Yesterday I had a chance to participate on a civic and civil discussion about GMOs and Pesticides in Hawaii. I was on the panel with John Purcell of Monsanto, Dr. Hector Valenzuela, and Kauai County Council member, Gary Hooser. I took a day off of work to participate and sent my baby to his sitter to do this. My hope was to get students and the general public a better grasp on this issue affecting Hawaii.
It was not surprising that several anti-GMO activists were in the audience, which I thought was good because they need to hear about this issue. As I prepared for this discussion, I had stumbled upon some very interesting findings that pointed to me that this is environmental radicalism front and center in Hawaii. I was told that people had come to our various islands to consult to them about issues in their community that they wanted taken care of. The group was called the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund that’s based in Pennsylvania. I had discovered this group through a radical environmental group known for it’s militant tactics called Deep Resistance Green. The things I read about these two groups were disturbing. There was assumptions that all corporations were bad and that government could not be trusted. The course of action was to create a protest and use sabotage and various methods legal and illegal to help protect nature at any cost. It was the doom and gloom scenario that man was ruining the planet and it must be saved. It’s no wonder that Gary and Hector kept repeating the words corporations and chemicals over and over.
As I thought about it more, facts just don’t matter in this debate. This is a debate in ideology if you think about it closely. Here, the farmers and scientists, are operating under the assumption that we are feeding the world and looking for ways to do it better and differently. They rely on concrete data and measures and collected observations to make this happen. They are optimistic and hopeful and look for ways to sustain themselves. There is a embracing of technology and advancement. On the opposing side, they simply believe that this technology is not natural and will ruin the earth and biodiversity. They embrace the old ways of doing things and want to reject these technological advances for themselves and for others. Giving the technology to farmers in developing countries will spell out advancement in these cultures and a move to a more modern life, something that they find dissatisfying. They consider tampering with nature something utterly horrible to the species. They are protecting the rights of nature at every cost, which explains the lack of intellectual honesty throughout this movement.
The most concerning issue that I worry about is this attitude that there is no need to consider feeding the world. If I follow the radical environmental lines of thinking, they think that feeding the world means more people and more harm to earth and that is the war that they are fighting to save. This shortsighted thinking lacks the realization that we are a global community and that we are ever changing and progressing as humans. Some of us in modern societies have lost a sense of appreciation and can’t find meaning, they turn to saving the planet as their meaningful activity in life. I now can see clearly why the feeding of the world message simply doesn’t resonate in the public.
So why do I care so much about this issue? We are global citizens and my three young children will grow up in the world that I can help create. I can chose to not speak up and get people to think or I can do it. I do not subscribe to the belief that nature is greater than humans. We have to find balance in how we grow our food and use the environment to do so. We must be able to adapt to the changing climate and be prepared for the future if anything. To completely shut down any advancement or new technology can only set us back and actually cause harm in protecting it.
The movements of the moment like the anti-vaccination, anti-fishing, anti-dairy, anti-hunting, expansion of the national whale sanctuary, community based fishing management, as well as the anti-ag are suddenly clear to me as I read on some of the backers of it. This is an industry of itself, the protest industry. Here’s just one of the groups in it.
The “Deep Ecology Platform,” as the movement’s credo is called, emphasizes the relative worthlessness of human life, rating it as no more important than that of plants or animals. The Platform considers human beings as a mere “interference” with nature, and openly aims for a “decrease of the human population.” It wraps up with a call to action, suggesting that people need to abandon the idea of “adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living,” and instead should pursue “changes in policies” that affect “basic economic [and] technological structures.”
Because it shoves humanity into a role of relative unimportance, Deep Ecology has been a fringe movement since its birth in 1970s Norway and Romania. With the backing of Doug Tompkins’ money, however, Deep Ecology and its logical offshoots have quietly moved to the front of the environmental feeding trough, passing “shallow ecologists” (what used to be called “conservationists”) on their way to a stunning level of influence.
This man, Douglas Tompkins, made his money through corporations like Esprit and North Face as well as Patagonia. Once he was rich, he decided he needed a cause and started funding these environmental groups, one of which is the Center for Food Safety. As much as Ashely Lukens of the Hawaii Center for Food Safety likes to portray the image of someone who is out to protect people, let’s be very clear here, that is not the end goal. This groups operates under the assumption that we don’t need more people on this planet and giving tools to feed people means more harm to the environment.
I’m floored to have come to that realization and remain stunned. The rich, well fed people have funded a selfish movement that ultimately denies every human the right to food. I’ve seen a comment stating that just educating people in developing countries will solve the birth rate. Um, no, it’s not that simple. If you don’t eat or lack enough nutritious foods, you can’t develop properly and think or problem solve well. A hungry person can’t be productive at all and become a contributor to their countries. If your mother isn’t fed well, her baby is already disadvantaged from the start. It’s a really vicious cycle that isn’t easily escapable.
Some people will think that because we don’t see those people, some 795 million based on UN estimates, it’s out of sight out of mind. Sure we don’t know who they are but we are a part of the global community and eventually, something will happen that will make it affect us. As Ethiopia is struggling with a drought, we as a developed country have the responsibility to help others with aid. If a war breaks out and people flee these countries, they need to go somewhere and much of the time, they land up in developed countries. One can’t say that it’s not our problem. Eventually, there will be a need for us to intervene and we will be affected by this.
I’m speaking more about biotech and the need for access to technology because I want a world where my kids will have peacefulness and not hear about instability around the world. I don’t want to see my son have to be drafted into some war because of turmoil caused by our selfish food fight. My children deserve a world of peace and so do the other children in the world. Don’t get in the way of that goal, be a part of a solution. Food is a social justice worth fighting for.
HFD; Your essay here reflects much of the intellectual pain I have endured over too many years, watching intelligent members of our island communities wrestle the wrong problems and come up short of understanding. The ideologies that took root so long ago now keep us all from identifying common good. Sadly, as you have pointed out, the activists don’t want clarity, as that quenches the hot opinions of their mistaken ideals. I truly admire your focus, and especially your attempt to describe here the polarity. I grieve for our future. Let me know if there are sure ways to help.
Regards (J.Lee Ingamells; https://jp.linkedin.com/in/j-lee-ingamells-9177bb6 )
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Nature killed Doug Tompkins last year: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/09/business/douglas-tompkins-72-north-face-founder-dies-in-kayaking-accident.html
It was pretty sad to hear Dr. Valenzuela saying things that were misleading or not factual. I initially gave him my respect but now I understand why he is an outcast at the university. If he wants to promote organic crop production techniques, that is great, I appreciate that. However, a person representing an institution of higher learning should not be spreading misinformation. Shame on you Dr. Valenzuela. As a CTAHR graduate I am offended, shamed, and disappointed.
Sadly, I’ve come to realize that all of this shows the ends justify the means. Say anything you want to get your end goal and you’re not responsible for it. I was not surprised at what he said.
Funny how they ask for transparency and never give it. I wonder how many organic industry ties are giving him grants and how much he’s been making a living giving “expert” testimony for the Center for Food Safety. That’s murky to me.
Thanks for voicing the reason for clarity. I remember the day of political correctness when Dr Valenzuela was hired.
Yup. The developing world needs its ethanol and corn syrup! Anyone who tries to get in the way is surely a commie lovin’ radical!
If you only knew why they need maize, you’d have a different outlook on this issue. Of course, I don’t think you know the true importance of maize to an African community.
It is sad Joni. I too had hoped for the best at this panel “discussion” but it was SOS. And the way that Hector and Hooser lie is absolutely appalling. One example is the oft repeated claim that GMO crops are causing the Monarch Butterfly to become an endangered species! When I heard that repeated by Hector, again, I nearly choked. Come out to Kunia Hector, come out to Waialua Hector, we have planted Crown Flower bushes on our farms and the Monarch butterfly is everywhere! So, you’re right Joni, in the green agenda that Hooser and Hector espouse it is OK to lie to make your point. It is OK to harm someone if your position gains strength. And you are also right that we live in a global community. While the push for home grown is admirable it is unrealistic to live by it. If that was the case I don’t think Hector or Hooser would drive a car, get in an airplane, or use their smartphone or tablet. But they are doing all of that and somehow remain sanctimonious and righteous in their fight! I’ll just betcha they each of a huge flat screen, energy sucking television mounted on the wall in their living room! I have taught my children that we are citizens of the world and that they should go out and discover it. The time for circling our wagons is over. We can no more go back to the pioneer days than we can fit a square peg in a round hole. So I tell my kids to embrace it and they do and they love it. This is what it will take to create a peaceful world. To engage and communicate with people in other countries and cultures. It’s really very exciting to see that. And, I truly hope that there is a place for agriculture of all types in that world.
John; Great that you weighed in on this. It’s time to play hard ball. “had all me can stands and can’t stands no more!” I am home in Mililani for most of May & June and would like to discuss. Please reply or contact me… firstname.lastname@example.org [[808-227-7645 after 6May]]
What lies did Hooser tell?
Hooser always says 18 tons, it’s not that. He always says they spray everyday. It’s only one field at a time. Much of his claims. http://m.thegardenisland.com/news/local/gmo-bill-deferred/article_6ac0833e-fe62-11e2-9207-0019bb2963f4.html?mode=jqm
Birth defects aren’t higher:
Cancer rates aren’t higher there either:
Click to access Kauai-Cancer-Cases-April-2013.pdf
Nice to hear from you Lee. Yep. I’m still plugging away in agriculture although it gets to be harder and harder every single day. In many ways I am glad I am coming to the sunset of my career, after 42 years, but I would really like to have the confidence in the next generation before I exit completely. I have been working at Pioneer for the last 7 years but had been doing consulting work for them since 1999. I have highly educated (multiple Master’s degrees) young people working for me and want to make sure that they can continue to have a career in agriculture. Who knows if they will stay with Pioneer for their careers but it is satisfying to give them the tools that they will need to think critically about the decisions they make in ag, and life, as they seek to make their own mark on the world. We are currently at a crossroads in ag in Hawaii. I would like to think that the younger generation can step up to the plate and grow more food, become involved in the community, and then give back by lifting up the generation behind them. What I see is promising. Joni’s brother, Neal and Shin Ho, Derek Agader, Al Medrano, Jonathan Jefts, Alec and Mike Sou, Ross Sibucao on the Big Island, and I am sure that there are many others that will be stepping up to the plate. But, they need to be realistic. The “pie in the sky” approach avowed by those opposing modern farming tools I predict will hurt us in the long run. Agriculture is a business first and foremost, and as a result a lifestyle emerges that is associated with that business. But it doesn’t work the other way, lifestyle first business second, because if the business doesn’t succeed then the lifestyle isn’t going to happen. And corporate ag, don’t even get me started! Some of the most successful small farmers I know have corporate business structures. Thanks for giving me your contact info. I would like to chat some more so will call after May 6.