue it.  Well, one day, some disease crops up in your orchard and little by little it destroys it.  All that work you did to plant it, nurture it, are all gone despite much of an effort to control for this disease.  In a matter of months,  your entire family farm is decimated.  You are  pretty darn sad and depressed.  You don’t make a whole lot of money from farming but this is your life’s passion.

Soon, Farmer Aloha gets word that research is being done to help solve this disease and possibly restore your crops.  It is a glimmer of hope of continuing the family legacy to help bring back your farm.  You go on for years without a farm, taking on a different job, but it is in your blood to farm the soil and land.  You try different crops but the very one you want and love is still out of reach.  All your long time loyal workers and customers are at a loss because your farm is gone.  They know you and your product well and want it back.

Eventually, the research turns out be that hope indeed and within several years, you slowly start up your farm again.  Many years and tons of testing was done to get the fruit ready for market and then there is a press release that is sent out with very little hullabaloo.  No one really pays attention to it at the time.  So many a happy customers are glad to see their beloved fruit again from their favorite Farmer Aloha in the stores.  Your business continues to regrow again bit by bit from the initial losses that you are still recovering from.

All the meanwhile, a bunch of radicals starts to get together and decide that this new fruit of Farmer Aloha’s is the next best thing to protest and target.  These folks start hooking up with each other and start telling each other many a stories about this thing they don’t understand.  It is just too scary to consider that science can change plants.  The anti-Aloha group consists of a fringe scientist, surfers, sociologists, bus drivers, hotel workers, green people, lawyers, etc.  Because there are hundreds of ill informed frightened people around, the masses grow.  Even some of the politicians are fearful of the technology and don’t do their own research on the issue.  These people just believe and refuse to accept the evidence.  Pretty soon thousands are believing that Farmer Aloha’s crops are indeed a threat.  The small minority of other farmers and scientists are amazed at this horrible hate and wrath of misinformation.  If one of them should speak up, they instantly are targeted by the anti-Aloha club.

DodoGMOs

Then comes the advent of the internet and the filth spews even more across the world.  More hateful things are being said all over the place and everyone and their grandma is saying the same thing about Farmer Aloha.  The hate is all the same things being said over and over but Farmer Aloha continues to work for your faithful customers and clients.  It gives you pride to be able to continue to feed them.  You hope that this issue will settle down in time.

Farmer Aloha decides to support other farmers too by going to the Farm Fair. You serve up thousands of samples of his delicious sweet fruits.  Lots of people appreciate it and will say so.  The true local people of course come up and pleasantly ask for a sample first and then take one.  Then come the anti-Aloha people who come up very defiantly and lift their noses up and ask, “Are these GMO?”  To which Farmer Aloha states, “Why yes they are.  Please enjoy a sample.”  Some of these anti-Aloha folks tip their noses to the air and stiffly walk away quite snottily or some crouch down to hide this special sweet sample and savor it secretly.  Other fearful anti-Aloha people will come up and say, “You are selling poison!”  That person starts going off in front of others clamoring for samples and eventually gets pushed away.  He never notices the weird looks that others are giving him.

Because of Farmer Aloha’s support of this new technology, the disease pressure is reduced and almost obliterated.  The anti-Aloha people discover that farming is the new thing to do after moving to Hawaii and start their own farms.  With no disease and a lot of people fearing Farmer Aloha’s fruit, they can sell aloha-free fruit to these folks.  These same anti-Aloha folks proudly go about the social media to talk stink about Farmer Aloha and his workers and family.  They even put their faces to their comments too so that you know who they are!  They even posted really mean and nasty comments on a picture of your kid wearing his aloha fruit costume too!  These anti-Aloha people are everywhere on the social media bombarding the whole conversation.  No one is listening to you, Farmer Aloha.  You are not even part of the conversations.  And that is where our stories ends at the moment.

So, lesson from this story is have you ever heard of Farmer Aloha ever saying something derogatory to these anti-Aloha farmers or even posting nasty comments on their farming pages?  Or has Farmer Aloha ever gone on the record to tell these anti-Aloha farmers how to farm and what to grow?  No, never, ever because he’s too busy working on his farm.  Farmer Aloha is all about aloha and education.  The anti-Aloha farmers and their club members are famous for this kind of behavior and tactics.  Easy to find all over the place sadly to state.  We have never seen any Farmer Aloha stooping down to that level.

Simply put, what if people started protesting organic foods?  Then spreading nasty rumors about the dangers of organic foods and scary pictures of what it can do to you?  Then it would make people really scared and irrational about this food that they consider organic.  The organic farmers would be subject to hate and unkind remarks as well as harassment over the social media and at farmer’s markets.  This would go on for years and years with no end in sight because more and more people start to believe these rumors as truths.  And what if that pretty green organic label incited fear in people to cause them to not buy it based on marketing of misinformation?  What if consumers started to demand the right to know how your grow and demand a label if it was fertilized with manure and had the potential for fecal contamination?  Would the organic farmers support it?  Then, would they like it if there was an organized march against them called MAO, March Against Organic?  I doubt it.

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I think that if we have others walk in the shoes of the farmers they are protesting and directing their hate and harassment at, it might just shed a different light on where and what we need to do for agriculture in Hawaii.  How would you like it if your livelihood was being targeted for completely baseless reasons?  You would not like it either!

The golden rule is no longer taught in Hawaii schools but there is something new called the 5 Rs that the anti-Aloha club might want to review in the conversations around agriculture and farming.  This is the direction that Hawaii agriculture has to move towards…  One of respect, responsibility, resourcefulness, relationships, and resiliency.  That is the future!

5Rs

The Ad Hominen Attacks of Tokyo Rose

The real Tokyo Rose

There are a certain bunch of anti-GMO club members that have taken to bombarding the social media.  If there is anything with those 3 letters on them, you can bet you’ll find them there.  There was a post yesterday in Pacific Business News having an editorial board meeting about the issues at hand in our state regarding biotechnology.  Of course, when you put a comment after all the anti-GMO activists, you will get these kind of comments.  Note that I simply asked a question in response to the post.

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What I got was not a surprise considering that these activists have taken to bombarding the social media.

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This person has even accused me of antagonizing her too!  I can’t quite figure out how but once again paranoia sets in.

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Another thread starts up too on this same link.

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I do remember how she and yet another so called farmer posted some very “nice” comments on a farm fair picture on another ag FB page.

Here’s the no aloha comments posted by these same people in response to mine.

ignorant warren bryna

Unreal what these people are capable of saying publicly.  Of course I was forwarded this clip too of how I acquired my nickname.

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There is no getting through to these activists.  When they have to start attacking people personally, it really shows that there is nothing in the form of evidence to support their argument.  They can only resort to name calling or accusations of being a shill.  This clearly demonstrates that these people are unreasonable and will only be agreeable to one single demand, their way.  Working with the unreasonable will get you no where.

From the Bad Skeptic link:

“The only thing the crier o’ shill proves is that they don’t give a flying f*@k about having an actual discussion, about hearing any viewpoint but their own, or about any reality outside of the one they’re already convinced exists. Saying, “I’m right, and that’s that! Neener!” is good enough for them.”

That’s fine with me but more reason why we can’t make laws and policy according to these activists demands.

Why Speak out for Science?

I have to really thank my anti-GMO friends for all of the memes they posted that woke me up to the whole issue surrounding biotechnology.  If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here writing this post.

It is very unlike local style, or at least the way I was raised to bring attention to oneself.  Doing that was considered kind of a no-no.  However, after attending school in the mainland and living there for many years, you start to learn that if you don’t speak up, you lose.  I learned pretty quick that I’d get run over if I didn’t say anything.  So, thanks to that experience, I found my voice.

Why speak up for science?  Well, when you have the opportunity to see what science and research can do to help people in action, one can see the potential for it in making people’s lives better.  I always was told that whatever I choose to do in life, make for certain that you make others’ lives better.  That is my mission learned through my experiences.

I was lucky enough to go to school at Washington University in St. Louis for my schooling.  WUSTL is well known for its medical research and as part of my training, I had the opportunity to observe some of it.  I was assigned to observe patients in the Movement Disorder Clinic there.  The project at the time was doing test trials of botox on people with movement disorders.  Botox was not even on the market at the time but was being studied to see if it could help people with disabling and disfiguring movement disorders.

I saw many people that had a wide variety of disabilities resulting from abnormal muscle tone.  One woman had a blepharospasm where she had her eyes permanently shut for years.  Another was a man who held his neck to the left and could not drive or eat normally or care for himself with his head turned permanently.  There were teenagers with cerebral palsy who could not walk normally because of calf spasm.  Though all very different, these people could not function normally.  The hope was that botox could alleviate these disorders and restore function.

The doctor carefully examined each person and injected the muscles one by one with a lot of care.  The following week, these people would return and the results were amazing.  To see people open their eyes or keep their head in midline and walk normally was something they had never done for years that we take for granted.  The research gave these folks improved function and some sense of normalcy that we forget about.  These people cried in joy when they had their function restored.  I too shed tears witnessing these small miracles.  These experiences are events I will never forget.

Not many people will get to witness the beauty of science and how it truly affects people’s lives like I did.  Nor do people have the same educational opportunities.  It is very easy to fall into the trap of fearing what you don’t know.  But as someone who has learned and know the benefits of science, I feel a sense of responsibility to educate people and open minds and eyes.  Our future can only get better with more knowledge and research.  That is why I speak out for science!

Small Kid Time: Lessons Learned on the Farm

Today, I am inspired to actually sit down and write this blog.  Why? Because the Hawaii that I was born and raised in is changing.  Some for the good and some for the bad.  Changes are occurring rapidly with how we live and do things in our islands.  Local people have to wake up and be part of what’s happening, which is the reason for why this blog is born.

I grew up in a time where life was pretty simple.  Our family lived on the North Shore behind the Mormon Temple.  We were raised in the country where there were no paved roads and mud puddles were our pools.  The grassy fields and prawn farms were our playground to wander in all day long without a care in the world.  Scoop net fishing, catching catfish, digging up worms, rafting down a stream on an inner tube, and playing mud were some of the activities we did when were done practicing piano or homework.  I really had the best childhood a kid could ever have.

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Here’s a great pic that brings back many of my childhood memories of growing up on the farm.  My grandpa would walk us down to the convenience store and buy us candy, then we’d cross the street and play at the beach.  Finally, it would  be back to the farm for more adventures.  As my siblings and I got older, little did we know that we’d become the laborers.

The farm life was not an easy one but it really taught me a lot of life lessons that are still instilled in me to this day.  My dad would always be on us to always do our best, quality job number one.  Never sit to work because that is being lazy.  Keep yourself busy, always.  Take initiative to do something or find something to do.  These were the life lessons learned on the farm that were pounded into our heads.  Don’t do things to make the family shame, make us proud of you in everything that you do.  Growing up, we’d get sick of hearing it every time it was farm day.  Now that I have my own kids, I’ve learned to realize how so many valuable life lessons were acquired on the farm.  It’s those things that you can never learn anywhere else.

My adventures and insights here are reflective of the lessons learned on the farm that are important lessons for all to learn about.