A Passion for Papaya is Not Propaganda

A Passion for Papaya is Not Propaganda


Dr. Marion Nestle referred to the film Food Evolution as “propaganda” and the other activists like Zen Honeycutt and the Food Babe are jumping onboard.  This implies that the content was misleading, and meant to affect opinions using less-than-honest means. I was really shocked when 45 academic signatories wrote the letter calling the film propaganda from the agrochemical industry.

I’m glad to offer you a taste of that propaganda, or should I say, papaya.

The film’s first part shows a horrible battle that happened here in my home state of Hawaii.  Non-farmers and well-financed mainland activists wanted my family to abandon a technology, the virus-resistant papaya.  The papaya was made resistant by genetic engineering, and it was done by universities and government to help the local papaya farmers. It was not the “agrochemical industry”.

Mainland activists riled up local agitators by carefully crafting a massive fear campaign in our communities and manipulated a vote against the papaya. Claims were made that it was poison, it caused tumors, it was increasing pesticide use and more diseases in the industry.  None of this was true, but in fear of retaliation, the majority of the council voted to ban it anyway.

The Food Evolution film crew was in Hawaii because it was the important national story at the time. They covered the story in great detail and presented it as it unfolded, giving plenty of time to the papaya’s opposition.

It also shows how farmers pushed back, and Margaret Wille and the County Council then grandfathered the papaya in, even though they believed (the propaganda) that it was carcinogenic and harmful.

They were caught in a hypocrisy when one tells the public improved fruits are dangerous but then exempt them with pressure.  This is fact.  This is hardly propaganda. The papaya works, it saved an industry, and is outstanding technology.

So it is very disappointing to me that Nestle, Pollan and 45 others go on record calling this story agrochemical industry propaganda, when it is a far cry from the truth.

It is especially disturbing because many of the people that refer to my family’s livelihood as propaganda are graduate students and professors. It seems like a bad career move to call the chronicling political resistance to successful technology agrochemical industry propaganda.

It is even more troubling that these are students and professors that claim to be in favor of small-holder family farms and sustainability.  The papaya allows my family to sustainably produce a local staple that would be gone if it was not for the technology.

If I was a student or faculty member I would think carefully before signing my name to a movement laden with false claims. It seems like the academic road is very difficult today, and when a search of your name shows you standing up against technology and small family farmers, it seems like a short-sighted career move. Your name on that letter symbolizes the rejection of science and the benefits it can have for small family farms globally, who face climate change and it’s consequences.  Do you really stand against that reality?

If you ever are over in the islands please let me know and I’ll personally introduce you to our “giant agrochemical industry”, which is me, my family and two dedicated farm workers, growing a delicious and valued fruit. The movie Food Evolution told our story, our fight, and our ongoing success very accurately.  I would think very carefully before calling my family’s reality throwaway propaganda.


Joni Kamiya–The Hawaii Farmer’s Daughter


One Man


I remember when I was 5 years old and developed an insatiable love of reading.  I would find anything to read from magazines to comic books.  I even would take my dad’s dictionary and try to look up new words.  It was thrilling to be able to read as a kid.

One day, I had picked up a calendar and looked up my birthday, January 15th.  To my surprise, I saw it marked as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday too.  I asked my parents who this man one was and they gave me a bit of history on what he did.  I was in awe that I shared the same birthday as a great person.  To a 5 year old, it’s just the greatest news in the world to learn these things.

On the day I had learned about MLK, I had an appointment with a doctor that day.  I remember going into his office and jubilantly  telling him about what I had learned.  I was hoping that he’d be as excited as I was knowing that I shared a birthday with a great man.  To my disappoinment, the doctor replied to me, “Well, he’s just a black man.”  I was heartbroken as a kid and it’s something I never forgot.

The more I grew up and learned about Dr. King and what he did, I always remained proud that I had the same birthday as him.  He was one man who did something very brave to make things better for people.  He inspired so many to join him in making a right from a wrong even though it was an unpopular and very dangerous stance to take.  To me, he was more than just a black man, but a real inspiration to so many that helped to change the world.

I never realized that one day, I’d set foot in the National Civil Rights Museum while visiting Memphis.  This museum was build around the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated.  It also houses the bus where Rosa Parks had boarded and is filled with other historical artifacts around the civil rights movement.  I was overcome with emotion as I walked around this museum.  It was the same sadness that overwhelmed me when I visited the Holocaust Museum.  I still get emotional just thinking about what people faced in this century.

Dr. King was just one many who inspired many to change the status quo for many people.  His movement made things better for so many.  One man changed the world for so many generations.  What he did shows us that in our own actions, we too have the power the change the future.  Joining the popular, transient movements aren’t always the right thing to pursue.  We have to strategically look at the things that will affect generations to come.  Teaching our children to look to the future and inspiring to be innovators and creative and critical things is an investment for their future.  Like farmers planting the right seeds for the best crops, we as a society must cultivate the right environment that will foster a brighter future.

My birthday wish is that we continue to grow as people and cultivate a desire to learn and end fear of what isn’t understood.  We can’t sustain a community of people remain fearful and resistive to collaboration.  We don’t encourage our children to gossip and spread false rumors in schools so why should adults continue to do that? Genuine leaders will take the hard step of standing up for the facts and being a good example to others.  We already have enough divisiveness in our country and in Hawaii and it’s time to start the healing and move forward.  It’s time for it now and we all deserve a Hawaii filled with aloha.



Oppression of Education

With the Thirty Meter Telescope hearings held just the other day, I keep seeing comments about it being a symbol of oppression to the sovereignty activists.  It makes me so sad to hear this when we live in a society where we have the freedom and liberty to pursue our dreams.  How is it that people can’t see this?

The Wikipedia definition is:

If the TMT leaves Hawaii, the entire state loses an opportunity to be a part of cutting edge technology that is global.  Not only are we at a loss of technology, we’d lose out on the educational funds to help bolster the Big Island community.  The other local businesses will lose as a result of the trickle down effect.  In other words, everyone loses.

If the anti-GMO get their way, the world is sent a message that this technology is dangerous.  The poorest of farmers will be denied access to innovations that could boost their livelihoods and prevent more malnutrition in their communities.  The world will also lose out on tools like Golden Rice, which could prevent suffering and death in very young children.  As the population increases, the 975 million who are already food insecure will undoubtedly grow too.

If the environmental industry succeeds in creating Hawaii’s ocean monument, an essential food source will be lost due to the lack of access to our waters.  The people who can’t fish won’t have a commercial fisherman to provide this local staple for them.
If I apply this definition on other issues, it’s clear who the real oppressors are.

Without technology jobs, what other opportunities can our children hope for? Do we want them to be limited to just tourism jobs or do we want something more?  I want my kids to have many opportunities to make Hawaii their home.

How can we foster this scenario? We have to act now to push for educational opportunities.  Without education, people will be oppressed and limited.  Those who block the basic right to education are indeed oppressing those seeking a better future.  We, the people of Hawaii, deserve better.  Our children deserve honest conversations around investing in their futures.  

A very loud minority seeks to deny us the right to a better future through ruthless, dishonest tactics.  I’ve asked them for their alternatives and none have offered anything to replace what they take.  People who aren’t willing to collaborate on coming to an accord.  It appears as if some prefer to stay oppressed when they reject progress or want to oppress everyone else too.  I want to part of that.

Willful ignorance of the facts and refusing to learn about what you’re talking about is also oppression.  Self oppression.  

End Intolerance

End Intolerance

As I’m writing this, I have a knot in my throat because I’m sharing a story that very few have heard.  I feel compelled to finally share it with others because I’m hoping that it may change hearts and minds because it’s about people who are near to my heart.  The story I want to share is about my brother, Mike.

Mike is 3 years younger than me and one of my best friends.  We can talk about anything and we are very close.  My kids adore their uncle Mike and uncle Frank, who are the kindest most loving people you can have in your life.  As children, they can’t see anything wrong with two people who are in love because they see people and nothing else.  Yes, my only brother is gay.

I learned of him being gay over 2o years ago while I was was back for a break during grad school.  Prior to me coming home, my sister had asked me to read the book by Chasity Bono, which I did since it was one of the top sellers. On my first day home, he brought his friend, Frank to have lunch.  Both of them were acting a little strange but I didn’t think much of it.  

Frank and Mike left later than day and I was left with my sister at home in an awkward silence.  I had a clearly inkling that something was up but I couldn’t quite come to terms with it.  As my sister and I sat making small talk about things, I started to put two and two together.  I asked my sister, “Is Mike dakine?”

Dakine in pidgin is the equivalent of whatchamacallit and sure enough, my sister nodded her head in agreement because she knew that I had figured out what was going on.  I was stunned. The little brother I knew and loved was gay and so afraid to tell me what his truth was.  My sister and I just cried and cried after that revelation.

I cried for not only the shock of him coming out but more so in fear for his life.  My brother was a very happy go lucky kind of guy who sometimes was not as suspicious of others and I was afraid for him.  My sister told me how his coming out made him feel so exhilarated about finally being at peace with himself that he was making new friends and opening up to others.  Me, being the cautious protector of my siblings as the eldest, I still had that instinct to protect him.  There had been several incidents where gay men were lured by others and killed in public bathrooms or in their hotel rooms just for being out of the closet, prior to his coming out in Hawaii.  Not only was that happening but the story of Matthew Sheppard was still fresh in my mind and I was truly terrified that Mike would be a victim of this hatred.  I just wanted to scream out against the hate that was killing people for being who they were.

Other thoughts crept into my mind about him being the only son in an Asian family and going to a Mormon school where homosexuality was not tolerated.  My dad’s only son would not be carrying on the family name to another generation which is a big deal for the Japanese culture.  Mike could be kicked out of the college he was in and about to finish.  I was scared out of my mind for him.  My parents didn’t know that he was gay at the time so I had to hold all of my feelings in at the time.  It wasn’t until I was back in St. Louis that I got the call from them of what they had learned.  Our family was just in shock.

My brother and Frank went on with their lives and we all got to learn about who my brother struggled to be for so many years.  Even though he seemed happy before, he indeed had a newfound happiness that I had never seen.  His happiness gave me hope and peace and the shock eventually turned to admiration of his bravery to be true to himself and really be happy.

One struggle that remained with me was that I was not allowed to tell my grandparents that Mike was gay.  I remember getting a call from my grandpa who had just visited Mike and Frank’s new condo that they had just purchased together.  My grandpa was going on about how nice it was and the great dinner they had there during the housewarming party.   This was our exact conversation that I’ll never forget.

Grandpa: “Jone, there’s something funny going on though.”

Me: “Really grandpa, what is funny to you?”

Grandpa: “The funny thing is that we walked around the condo and there’s only one bed.  Where does the other one sleep?”

Me: “I don’t know grandpa.  You have to ask him yourself.”

My poor grandpa just didn’t have the heart to ask my brother but felt comfortable enough to ask me and I couldn’t tell him. He never did ask my brother or Frank and passed away a few years later not knowing the truth but I think deep inside, he did know.

Today, I had a wonderful day with my brother and Frank taking my kids and my sister’s kids to the beach.  They have been together for longer than I have been married and remain a stable support for our family.  They both love my children dearly and are adored back.  We are all bonded by love.

So why am I telling this story?  The recent shooting of people in a gay nightclub in Florida brought back that terrifying fear that I experienced some 20 years ago.  What if that was my brother or Frank who was in that nightclub who was an innocent victim of hate?  How many families lost loved ones that night because of the hate being spread by people? I weep for their pain and loss.  No one should lose a person to hate.  No one.

So where’s the sources of this hate?  It’s coming from all over with religious leaders touting intolerance around the world across the social media.  There’s no factual evidence to support this ideology and as history has shown, it’s deadly.  The anti-GMO activists are also part of the problem too. Yes, this hobby activism of spreading misinformation has helped to fuel hatred and bigotr globally. A simple sharing of a link seems harmless, but it can have deadly consequences.

The groups like the Babes Against Biotech, Hawaii SEED, the SHAKA Movement, GMO Justice Coalition, and the other linked environmental groups that support them including the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network are all guilty of fueling  fear and hatred.  These groups have helped to spread misinformation from sources like Natural News, InfoWars, Natural Society, Institute for Responsible Technology, Seeds of Death, and other bogus sites that tout false claims that GMOs causes infertility.  The Center for Food Safety has paid for Tyrone Hayes to spread his “studies” on atrazine here in Hawaii.  Despite atrazine not being exclusive to GM crops, the fear mongering claim that it changes frogs’ gender has been used to bolster the allegation that it causes homosexuality in humans in the developing world.  (This is from an obscure blog that has since been removed but I saved the original text.)

“They’re Putting Chemicals In the Food To Make People Gay”. 

Professor Tyrone Hayes has a very controversial theory about 
homosexuality and men! According to the Professor, he has scientific 
proof that the government has been putting chemicals in food that 
turns people gay. 
He says,’ They are definitely putting toxic chemicals in our food but 
do you think the Professor may be on to something in his research 
claiming that some of those chemicals intended purpose is to make 
people gay?’

Mike Adams of Natural News also has frequently touted the claims that GMOs contribute to infertility.  And then the Babes Against Biotech shared his links only to amplify this misinformation.  The Babes posted so many of his links that it was hard to track all of them until others started mocking them and they stopped the sharing of these links.

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Alex Jones of InfoWars has also touted anti-gay messages on his site attributing it to GMOs.

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The Hawaii anti-GMO groups are all guilty of sharing these unfounded claims with the movie, “Seeds of Death” and Jeffrey Smith’s, “Genetic Roulette.” In the first few minutes of the film, it states GMOs causes infertility that is sourced to Hayes’ claims.  Ronnie Cummins, of the Organic Consumers Association, is also featured in Seeds of Death making the same claim on his site.  The director of many anti-GMO “documentaries” is Gary Null, who is a AIDS denialist, which explains his homophobic views.  Jeffrey Smith was used as a Hawaii County expert on the anti-GMO bill and has been paid by the Maui SHAKA Movement too.

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Greenpeace has also led campaigns spreading the misinformation to the most vulnerable and least educated also.  I wouldn’t be surprised that the same countries that these environmentalists have propagandized to institute GMO bans also ban homosexuality. The chemophobia being touted by the Pesticide Action Network and the Center for Food Safety are also leading to the claims of infertility which translates to increased homosexuality to the developing world.  Meanwhile, CFS and IRT fear monger about GM foods and then sell their scared consumers on the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, which they don’t disclose can use the very same synthetic chemicals that they demonize.

The farmers are also hearing these messages.  Many African colleagues have told me that farmers refuse to grow GM crops because they’ve been told by wealthy activists that their children will be homosexual or consuming it will make one infertile. Mark Lynas has been witness to such claims.
The chemophobia of pesticides isn’t just limited to atrazine.  It’s targeted at glyphosate too now with claims of infertility by the same sources of bad information.  None of these claims are backed by evidence however, the uproar is causing serious consequences across the world where countries are banning its use.

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Should we be surprised that this information has traveled across the globe fueling more hate against gay people?  The media hasn’t helped  either with hyperbole.

In Hawaii, we celebrated the passing of the Marriage Equality Act several years ago.  We did it because the people of Hawaii realized that we are all people and deserve equality and the right to be free of discrimination.  The Democratic Party of Hawaii was the progressive folks supporting the passage of this law.  It’s disheartening to learn that this same group of people who claim to be for the people and “progressive” have changed their tune by supporting the likes of the radical anti-GMO movement.  The world is listening and watching us and we must be responsible for the information we share.

No one should lose a family member because of hate.  The hate needs to end and it starts by people taking responsibility for their actions.  The Right to Know shouldn’t be used to misinform our fellow global citizen and fanning fears.  Our leaders need to stand up for the truth and not emotional ideologies that sound appealing on the surface but have a toll upon a minority who deserve to live a life free of fear and discrimination.  That right supersedes any right to know what’s in your food.

Foster a world of love, not fear and hate.  Do it for the sake of your children so they may have a better world. We owe it to them.




Stolen Future

Stolen Future

The last few days I’ve been busy speaking to people and networking in hopes of seeing real, tangible change in Hawaii.  Granted, I’ve had to take vacation days to do this because I don’t get any money out of this.  In fact, doing all of this costs me time and money.  I still do these things because there’s a greater cause I’m supporting.  I want to ensure that my kids will have a brighter future, especially here in Hawaii.

Right now, the loudest voices have dominated Hawaii’s issues.  As I look into what these forces want, they are stealing from the future.  Like the ahu altar built with many different rocks of various sizes and shapes, it is a representation of our local culture and communities.  

There are many forces that have targeted the dismantling of that ahu.  They take a rock here and there that very few notice the change.  They seek bans of fishing areas, separate communities with community based fishing areas, take away water, remove corporations, ban biotech on one island, demand buffer zones of pesticides, close off oceans, while launching emotion laden fact-free campaigns to gain more traction under the guise of saving the earth for the keiki. One has to step back and question this astronomical rise in the protests and discord that’s brewing in our communities.  Is it really local-borne when so many people are struggling to make it financially here?

It’s clear that this is not locals raising the ruckus.  It’s outside interests using the native rights issue for their own interests.  What culture promotes the ideology that science cannot be a part of it? What culture promotes denying their keiki the ability to prepare for the future?  What people freely disinform others with only half of the story?

If you look at the canoe that the early Hawaiians constructed, it clearly wasn’t a one shot creation. It was likely made thousands of times before they figured out the proper materials needed.  They also needed to figure out the best shape and design needed as well as the ideal tools to carve the wood. Although it’s not explicitly science, the process that they undertook was indeed scientific in nature.

If you step back further, you must ask, why build a canoe to begin with and why study the stars? There’s was a vast ocean surrounding the areas around them and no way of knowing if there really was something out there.  Some very brave and risky souls undertook a voyage and likely failed but some succeeded which led their people to opportunities.  

Human nature is such that we fear the new so these early explorers likely faced discrimination and ridicule.  If the early people remained fearful, we wouldn’t have the Hawaiian culture if it weren’t for those brave pioneers of old.  

What is ironic today is the resurgence and romanticism of returning back to their culture.  There a whole host of movies that show modern day folks going back to the loi (taro patch) to re-establish their bonds to the aina (land).  There are hundreds of natives proclaiming the sacredness of the kalo (taro) and of Mauna Kea.  The leaders of these movements too are romanticizing the ancient days alongside transplanted white folks who suddenly speak the same words of malama (caring) and pono (righteousness).  Is simply going back to the old days the only way to feel attuned to one’s culture or can there be something more that needs to happen?

I have to wonder what is to be gained by this hip movement that is attracting many.  Have people really looked at this culture of the moment and what its real consequences are?  Is being a subsistence farmer going to help your children be prepared for the future?  Would your ancestors be doing the same thing hundreds of years later or would they have innovated?

When you ban access to the oceans via a monument or other vehicle, you take away from many generations to come.  Like the Christians banning the Hawaiian language, a huge loss was created for generations.  A father who built his own boat to bring fish for others can no longer teach his children the skills that he has learned from his father.  The diver who learned from his grandfather how to feed his family can’t teach his child the rules of the oceans when ocean access is denied without good evidence to support it.  

The stories continue beyond the oceans.  The farmer who grew taro for ever 100 years can’t keep his business afloat because or onerous regulations created by an imbalanced policy to protect a bird who is feasting on his crops.  The fear mongering on pesticides has chipped at my brothers’s motivation to learn the business and my children may never know the lessons learned on the farm. While we have opportunities to further advance how we grow food, a large segment of people are denying global farming families these opportunities.  The next generation may be facing even  more hardship if they reject advances.  

While Hawaiian leaders are taking stands against the Thirty Meter Telescope and supporting the expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, neither stances are based upon evidence.  It’s ironically similar to banning the Hawaiian language by the church.  Denying fair access to the resources and evidence based policies can have unforeseen consequences that hurt people now, but the greater harm may be in generations to come.  

The people of the Center for Food Safety, the Sierra Club, Deep Green Resistance, and the Pew Trusts don’t know the livelihoods of the local folks in Hawaii.  They are big money folks trying to create their vision for those who actually live off the land and oceans.  Who knows Hawaii the best? It’s those born and raised here with long histories and stories.  It’s Hawaiians, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Portuguese, Filipinos, Puerto Ricans and others who rely upon the aina too.  Only supporting one group of people in our communities harms all the keiki from learning the skills and lessons of those who came before.  

The environmentalist are right in many ways about protecting what we love and saving the keiki.  The local folks know exactly what that means because those are our stories that we have lived for generations.  When we stand to lose access to oceans, water, tools, and technology without a good reason, we do more harm to our world than we can imagine.  We are only stealing the future away from every single keiki in Hawaii by  basing stances in ideology rather than evidence.  The future is in our hands and we must not let those who try to use misguided values and visions steal our children’s hopes, dreams, and opportunities.   


Help stop the taking from our future.  Sign the petition to save ocean access for the fishermen who feed us! 

Going Green with Mindfulness

I decided today I’d get some shopping done after work and stopped at Times Supermarket.  As I was picking my produce, I glanced over at the checkout counter to anticipate how busy it was.  I noticed that nearly 1 in 10 customers checking out did not use reusable bags.  The majority of people were leaving with at least 3 of the thicker plastic bags in their carts.

I had to laugh inside about this.  In Honolulu county, the environmentalists celebrated passing a plastic bag ban several years ago.  Despite this “win” for them, I can’t help but question if it truly is making a positive impact if I still see plastic bags around.  

Not only are thicker bags around, I’ve got a stock pile of paper bags now because my husband forgets his reusable bags.  These bags tear way more easily and are much harder to carry when you’re in tow with a wiggly toddler and school backpacks.  These are filling up our closet.

The part bags and the thicker bags clearly require more energy and input to produce.  So I have to think if we really are saving the land with these actions?  Have we made a greener choice?

If I look at the environmental legislation passed in Hawaii, I think that the short feel good laws haven’t been thought through enough before being passes.  Another example of poor legislation is the tourism issue at Hanauma Bay.

In this past week, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported on high volume of tourists coming in via taxis.  A law was passed to curb tour companies from bringing in bus loads of people to minimize the impact on the bay. It apparently isn’t working since there is a loophole with other modes of transportation.  Was the law really fulfilling its intent?

The same type of thinking applies to the anti-GMO issue.  With all the fear mongering around biotech, the green groups aligned with the Hawaiians to demand a ban on biotech taro research.  Instead of keeping an option open to build some evidence on how to address major plant dieseases that could devastate the crops, the shortsighted thinkers took away a tool.  What is evident is that a new disease is hitting farmers and what tools will they have sustain their livelihoods?  Where in mythology was there a way to save a figure?  

With companies caving to GM free ingredients, there is a consequence.  It might mean more insecticides and different management of weed control.  So consumers who associate GM with pesticides may actually be returning us to using more of it.  To the consumer who is feeling like they saved the earth by their purchases, they actually did the opposite in reality.  

I’m starting to wonder if going green is really a good thing if the ones backing it are setting us up for failures in the future.  Did we consider all the consequences before setting to legislate on the issue? If we didn’t ask more questions, then we didn’t look closely enough at the results of our action.

Then again, going green has had a good result in some ways.  We have thicker plastic bags to hold more dog poop with and bags that don’t fly away!



 I’m now learning firsthand how to take care of my home now being an official homeowner. It’s been in need of some major repainiting inside, so I’ve been learning how to paint.  Luckily, my mom’s dad was a painter, who taught me some basic skills.

My grandpa and I used to spend summers helping neighbors spiff up their homes.  I’d go with him to help him out.  We’d also go together to the paint stores to pick up supplies.  

I learned some key lessons from him.  The first one was always use quality paint.  The second was use good brushes and rollers.  The last lesson was to take care of your tools.

I learned those lessons over 20 years ago and somehow forgot them recently.  I had discovered that my toilet upstairs was leaking.  I figured it out when I tried painting the ceiling below it and the paint peeled.  I decided to fix the toilet myself instead of hiring someone. Well, that turned into a way bigger job than expected.

When I pulled off the toilet, I found the flooring all peeling up.  The paint on the walls were chipped and peeling too.  I also found the bathroom vanity falling apart and I decided to just redo the entire bathroom myself.  What was going to just be a toilet repair turned into a huge job.

I thought I’d start with the painting first before doing the floors and ripping up the toilet.  Forgetting the lessons learned, I bought a lesser quality paint and some generic brushes and cheap rollers.

I did a layer of paint that looked pretty nice.  Once it dried, I took a closer look and realized that it didn’t do a good job covering the white walls.  Darn I thought.  I got to paint it again!  

Well, I realized something after that.  The quality of the paint does make a difference as well as the tools needed.  What was I thinking?

I headed back to the neighborhood hardware store and got some quality paint and the brushes that were under lock and key.  Sure enough, when I used the better tools, I had a noticeable improvement.  

Me being the constant thinker realized that this is the same for farmers.  They want the good stuff.  If they go for the cheap stuff, it won’t have a good result.  Farmers choose the best seeds that have been tested and have the desired traits.  This helps to ensure a desired result.  Even gardeners pick up fresh seeds every season!  Even organic farmers have seed catalogs to select the best seed types available.

While the anti-GMO movement continues to unfold here in Hawaii as a fake “grassroots” campaign, the industry funded right to know continues to put political pressure at the federal level.  The developing world is watching what’s happening here and holds the potential tools from the small farmer.  In a world where the majority derives income from agriculture, we are quick to deny them access to improved seeds.  We don’t even allow them the chance to ensure food security to begin with.  It’s cruel to do this.  

In order for me to have the best result, I need access to the best tools and best inputs.  It saves a lot of time and the result is ensured.  The politics can’t be the deciding factor of access to good tools, the research and evidence must lead the way.  

Don’t let the rest of the world have a shoddy painted home.  Let them decide for themselves how to color their homes and support access to those good tools to do it.  

Ugly Teeth

Little kids have no filter in what they will say about things.  My five year old, Katelyn, always reminds me of that daily.  A few days ago she told me that she wanted to become a dentist and fix people’s teeth.  I asked her why she wanted to do that.

She sat and pondered for a brief moment then stated that she wanted more people to have nice teeth.  She went on to tell me that she wanted to fix her papa’s teeth because they didn’t look very nice.  She sat and thought for a bit, then asked me why was his teeth so ugly.

I told her that her papa, my dad, grew up very poor.  As a kid, going to the dentist meant money being spent.  The only time they went to the dentist was if they absolutely needed it.  She was totally shocked that he didn’t go every so often like she does when he was her age.  Katelyn was very surprised.  My kids have never known poverty.

I went on to tell her how he spent time with his dad combing the dump to find metal scraps and parts to be reused.  She couldn’t believe that he did that as a kid.  I told her that without money, you had to use things that people no longer wanted.  There was no Home Depots around to buy hardware or other building supplies.  She couldn’t believe there were no shopping malls either.

I asked her if she knew how papa got food as a kid.  She stated confidently, “A market!” I said nope, not a market.  My grandparents raised their own food from chickens, pigs, and dairy cows.  Eating chicken meant killing the bird and cleaning it.  She pondered it a bit and asked about the feathers and the blood, to which I confirmed that it was messy.

I asked if she knew how papa got milk.  She didn’t know so I told her that papa’s mom would milk the cows and then boil it before serving it.  They didn’t have a refrigerator back then so milk had to be made daily.

I even told her how my dad didn’t need a toy box either.  Everything he played with was homemade.  He’d even use bits of aluminum foil to make something to play with.  Used tin cans also made a toys too.  Some rope and a bunch of banana stumps could form a raft.  There was no TV or computers back then.

Katelyn was simply amazed to learn about my dad’s childhood.  I asked her if she wanted to live like he did and she said no way.  I asked her why.  Her reply was that she liked having a nice dentist, toys, and a refrigerator.  

It’s funny that little kids can grasp the concept of how hard life was back in the old days.  Too many adults can’t even understand that when life back then was tough and yet is romanticized that it was better.  We have life pretty easy thanks to the hard work of those farmers who are so efficient.  Katelyn, a five year old, got that and even said she felt lucky.  

We are lucky and one would think we would be grateful for it.  Maybe that is a lesson that hasn’t been learned by the people behind the anti-agriculture movement.  What happened to showing thankfulness for what we have?

If the adults can’t model gratitude, what example does that set for the next generation?

Cop Out Mentality

I have three kids with two in grade school.  I love them dearly but I do go a little crazy when it comes to doing homework.  Actually, I feel like tearing my hair out much of the time.

Why? The new learning style of reading and writing means letting the child use phonetics to write the word out and not correct them.  It’s pretty frustrating when your kids wants you to tell them all the letters instead of doing the sounding out part, which is tedious and very time consuming.  It also means less playtime on the IPod or outside.  A lot of brainpower is needed and parental patience is needed throughout this ordeal.

As I sit to do this homework with my daughter, she is quick to demand that I simply tell her the letter.  She will tell me, “It’s too hard for me! Just tell me how to spell the words!”  I always have to remind her about the guidelines that was given to allow the child to put down what they think and correct it above the sentence.  It teaches them how to apply the phonetics to reading and writing.

My second daughter is a perfectionist that wants all the right letters and gets really ornery about it.  “Just tell me Momma!” She’ll scream this over and over.  I’ll stand my ground and remind her to try so that she can learn.  I sometimes feel like my head will explode at times listening to this.

As I watched her throw a hissy fit, I was reminded about the Just Label It and US Right to Know campaigns with their catchy slogans.  They tell their followers to demand their right and demand mandatory labeling.  There is no mention about learning the science behind ag technology or the issues farmers face.  These groups don’t even educate people about how organic crops are grown and the bugs or the inputs needed.  Nothing of the sort is ever mentioned in any of their literature or websites.  They demand transparency of others but don’t even practice what they preach.

There’s no mention about learning why or how the organic industry’s history or information on how they produce their crops.  Not a shred of transparency about how many pounds of pesticides are used per acre or the estimated energy expenditure is required for this method.  Nothing of this sort is ever mentioned.  It’s all about THEIR rights and no one else’s.  Protest, protest about your rights and forget the consequences it may have on others because it’s all about ME, ME, ME and MY FOOD! As I look at this, they are angry adults who are refusing to learn and trying to put the onus on everyone else’s expense and inconvenience.

I see this as human behavior to turn emotional to take the easy route.  Giving my daughter the letters would save me a nice hour of no frustration but it does her no favors.  It teaches her that if she makes enough noise and whining, she’ll get her way.  In truth, it handicaps her in the future.  She won’t have the perseverance and know how to figure something out when I’m not around.  It also absolves her from being responsible for her own actions to face the hard work of critically thinking and navigating her own world.  

This is no different then simply giving a package of food or a papaya a GMO label.  There’s no learning involved to know what it took to get that product.  That little sticker will make these smug food elitists happy but then it just rewards all the protests and encourages no learning and dialogue about this technology.  That’s the consequence I see as a result to caving to demands and handing them an inch. We will only to find that they’ll take a mile and then seek a ban or tell the poor that GM foods are dangerous because it’s labeled.

As a mother, I know that I can’t be there to dig my child out of every difficult moment.  My child should have the necessary tools to be successful no matter where is is and that’s the most powerful lesson I can give her.  My parents instilled that in me the love of learning and discovery.

Imagine if the Big Island GM ban had been upheld and dengue fever ravaged the island.  The GM mosquito that could have been used would be a pipe dream because we listened to the angry voices who never considered the consequences.  It is no different for the banana crops being hit by disease and the Babes Against Biotech trying to block research that could save our farmers.  The loudest voices doesn’t mean that they are right and we should demand that they present evidence based information to back their stance.  Simply listening to a loud voice isn’t going to save lives or help anyone.  It’s time for dialogue and those who are ready to participate should be invited.

While the legislature is starting their session, we have to remember that they are leaders of the land.  They can give the public cop outs with considering bills that lack any urgency or necessity, or they can do the hard work by setting the example by actually setting priorities and use our resources wisely. We have a lot of pressing needs ahead of us that need good foresight to determine the best decision and planning.  What we do now affects our keiki’s future.

In a time when farmers are calling it quits and the next generation is struggling to carry on legacies, I hope that the 2016 Hawaii State Legislature does what is Pono to malama the people.

That is aloha.


Where’s the food among the weeds?

The Peace of Food

This morning as I was sitting in traffic, the song playing on the radio was, “Do they know it’s Christmas?” I’ve always hummed the tune but this time I really paid attention to the lyrics.

This year, this song has a completely different meaning for me.  It’s easy for us to get caught up in the gift buying and holiday madness.  That is completely trivial to me when I know that some of the new friends I made in the Cornell Alliance for Science fellowship live where many people don’t even have the basics of food, shelter, and clean water.  I feel really selfish wanting things I really don’t need.

The original BandAid song was played over 30 years ago and one of the key phrases in in that song is, “Feed the World.” We were all singing these words some 3 decades ago but not really grasping what it meant.  I have seen so many anti-biotech activists saying that the feed the world message is “multinational agrochemical company propaganda” and completely dismiss it.  30 years ago the trend was not farmer bashing of shouting out Monsanto.  It was a different time.

Fast forward to the present and I discovered that there is an updated version of the same song.

The message is still the same.  There are so many others who aren’t as lucky as us in well fed, wealthy countries.  Even in my own state there are people who don’t have much, including children.  We don’t have to drive far to see the homeless living on the streets, under bridges, and on the beaches.

We can give what we can to help others in our own community and even beyond, in the global community.  You don’t have to have lots of money to make someone’s life better.  You can simply come out in support of something that can help people.

My gift to the world is supporting science for the betterment of improving lives.  That investment to help others can hopefully give a world of peace for my children.  Will you do that for all children?