Let’s go back in time to the beginnings of the anti-GMO movement some 10 years ago. Remember when people came out of the woodwork to the Hawaii State Legislature claiming that politicians needed to protect the public against GMOs? It all started with a manipulation of the public by using fake news and fear that sounds all too familiar.
So many were fooled into believing that sites like Green Med Info, GMO Justice Coalition, Center for Food Safety, were all posing as legitimate information prveyors to the unsuspecting masses. The public would call legislators demanding that protections were needed in the form of labeling and banning. Forget the fact that trillions of meals were consumed with little evidence of harm, the anti-GMO activists were determined to get their way ignoring all of the evidence while creating lots of fake “evidence.”
Not only did the activists use fake news and fake sites to manipulate but they also casted a large cloud of doubt upon the regulatory agencies like the FDA and EPA. The public was told that the government agencies that regulated biotech products were not trustworthy without even knowing the process at all. People were led to believe that they were involved in some devious collusion. No activist ever bothered to teach people how the agencies approve products but closed the door by simply saying don’t trust them.
Opportunistic politicians decided to jump on board to this movement to ignore the scientific evidence too to seize upon popular opinion. They wanted to show the public that they were there to protect them. These supposed leaders fueled doubt within the very government that they were in charge of. The message basically was that, “I help run the government that you cannot trust.”
The activists and the politicians were successful in creating global furor that block innovations in its tracks. For years the media was complicit in fueling the rejection of scientific evidence. Poorly vetted stories and pseudoexperts like the Food Babe and Dr. Oz were placed in the spotlight feeding unfounded claims to a poorly educated audience.
So where has that led to after all of these years? We have lost some 435,000 Americans in this pandemic with 25 million cases. We have a deeply divided society with mass confusion as to what we should believe. It doesn’t appear to be getting any better given the latest news of new mutant viruses being found.
It should be of no surprise that a recent Star Advertiser poll found that only 50% plan on taking the covid vaccines. This should not be a shocker given the anti-vaccine campaigns that lead to a resurgence of measles globally and domestically also. It is becoming clearer that rejecting the scientific evidence comes with many unintended consequences.
Let’s think back to how things could’ve been different had we got a good handle on using evidence to base our policies upon. If the political leadership had weighed the facts to decide if labeling was truly needed, we’d probably have more faith in the regulatory agencies. When the politicians decided to create doubt, that sane doubt has remained through this pandemic. Few trust the CDC and FDA or even our own Department of Health at a time where we need to have centralized information being put forth.
Had we stopped giving anti-vaccine activists a stage at political forums, we may have less hesitancy with vaccines and less fear. The politicians gave them the stage to sputter fear and factless claims over and over again. The public was listening and started to believe that the shot is worse than the effects of COVID, which is absurd to me as a healthcare worker.
A poorly educated public, access to a wide array of websites, distrust in government, and too many not using critical thinking skills have led us down this deadly path in this pandemic. People are dying and some still refuse to wear a mask. We even have very selfish-minded people claiming that “my body, my choice” is better than taking a vaccine to protect others in the community. Our own Department of Education Superintendent Kishimoto is repeating that same anti-vaccination sentiment to the public, despite the fact that all public school kids must be vaccinated before attending class. The leadership is still not much more educated than the general public right now. Herein lies a problem.
As an elected leader, it is of utmost importance to lead with facts. By following the science, we can hopefully come to a point of agreement of the direction we must choose. If one uses deceit while knowing the truth, the public will pay for the consequences eventually. I so appreciate that my State Senator, Jarrett Keohokalohe, has helped my community get vaccinated by sharing information on the clinic that started this week. The message that sends to the public is a vaccination is just one step towards ending this pandemic. I have not once heard him state something contrary to the scientific evidence or repeat catchy phrases used by the science polluters. He is leading and informing the masses.
As I sat at the Windward Comprehensive Vaccination clinic this past week getting my 90 year old neighbor vaccinated, I got a bit teary eyed seeing so many seniors in my community getting their first shots. My neighbor joked that the entire Kaneohe community was there that day. I also overheard many of them saying they choose to get the shot to protect the rest of their family and loved ones. Yes, their body, their choice to protect others. These folks were listening to the scientific evidence and acting upon it.
There were no protesters around trying to deter people from doing this. It was my community willing doing their part to protect everyone around them. We were together to help save lives and follow the evidence towards a greater good.
We are living during a pandemic and that is why we must choose SCIENCE now!