It’s been nearly a year since I started this blog, and I’ve come to realize that I never quite told my story as to why I decided to start it up. Having celebrated a year of blogging, I’d like to share my story.
My journey into speaking out for my dad’s farm actually started back in 2012. I remember back then seeing tons and tons of memes on Facebook being posted by a friend who was following the Babes Against Biotech. It never bothered me much and I pretty much dismissed it for some time. It was only after seeing their memes trying to lobby to make laws that made me realize that something bad was going to happen. I called my dad and told him what I had saw and had been reading and he pretty much said, “Ah, it’s just activists. They do this all the time and they won’t get anywhere.” I implored him to start talking to his ag folks and get organized because I felt that this was something bigger than thought.
Boy, was he wrong back then as the GMO labeling law was pushed by an activist politician, Jessica Wooley. I remember a friend asking me to support her prior to her being elected and I already knew she was bad news since she was married to an Earthjustice lawyer, David Henken. My dad had many interactions with Earthjustice when trying to get the irradiator plant started to help with the export of fruit. My husband also knew the tactics of Earthjustice and how it stalled up his work in the Agribusiness Development Corporation. I knew that she was not a friend to agriculture at all even though she claimed to be.
That year was a year of constant testimony writing, and my dad having to leave the farm and go down to the legislature to testify. Many hours were lost and the activists were attacking farmers constantly online in the social media. I remember seeing any GMO article on Civil Beat being just bombarded by the antis with their same repetitive bogus links and scare studies about how bad it was. These people made up all kinds of lies about the GMO papayas and the farmers who farmed them and that was it for me. The antis made as if the biotech papaya ruined the industry and that it didn’t save it. They also made statements that any farmer who used GMOs were lazy and killing people. 2012 was the year that GMOs were bad.
I was ticked off seeing those kinds of nasty comments on the Star Advertiser and Civil Beat as well as all over the social media. I decided to start commenting on there. Well, this is Hawaii and it’s a small world and it got back to my parents that I was on there saying things publicly. My parents both told me to not speak out as it would make our farm a target. I told them, “What do we have to hide from? We already are a target whether we like it or not!” To make them happy, I changed my name online from my legal name to my alias, Joni Rose. That’s how I began my journey into speaking out for my dad’s farm and biotechnology.
What bothered me even more was when activists made as if scientists were doing something really horrible in the lab to saving a crop. I used to work as a student assistant in the lab that worked on the initial research towards saving the papayas. I was in there using my chemistry knowledge to mix buffers, set up ELISA trays, extract cucurbit viruses, plant and prep seedlings, take care of the plants in the greenhouse, go out to the fields and plant the trees, and so much more. I remember planting some several thousand seedlings over the course of a few weeks and it was hard work. The activists made as if this entire research was easy and nothing to it, which was far from the truth. I wanted the public to know the reality about all of this, and not their made up stories.
After seeing so much anti-GMO misinformation and fear mongering, I had decided it was time to officially launch something to speak out, which mean the birth of this blog. I was so fed up and frustrated that I had to speak out and this was my outlet. People needed to know my dad’s story and the stories of so many other farmers he worked with. To allow people with no farming background and a poor ability to decipher fact from fiction to dictate to farmers how to farm was totally absurd to me. It was time to be out there. I knew that it would not be easy and I’d have to worry about what activists would do unfortunately but I had to do something.
Speaking out has had it costs however. I’ve had my share of hate mail and horrible things beings said but that’s just words. These people don’t know the truth of the reality of agriculture and big picture systems thinking. They are focused on the kind of food they are going to eat because they are afraid. The worry about being poisoned but still live near the farms that were there decades before they were there. The swim in the waters around our island and then yell about the oceans being poisoned. They talk about saving the a’ina and doing what is pono, but then make false accusations against others to try to harm reputations. Their nastiness towards those who stand with the evidence only reflects on the sad mindset that has been perpetuated by politicians like Gary Hooser, Tim Bynum, Kaniela Ing, Margaret Wille, and Russell Ruderman.
What has bothered me a lot was a story my brother told me about one of his workers who was barred from attending a family member’s wedding because he worked for a GMO company. Even though my dad’s farm isn’t a big ag company, just the fact that it was GMO meant that we were on the same standing as Monsanto, the perceived evil of of the antis. I could not believe that the bull was tearing families apart! Unbelievable to me. I was even more compelled to call this stuff out already.
Once 2012’s hot topic issues cooled down, 2013 was just around the corner and the conversations started turning into “GMOs means pesticides.” All I could do is smack myself in the head when I heard this. The environmentalists, who want a cleaner and greener earth, are blocking a technology that could help with decreasing pesticides?! I can’t imagine why a greenie would want to block high tech agriculture but then okay for high tech alternative energy. What an oxymoron?!
The misinformation campaigns are still continuing again this year with a new tactic of using petitions to seek laws. People from around the anti-GMO world has made their way to Hawaii to spread their “truths” and add more fear to the pot. It’s not about sitting down at the table to discuss food security and sustainability, it’s about how to take things away from our agricultural communities. There’s no fact findings given on their side, only fear which is one of the most powerful emotions used by this lobby. We can’t use fear to move forward in our state. We have to use evidence that’s available.
Here I am, an entire year later still blogging my thoughts and ideas. By speaking out, I’ve been able to network others who share my thoughts about the Hawaii we want and it gives me hope. I want my dad and brother and their workers to be able to work on the farm and keep it going for years to come and not be subject to defending their work. Farmers work so hard and are so dedicated to what they do and should be allowed their right to farm. If the activists don’t like what I have to say, then stop attacking the farmers and dividing agriculture. We can’t work divided, we all work together. That’s the Hawaii I want to see!
good work joni. keep it up!! be our political/community representative one day–you have a good way with words.