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”


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.

Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 9.34.27 AM

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.




5 thoughts on “The Real Poison in Paradise

  1. I am very sorry to hear about your brother Joni. I pray for a speedy recovery. I am sure this is taking a heavy toll on your family and wish you only the best. Your family and farm are an inspiration to us all!

  2. Josh Green says he has been testing kids for lead–that’s interesting but what pesticide is in use that is lead based? I think they were all cut out a long time ago. Apparently Green thinks we are using lead-based pesticides even today.
    “All insecticidal uses of Lead-Arsenic (LA) in the USA were officially banned on 1 August 1988”

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