The Tragedy of the Hawaii Anti-GMO Movement Continues


Today I decided to go down to the State Capitol to testify in opposition of the anti-farming, anti-pesticide HB1514. I parked in downtown with my infant son in tow and was walking near the Liliuokalani statue noticing all the people traversing there.

As I pushed my baby of 8 weeks in his stroller towards the handicap ramp, I noticed a slender, dark haired guy walking up also. He carried his backpack slung over his shoulder and was leisurely puffing on a cigarette as he walked. As I got closer, he stopped at a nearby planter to put out his cigarette. I recognized him as Dustin Barca, the former Kauai Mayoral candidate.

The hearing room was packed to the brim so I sat outside with baby and listened to the early testimony mostly in opposition to this bill. Eventually, I made my way into the room and sat down. As the hearing continued, Chair Tsuji called for all the neighbor island folks to go up.

This was the first time that I have had time off to go to one of these and what I heard really saddened me. There were at least 30 or so ordinary folks testifying of a host of multiple illnesses and a fear that they were being sprayed by pesticides. Klayton Kubo, a Kauai activist brought a dirty paper towel with the dust he wiped off of his louvers. Several of them shed tears because they were fearful of this alleged exposure to toxins.

Then there was good old Kauai County Council member, Gary Hooser, testifying on behalf of the council. He kept stating that small farmers won’t be affected by this bill. Sure, Gary, it won’t hurt small farmers when you don’t even understand what’s wrong with it and why the farming community is up in arms about it. Pushing a bad bill that lacks sufficient justification isn’t going to make some of us mad, it’s gonna make all of us mad. If you can attack one sector of ag, who is to say what’s next?

As I sat in the hearing listening to testimonies, I looked around at the supporters of this badly written bill. They looked like regular folks that were well fed and healthy looking. They all were able to afford plane tickets to fly over and had time off to do so. The common line that was stated over and over again was that they were afraid of being sprayed and toxins all around them. Some testimonies implied that the seed company employees were uneducated because they didn’t speak English well to their standards.

The best part of the hearing was hearing Dustin Barca go on about toxins and the horrible corporations. He even talked about the cigarette companies and their evils. It’s weird because I just saw him smoking some corporate grown tobacco and inhaling toxins. I had to scratch my head thinking about that.

These people mostly had no attachment to agriculture or even understand Hawaii’s roots. They see farms as nuisances and combined with no background in farming, they are ideal pickings by mainland activist groups like the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice as well as the mainland funded Hawaii Seed. Spread some rumors about cancer, autism, birth defects, allergies and asthma that it’s all caused by living near GMO farms. Repeat that message over and over until they all believe it.

They are experts in manipulation and lots of people will follow and believe despite the data collected. One colorful testifier stated that he’d sic ISIS on the biotech companies! Another mentioned a cosmic vortex that swooped the pesticides up the mountain. A single mom of 4 was worried that she would not be able to have more kids because of the pesticides in the fields. The testimony was indeed interesting.

The sad thing is that if they get their buffer zones and disclosures, it’s obvious that these attacks will not end. It’s just a start. Attempting to divide agriculture with misinformation leads us down a slippery slope. Farmers big or small will not know what other baseless laws will come down and be on the defensive constantly. How will that achieve anything positive?

There full well may be illnesses but that hasn’t even been ascertained yet. That needs to be the starting point of any added regulation. Tests and studies have been done but these people are still not satisfied with the results. These people don’t trust any entity in government from the EPA, FDA, USDA, and state for that matter. It’s obvious that what has been done already is not satisfactory to them and they won’t stop until they get their ultimate goal, GMO Free.

I really feel that these folks would’ve remained level headed if they actually were walked through their issues and possibly educated on the basics of biotech. Instead, leaders like Gary Hooser and Ashley Lukens as well as others took advantage of these folks’ lack of knowledge and instill fear in. You never see their social media sites ever explaining why things did not go their way. They continue to fuel tirades of corporate corruption with no proof to back their claims. People are so afraid of science and technology as well as holding a deep distrust of government now which is perpetuated by these leaders. Ironic that they don’t government but then keep turning right back to them for help. Are they really going to change their feelings when they get their way? I doubt it.

I still await the day the activists’ resources were used to do what they feel needs to be done. History shows that they claim to work for protecting people but in action, they could do something but don’t. That’s the biggest tragedy in the anti-GMO movement here.



11 thoughts on “The Tragedy of the Hawaii Anti-GMO Movement Continues

  1. “These people don’t trust any entity in government from the EPA, FDA, USDA, and state for that matter.” – Oh the irony of people who say the state government is corrupt testifying to the state government, demanding state government regulations, that they they would say were not being enforced because they don’t trust state government. They were all there for the same reason Barca was there – a moment in the limelight they can put on YouTube and tell everyone how they are saving the world. I am sad for the folks who are legitimately afraid because of misinformation, but more sad that these narcissists who testify have to keep seeking validation just to survive. They think their group is their friends, when in reality they are all using each other for their own egos.

  2. I think the Barca cigarette incident you witnessed pretty much sums up nicely his callow, hypocritical, and selfish narcissism. Wish his followers could see that he’s just Kauai’s Sarah Palin; a foolish grifter who will say anything they tell him to, so long as they keep paying and he doesn’t have to do any real work or engage in any real thought.

  3. I have not heard anything in this article of why, it is a problem to grow non gmo seeds and not use toxic chemicals. How did you folks you farmers grow food before GMO and pesticides? What kind of farmers are you? Has any of you heard of the word PERMACULTURE ? Do you know more and more families, the ones that consume the food you grow are demanding organic, real seeds (non gmo) and for good reason. Are you all so lazy and obedient to what the corporations tell you to do ? Is it because you will get subsidized and bailed out (bribe money) if your crops do not do well? Seriously what kind of farmers are you people?

  4. All I can say about the comment at 2:53 pm is Wow! Those of us in ag in Hawaii have not done a good enough job to address this sort of ignorance and as long as it persists we will keep having to show up to beat it back. It is extremely hard on farmers to take a day out of their already busy schedule (which includes planting, harvest, packaging, delivery, pest management, bill paying, human resource activities if they have employees, construction, implementation of conservation practices, marketing, training, engineering and more) to come to the capitol and then wait, sometimes hours, to give their testimony only to be called shills of the evil corporations!

    I am not sure if the comment writer understands that the vast majority of corporate farming in the U.S. are family farms. As to the question of how did we farm before GMO and pesticides, very difficultly! Prior to the introduction of pesticides on our farms, after WW II, over 30% of the population in the U.S. farmed. With the advent of modern farming practices including host plant resistance, Integrated Pest Management, mating disruption, classical biological control, quarantine, sanitation, fertilizers, machinery and equipment, gps/rtk technology, computers, and yes, gasp(!) pesticides it freed the bulk of the population to engage in a multitude of other life activities!

    While I have heard it said that we could be self-sufficient in food production in Hawaii if we wanted to be I don’t think that the tourists would be satisfied with breadfruit, poi, sweet potatoes, and fish. And, I dare say, maybe the local people also would not. Living in a place that is a beautiful climate for humans it is also a perfect climate for the proliferation of a multitude of exotic and invasive plant and animal pests caused by species that enter Hawaii through our porous quarantine system. Coqui frog, white peach scale, papaya mealybug, western flower thrips,melon thrips, diamondback moth, ohia rust, papaya ringspot virus, bacterial leaf spot, powdery mildew, downy mildew, fusarium, pepper weevil, tomato pinworm, corn earworm, beet armyworm, whiteflies, miconia, fruit flies, mosquitoes, little fire ant, psyllids, late blight, early blight, leafminers, bean flies, bean mosaic virus, pickleworm, gall wasps, taro pocket rot, broad mites, spider mites, banana bunchy top virus, root-knot nematode, reniform nematode, burrowing nematode, bacterial wilt, fleas, flea beetles, ticks, house flies, etc., etc., etc. 7 to 10 new ones each year, every year. And what do they do when they get here? Attack and prey on the plants, animals, and people we love!

    As to what happens when our crop fails, we pick ourselves back up, dust off our clothes and keep right on going. There’s no payment for failure! There’s no greedy evil corporation coming to our farm and trying to foist GMO seeds on us. We pick what products we need to make our business profitable! And, it if is permaculture we will do it! If it is organic we will do it! While consumer demand for organically grown products is increasing we are also tasked with producing products that are pest and blemish-free. If we go to market, even if organically grown, and the product is not perfect we will find our product rejected. So, you tell me, how much of our product can be thrown away before we are out of business? It is very easy to sit in your comfortable chair, with your belly full to criticize farmers as lazy. I don’t know which farmers you are talking about but lazy doesn’t work. Lazy is a recipe for failure! So please, please, please do your homework before criticizing the 1.5% that feeds the 98.5%!

  5. Hi John, nice to meet you and I understand, I am not ignorant I am very interested in the good wellbeign of ebery Farmer and every Farmers family, consumers, nature etc… this is not a debate as to who is more educated or ignorant about food production methods. It is about the fact that corporations are the ones that have taken over our lives by patenting seeds, setting guidelines on how to farm following industrial methods, mono crops, using GMO seeds and toxic pesticides, etc….These methods are significantly different from conventional farming methods. Before the 1940s, farms practiced what we’d now consider organic farming methods. However, a revolution in agricultural technologies around the beginning of the 20th century, and specifically after World War II, reshaped the way farmers managed crops; as a result, productivity skyrocketed. Conventional farmers like you John, take advantage of the latest scientific and agricultural technological advances meant for greater efficiency and high output, including chemical and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, mono-cropping, genetic-engineering and modification (in seeds and breeds) and antibiotic and hormone use in livestock.There are several criticisms of GM foods, including risks to both human health and to our environment. In humans, GM foods are assessed for nutritional content, toxicity levels and any allergic reactions that might occur from eating them. Of concern to the environment is the possibility that a GMO can be introduced into wild populations, with the development of pesticide-resistant insects. Possible detrimental consequences to plant and wildlife biodiversity are also under investigation.
    Unlike the strict standards in place for organic farmers, there is no mandate that foods containing GMOs must be labeled as such in most states of the U.S. I feel this is wrong and unjust.
    At the 12th Scientific Conference of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) in 1988, more than 60 countries voted unanimously against the use of GMOs in food production and agriculture because they felt there were unacceptable risks involved: threats to human health, a negative and irreversible environmental impact, incompatibility with sustainable agriculture, and a violation of rights for both farmers and consumers. Since more countries in Europe and elsewhere have banned GMO seeds from entering their land.
    Data shows that only 0.4 percent of USDA’s $2.5 billion budget focuses on organic agricultural research (about $10 million).

    While the government is not spending its money on organics, consumers are. The Organic food market grew 20 percent to 24 percent annually during the 1990s. And recently the Hartman Group reported that 90 percent of American consumers were either buying or considering buying organic products, up from 60 percent two years ago .

    Organics get good press because they appear in studies to be healthier for our planet and us. The American Cancer Society estimates that 85 percent of cancers are from environmental toxins, such as pesticides, and not from genetic causes. Eating an organic diet (as prescribed by federal guidelines) has shown in a study supported by the Environmental Protection Agency to decrease detectable levels of pesticides in children.
    Current studies also confirm that organic farming is good for the environment: It requires less water, there are fewer toxic pesticides released, soil erosion is minimal, and a recent study by the Soil Association saw improved nutrient levels in organic foods .
    Researchers are continuing to look at ways to improve upon organic farming practices, including methods of animal health care (such as homeopathy), uses of organic pesticides and the environmental impacts of organic and conventional farming. It is very clear the main issue for covetional farmers is economics, it is obvious the dilema for coventional farmers are all about economics, the consumer is learning that real food, non GMO and less toxic pesticides are good for health and enviroment. The people are demanding more real food and less Human created manipulation, using toxic pesticides and un-natural seeds. In the end the consumer dictates what is produced and how it will be produced, since it is obvious to all of us we want real food.

    • You missed a key point about organic food. It’s a label created by an act of Congress to help farmers SELL their product. In the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service site, it clearly states that this label does not imply any safety or nutritional advantages.

    • You made a lot of unsubstantiated declarations about conventional/transitional/hybrid farmers in your first comment post. There is nothing in your current post that addresses those accusations other than to lecture us on the evils of corporate agriculture (which, I have pointed out, is comprised mostly of family farms) and the virtues of organic agriculture. That’s all been said or heard before.

      I highly doubt that you are a practicing farmer as there is nothing in your diatribe that indicates that you are out there getting your hands dirty and earning the honest living that farmers make because, guess what, there are no shortcuts. Do you honestly believe that a farmer, any farmer, would not manage their soil as if it were a gift from God? Whether conventional, gmo, organic, or biodynamic it all begins with the soil. All the farmers I know do whatever they can to build a good soil and then do whatever they can to protect it from washing away. While we have heard much about sustainable agriculture, the stewarding of our soil and water resources is the key to achieving that sustainability and is something that all farmers are aspiring to.

Leave a Reply to hawaiifarmersdaughter Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s