A Time to Return to Science Based Policy

For too long, Hawaii’s politicians had their attention focused on the squeaky wheels. It all started with the anti-GMO taro bill to a GMO ban/labeling, then to pesticides. Much of their time was focused on caving to the anti-GMO folks demands which were not based upon scientific evidence. So where did that leave us?

While global issues of food security and innovation advanced, Hawaii willingly ignored those facts. We were told that going back to the old ways were better for us as a state by women in bikinis. Tons of misinformation focused on discrediting scientists and experts in the field for years. It caused many in the sciences to quietly back down from speaking up and educating. Superstitions and conspiracies ruled our state’s legislation from very loud activists who said they represented everyone.

As the movement towards ignoring science continued, my dad said that one day, we will be forced into looking towards science for the answers. He said years ago that the fearing of chemicals and pesticides will cause a return of rat lungworm disease back and sure enough, like a prophecy, it came back to destroy people’s lives.

Fast forward to the present day— following years of anti-vaccination rhetoric— we are seeing a world where vaccinations are not available. People are dying of this novel virus across the globe with no herd immunity. The economy is halted as the only solution right now. Many communities are facing hardships because of the stand still. Our society needs healthy citizens and good public health to operate and function despite the contagious nature of this virus.

When faced with a deadly virus, the focus of the politicians are on science right now. They are telling people to stay at home based upon the current evidence gained through managing this pandemic. They are telling people to listen to experts from the CDC and use disinfectants registered with the EPA. We are told to stay with facts throughout this pandemic. It is ironic that officials are directing us to trust the EPA on this yet went against the same agency over certain pesticides. Even the organic agriculture lobbying group, the Center for Food Safety, is directing people CDC advice while suing the EPA on glyphosate safety.

For too long, our Hawaii legislators caved to the science rejectors’ demands to fund restrictive laws on pesticides and monitoring of it. Hundreds of thousands of dollars went towards increasing organic agriculture and trendy farming studies. The Department of Health funded studies to detect pesticides and found nothing significant each time. Conventional farmers got thrown under the bus for years with false claims that had no evidence, just emotional pleas from moms flown in to stage the show. Our legislators even tried to stop the water from farms using propaganda from activists. Farms are still at risk for closure because the politicians can’t get their act together.

So what are politicians doing right now? They are rallying the public to support our farms and other industries reliant upon agriculture, specifically the restaurants. Wait a second! Just last year, the City Council made very restrictive plastic bans that increased the cost of business to run a restaurant. I cringe when I see the same politicians who refused to keep the waters flowing to farms asking the public to support those farms. Seriously, do voters have that short of a memory of what actions they supported to undermine these industries?

Imagine if we had that dairy farm on Kauai at this time and how we would have a local supply of fresh milk. Wouldn’t it be nice to have more piggeries with fresh pork in the stores? What if we had more egg farms across our state to feed our communities? Alas, we know that the anti-ag sentiment will keep this from ever happening thanks to the politicians’ stances.

Right now, we are all being forced into looking towards science for answers. That is all we have left. Science gives us evidence to use anti-bacterial soaps and disinfectants to protect us and not the all-natural, no harsh chemical products. Many have turned to using corporate made masks to protect them from these infectious particles. I recall so many antis marching in Waikiki with those precious N-95 masks and hazmat suits that are needed now. During these times, we are relying on the experts to give us the answers. No one is putting the Food Babe or Ashley Lukens as experts, nor are chiropractic and naturopathic views being promoted on the news.

There are more questions than answers right now that can only be addressed through science. I hope that the legislature really starts to use evidence in guiding policies and ignoring the squeaky wheels. I know for a fact that public didn’t even listen to the imported lobbyists when all of the conventional foods and products are wiped out on the shelves across the nation. Few gave a damn about that GMO label or how it was grown. We’ve learned a huge lesson that we are fortunate to have an abundance in agriculture to allow for so many panic hoarders.

Our state needs to retune its focus on science. If we don’t start using evidence based policies, we will not fare well in the future.