Harsh Truths

Many folks are wondering why I told the story of my brother in the last two blog posts I wrote.  Knowing how fast rumors can travel in this day and age, I asked him if he wanted me to write it.  He did tell me that he wanted his story told so that it brings greater awareness to his health issues and what’s happening on the farm.  At his blessing, I told his story.

I shouldn’t be surprised that people started accusing me of lying and “using” him.  The facts are the facts and I can’t change the way events are happening and how it’s unfolding.  He’s sick with lupus and still trying to work on the farm while also worried about defending it.  This life in real time for real farmers.  That is our story and the truth about farm life.  It’s one too few will hear.

There are many people who are suffering with debilitating illnesses that there is no cure for.  There are many scientists working to find a cure or treatment for it.  We can’t address this problem if resources aren’t directed at this issue.  When loud, uniformed people try to influence policies with poorly vetted information, society suffers as a whole.  When science becomes dismissed as “propaganda,” we are headed down a slippery slope.  Who will solve the many problems in this world like impending famines, droughts, infectious diseases, and other things that will plague mankind?

The attacks against science and innovation in Hawaii isn’t going to help our future.  It leaves us disabled from solving real problems in the near future.  I myself am getting tested for lupus and as a possible carrier, my children may face this disease too.  What options will they have for a better life?

I truly believe that society has to embrace science and the many advances we are seeing over fearing and blocking it.  Solutions aren’t going to come from blockers but from the knowledgeable ones who are working at improving lives.  May stories from my family help move us towards that future.  That is our hope with telling these stories.

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The Real Poison in Paradise

Just when I thought I couldn’t get more bad news, I did today.  My brother, Mike, who recently got diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus and lupus nephritis, received the results of his kidney biopsy.  He was found to have stage 3 lupus nephritis and may face some grueling treatment to stop his immune system from attacking his kidneys.  Our family is just stunned but hopeful that this is the right course for his long term health.  Opening up about this condition has also made me more aware of other family and friends who have the same condition and help me to get support. (I also realize that disclosing this information will also stir up the antis claiming that his exposure to pesticides caused this however, we know that truth behind this as many family members have similar conditions from the great-great grandfather and other cousins who

As I was talking to him today about his test results, he told me a very disturbing story about last week Friday when he was taken away via ambulance for his allergic reaction to his medication.  As he was lying in the emergency room at Kahuku Hospital, he heard a phone call at the nurses’ station that was in earshot of him.  The caller had reported that she had seen a farmworker taken off of the field via ambulance and quickly assumed he had been poisoned.  She wanted the nurse to get her the DOH Clear Air Branch hotline to assure her that she was not being poisoned.  Due to privacy laws, the nurse could not give any details of my brother’s condition.  But once again, it is faulty assumptions that create hysteria and it isn’t even near the truth.  My brother sat there listening in disbelief at what he had heard.

Apparently, this neighbor by our Punaluu fields quickly jumped to conclusions that my brother had been poisoned and never came to talk to us about what happened.  If an ambulance came, wouldn’t a normal person be in worry that someone needed serious help and not assume poisoning?  What if it was a heavy equipment accident or a fall in the field? Because of the fabricated fear around pesticides have reached the public, there’s no rational thought anymore.  The uninformed public assumes all farms use highly toxic pesticides.  I’m sure this woman will be telling her fellow neighbors that she saw someone being poisoned even though that is furthest from the truth.  That rumor has a high likelihood of spreading in the anti-GMO forums and other social events to bad mouth our family farm.  Instead of seeing if anyone needed help, the witch hunt already started.

It’s that same kind of assumptions that get people all in a huff over something and starts riling the angry mob against farmers like my dad and brother.  The organic industry lobbyist, Ashley Lukens, will tell legislators that this anti-pesticide bill is only going after large farms but knows full well that it’s furthest from the truth.  Just like an organic farmer named Dave Burlew, who jumped to conclusions and essentially accused my dad of causing runoff from his fields then offered to help in a recent Civil Beat article on the pesticide law’s failure to pass.

“BTW, your Dad needs to do something about all the soil that erodes onto the road fronting the farm when it rains. It’s been going on for years now. The soil keeps washing into the road making a mess. I can help if he needs me to. Maybe cover crop it for him or lay some hay bales down. I’m the first farm on the left past the white gate in the valley, or he can flag me down in the morning, I drive the blue Dodge Ram truck. Mahalo, Dave”

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This is a photo of one of his fields that’s separated by an unpaved, dirt access road that leads up to other lots beyond us on a hill.  If you look at the road, there’s deep grooves showing lots of erosion.  It has been here decades before our fields have ever been there.  As a service to the neighbors above, my dad takes time to grade the road after heavy rails to minimize the little ditches that form so people can drive up without destroying their shocks.  As a farmer, he also has an obligation to follow soil conservation regulations and has berms around the field to minimize runoff.  In fact, the lower part of the fields get so filled with water that he can’t grow trees there.  Those berms also keeps the homes downhill from the road from being flooded by the rains too.

When “Farmer Dave” made that accusation the our farm was responsible for the runoff, it is yet another dishonest statement to disparage farmers who speak up against misinformation.  His solution was to put hay and cover crops.  Now would that work on a road that so many people use? The muddy waters he sees is really running off of this road and if you sit outside the field on a rainy day, you can see exactly what happens for yourself.

Even politicians trained in applied sciences get caught up in this fear.  Senator Josh Green responded to my post pointing out the declining resources directed to lead testing in Hawaii and the growing numbers of children who aren’t being monitored.

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In Hawaii, we have a large number of old homes that are sources of lead but the funding  has gone down significantly.  Thanks the CFS, millions of dollars will go to testing of pesticides leaving less for lead testing and prevention.  Instead of expanding on the issue at hand, Senator Green pulls out the ad hominen attack which remains false.  How is he serving the public interest by not funding a real problem in our state? How is his testing going to continue if there’s no funding and an effort put towards it? Generations of children can be affected by this and no one is protesting it.

When people jump to conclusions and refuse to talk to the farmers, poorly crafted legislation and mass hysteria is created.  The anti-GMO, anti-agriculture bill disguised as an anti-pesticide one has done just that in our once tight knit communities.  Thanks to Ashley Lukens of the Center for Food Safety, there’s no trust in neighbors as we are seeing.  If there were to be an emergency at our farm, these people would be so scared that they probably wouldn’t even bother to help because they’d think we’re poisoned or that the field is poison.  The fear she has planted in people’s heads are becoming more deeply rooted that it prevents rational discussion and exchanges or the talk story that used to be common at our farm.

While farmers are accused of poisoning people, the real poison is what the Center for Food Safety has brought to Hawaii.  Agriculture can’t survive in this toxic environment where distrust and fear are leading the charge.  Ashley Lukens and her ilk want no collaboration with the agricultural community and prefer to stand on lies and deception.  You’ll never see her set foot on a farm or bother to take a tour.  She takes her little slideshow and scares people then runs when her presentation is questioned.  If not, she funds movies where people are a captive audience to watch and believe with no ability to question what was presented.  The Food Babe event and even the Vandana tour was all set up so people only nod in agreement and allowed no questions.  Thinking is dangerous to this movement that’s built upon deception.

No one will want to farm if you’re going to be found guilty without any evidence.  When you’re not truly invested in agriculture, it’s easy to say and do things to destroy it and that is what we see is happening.  Our communities cannot heal when people are manipulated in fear and our small farmers have to bear the burden of this toxic environment.

 

 

The Fight for Family

The Fight for Family

Today was both a sad and happy day for me.  The anti-GMO bill disguised as an anti-pesticide bill, HB790, did not move out of the House of Representatives, which was the good thing of the day for the farmers.  The sad thing of the day was a phone call I got in the afternoon from a long time friend and former patient of mine.

For the last 8 years, I have sent my friend Christmas cards to keep in touch with her.  I had developed a wonderful friendship with her during her rehab stay for an injury from a fall.  I witnessed her start from not even being able to stand up or move in bed to walking out of therapy and going home.  There were  many days of tears during her recovery that we both shared and I gave her the support I could to help her get through it.  We maintained our friendship since then and she became a friend of my family too.

She called me today to let me know that she appreciated our friendship and that she enjoyed my yearly Christmas cards and seeing my children growing up.  We caught up on what’s happened over the last year.  She told me that she wanted me to know that she had terminal cancer and was given 6-9 months to live.  She said she thought she would feel scared of it but said that she was truly at peace with it.  She was going to catch up with old friends and tell them how much she loved them and do what she can in the time she has.  I was so touched that she called me and wished her the best on her next journey through life.

On top of my friend’s call today, the last month has been very emotional for me.  My brother Mike has been having lots of joint swelling, pain, and odd reactions that could not be explained by the doctors.  He went through many tests and found out that he has lupus.  It’s great that he found out what was going on and now a good treatment can be found for him to alleviate the symptoms.  He’s always had unusual allergic reactions as a kid to Tang drink and bee stings so this diagnosis really took us by surprise.  As we look back at what my grandmother went through with her rheumatoid arthritis, interstitial lung disease, and diabetes, we suspect she had some form of autoimmune issues that went undiagnosed.  On top of the lupus, they also discovered that it is attacking his kidneys too.

Last week Friday, I had a big scare when my mom called and said my brother had to be taken off the farm to the hospital because he was having anaphylactic shock.  He had gone down the field as usual to scout for pests and spray trees.  It was just a regular day.  However, as the day progressed, he began to swell up and his quick thinking coworker recognized the symptoms and called 911.  Luckily, the ambulance was able to get into the field to get him to the hospital to be treated.  He had a severe reaction to a new lupus medication he had taken the night before.

All I could think about was I wish I could help him.  I wish there was a cure where stem cells could restore his immune system.  I purposefully donated my son’s stem cells when he was born and got confirmation that it had made it to the cord blood bank.  I would even donate my organs or stem cells if he needed it.  If I can give the gift of life to him, I would do it in an instant even if it may cause temporary pain.  He’s my little brother and I want him to have his health back.  I would do anything for family.

At my job, I see firsthand what can happen when we lose our health.  There’s a lot of pain and suffering when a healthy person gets hit by a stroke, ALS, or some other life altering disease.  I so wish that science can help find a cure to stop symptoms and help people lead full lives.  Although I help teach people how to live with disability through compensation and adaptation, I see the consequences when bodies fail.

I wish that there would be high tech research happening in Hawaii to treat diseases like lupus.  Maybe one day there will be a genetically engineered treatment to help normalize immune systems.  Instead of chemotherapy, maybe cancer could be treated with some other medication that doesn’t have as many side effects.  What if people could get a easy screen to detect these diseases before people have to suffer symptoms?  There are so many what ifs but that can only happen if we dream and invest in that future.

As a parent, I want the best for my children.  Just like my parents wanting to best for me and my siblings, it’s a value that is universal.  I will continue to fight for science and hope that it will help my brother and others live a full life.  I will continue to push for education in Hawaii to help create innovations to have a brighter future for my children and others.  There are so many problems in the world and we need problem solvers, not protesters.

Truly Invested

Tomorrow, the anti-GMO activists will be pounding the pavement at the Hawaii State Capitol to demand that the House of Representatives pass their “right to know” pesticide buffer zone bill.  They tout it as a “common sense” measure but never disclose that there’s a penalty included in the bill that opens agricultural entities up to lawsuits.  Of course, the public doesn’t need to know the whole truth as usual.

The legislators will be faced with a lot of emotional pleas from mothers to pass this bill that is really an anti-GMO bill that will be used to scare people globally from this technology.  The Center for Food Safety will tell the Hawaii politicians that they are protecting people from pesticides but then travel to Asia and Africa and say that the chemicals in our food is causing us to be gay and infertile.  This kind of fear mongering led to the starvation of so many Zambians who eventually broke into warehouses to eat the so called dangerous food.  It is sickening to me knowing that this anti-GMO issue is using Hawaii to cause pain and suffering globally.

For every activists that doesn’t have to work and will fly from Maui or Kauai to persuade legislators, there’s the real farmers working on their fields and getting their crops ready for market.  Many simply don’t have the time to hangout in downtown Honolulu to chit chat and play the emotional card.  They have work to do on their businesses because people depend on them.

How many of these anti-GMO activists have vested piece in Hawaii agriculture?  I know for a fact that we farming families have a lot at stake.  Here’s just a small piece of what it takes to run a real farm to feed thousands day after day year upon year.

2 small loading forklifts: $30K

Large forklift for harvesting: $20K

Backhoe for putting in water lines: $35K

Custom made forklift: $55K

Shed for processing for compliance with food safety regulations: $35K

Small lot for building a shed in Windward Oahu: $600K

As you can see, it takes a lot of money to get a farm off the ground to produce food for the consumers.  This list doesn’t include the utilities, supplies, and other costs that come with farming.  When someone wants to talk about farming, you’ve got to take a look and see if they really are invested in it.  If they are the typical anti-GMO activists claiming to save people from pesticides, they have ZERO investment in agriculture.  They can say whatever they want and act in any fashion, including outright lying, because they truly have nothing to lose.  Protesting GMOs and pesticides are hobbies for them and social events.  It’s not about helping people.  If anything, it’s about taking advantage of people’s ability to think by replacing it with fear and emotion.

When these activists go around parading that they know farming and actually care about Hawaii’s agricultural legacy but then start with the accusations that we are poisoning people, that’s when I lose it.  Repeating that claim clearly shows that they are nothing but rhetoricians who can’t think any more.  When politicians start saying the same thing, they too  have shown their lack of critical thinking and set a terrible example to the public.  Ignorance shouldn’t be celebrated in Hawaii.

Farmers will be farming on Thursday and I’ll be working my 6-7 day a week job.  I won’t be there at the Capitol to fight for our family farm and legacy but I’ll be there in spirit for all of those who will show up.  The legislators owe the farmers, the ones truly invested in agriculture, the podium to say their piece and be heard over the loud, angry, and fearful voices of people who have rejected the ability to learn.  We can’t let the refusers dictate policies in our state because they will disable us from our future potential.

The farmers aren’t only invested monetarily, but also in people power.  We are trying to protect a way of living that few want to take on.  We want an environment where young people will want to come back to the fields and hang out with their grandpas to learn the skills that he learned from his dad.  We are invested in our families and people.  Let the farmers be heard!

 

 

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Flooded with Fear

I just came back a few days ago from participating in the Independent Women’s Forum panel on Food and Fear held at Washington University School of Public Health and sponsored by Monsanto.  For sake of transparency, my hotel room was covered by Monsanto and my plane fare was covered by IWF.  I took paid time off to attend this forum to share the story of how Hawaii was being used in the fear mongering against farmers and how our story has had a global impact.

I learned a lot actually listening to some of the panelists, especially when it came to understanding the issue of undernutrition and hidden hunger.  I learned that animal proteins are a great way of converting cellulose into energy and nutrition for us.  Animals as food sources can help provide more nutrition for developing countries.  I realized why the fight against biotech crops and even veganism can be factors in denying the poor nutritious foods.  Without crops to feed animals, these countries can have greater hurdles in getting adequate calories and micronutrients.  The anti-GMO movement really want to deny people food and the potential to have a full life.  It’s terribly disturbing to me to realize that yet again.

After participating in the panel discussion, the next day was filled with touring the Monsanto campus which really was amazing to me. There is a lot of high tech work going on there beyond just biotech.  From custom made 3D printing to some cutting edge plants and greenhouses, that place is a hub for the convergence of plant science to engineering and design.  However, the most amazing thing to me wasn’t the technology, but just seeing regular people walking the halls and working at their jobs.  No one looked devious or evil but just very industrious at what they did.  There were no men in dark suits or sunglasses in a boardroom.  It wasn’t what activists want you to think about this company.

In the last day before going home, I decided to take my family around my old stomping grounds which was fun but very short lived because later that evening, my kids and mom got hit by the horrible stomach bug one by one.  My mom had gotten sick on the plane ride over but got over it and then started getting sick again.  Next my middle daughter got sick and then my older daughter, and lastly, my son.  We were sick, sick, sick in a hotel room far from home.  It wasn’t fun being covered in vomit for a night.  I thought I had escaped this bug because I didn’t get sick that night.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t to be lucky.  On the day we were to head home, I came down with the bug too.  It is a horribly illness where you feel your gut is just angry and there’s nothing you can do about it other than hang at the toilet and hold a wad of toilet paper in your hands at the same time.  I was at the urgent care as my symptoms got progressively worse just 6 hours before we were to leave.

As I lay there on the gurney in the clinic with my toddler snuggled beside me, the TV was playing.  Commercial after commercial were focused on foods.  Eat at this restaurant!  Eat this snack.  Take this vitamin and shake to help you have optimal health.  Detox your body for better health.  Eat clean.  Drink this juice to cleanse your system.  When your really sick, food is the last thing you want to hear but on the TV, it’s all about food.  There had to have been at least 30 commercials or mentions of food in the 2 hours I lay there waiting for the doctor’s treatment plan.  The thought of food just disgusted me when I felt so ill.

After literally detoxing from the stomach bug, home was the hotel room for the next 2 days.  Once again, the TV pumped out messages of food, food, and food.  I was in no mood for food after being so ill but the messages were constant.  It made me think that we as Americans are just pounded with the idea that we have to eat.    Very few of us are worried about being hungry for more than a few hours and food is everywhere.  Here I was on a liquid diet for over 36 hours to get over this and there are millions of people in the world who live like this day after day. I also had no energy to do a whole lot either which made me useless.  How can the human potential ever be maximized without adequate food and nutrition?

The average American citizen has thousands of choices when it comes to food.  They may not have easy ways to discern what is healthy and will rely on heuristics to make those decisions.  That’s where the pseudoscience pushers like the Food Babe, Center for Food Safety, Dr. Josh Axe, Mike Adams, and even Dr. Oz have filled a role to take advantage of people’s lack of knowledge of best food choices.  These “experts” have capitalized on this tendency and it’s clear that there are millions falling for this.  Instead of learning about what makes up good nutrition and health, if you have a shortcut to follow, it’s alluring and easy for the masses.

The so called pesticide buffer zone and fear mongering of pesticides are the same kind of manipulation being used in Hawaii.  People are conditioned to hear that Restricted Use Pesticide is something bad and that synthetic pesticides are bad so avoid it.  It’s an easy concept to understand and quickly catches on with the public whose real desire is to be healthy and avoid anything harmful.  Create a few movies to resonate that message and you will get the uniformed public involved into what is perceived to be a social justice issue, when in reality, it’s far from it.

From movie stars, to politicians, to the demagogues of the anti-GMO movement like former Kauai County Councilmember, Gary Hooser, and the Center for Food Safety’s Ashley Lukens, the quick and easy solution to the problem is create more regulation on a made up problem.  The uninformed masses simply believe their messages of fear and potential harm without actually learning about what they are saying. It’s repeated so often that it becomes truth despite the building evidence against their claims.  The facts become useless and meaningless with policy development.

Like the persistent messages of food everywhere, the fear on pesticides only demonstrates the success of using the least educated to create a movement.  Taking advantage of people and only relying on the loud voices of the public is what’s guiding politicians in Hawaii and therein lies the major problem.  The public has received unsubstantiated information through mass manipulation that neither protects people as claimed but is used on a greater scale to deny the world of the very thing we have access to, food.

While farmers are busy defending their access to tools in Hawaii, small farms across the world are being denied tools that could help sustain them.  The argument for buffer zones here turns into the chemicals being used are making people infertile and gay across the world.  Fear of GM foods pervades in these countries who too aren’t educated to understanding the science behind.  You’ll never see Gary or Ashley trying to talk to people to educate them.  They prefer to create fearful, angry people and have them launch their emotions at politicians to get their way.  The sad thing is that they are using people to talk about things they don’t understand and nor do they want people to think critically.  It’s simply believe and never question.  Both Gary and Ashley, as well as several other anti-GMO politicians like Kaniela Ing have blocked anyone who questions their posts.  Thinking is not allowed in the anti-GMO realm.  Thinking is dangerous.

The world doesn’t need more angry and fearful believers.  We need innovators and researchers to find better solutions to the problems at hand. Although we may not suffer from food shortages now, it may well be happening in the future of our children who will pay the consequences of the current status of anti-ag movement.  Fear and belief can’t create the better world we all want.  It has to be carefully planned and studied to know what will work for the future.  Then again, the reality of the anti-GMO movement may not be about food but about taking the lands out of productivity at the rate Hawaii is going.

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