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


Cotton and Sheep

This past weekend was the Hawaii State Farm Fair at Kualoa Ranch.  Usually, my dad’s farm has a booth there where we sample papayas.  However, we’ve been sold out the last several weeks so we aren’t able to host it.  It’s actually great that we are selling all of our papayas, including the off grade ones.  

This year, I helped man the booth for the Hunting Farming Fishing Association instead.  I’m one of the founders of this volunteer run group to help protect the rights of those user groups and to educate the public about what we do.  I spent nearly 20 hours this weekend getting it put together and talking to hundreds of people.

The first day there was spent figuring out the crowd and talking story with folks.  We had kids coloring and asking lots of questions about hunting and fishing.  On the second day, I decided to get more sophisticated and brought my Indian corn and a cotton boll.

When kids were eyeing the lollipops we had our, I’d show them my cotton boll to see if they knew what it was.  Nearly a third of the kids and quite a few adults had no idea what it was.  I’d let them handle it and they still had no idea.  Several answered that it was a sheep and the soft part was wool!

It made for a lot of giggling when I turned the cotton boll over to show the stem.  I’d then ask them if the knew who grew it.  Many answered it correctly and could not believe their clothing came from a plant.  I told them that farmers not only feed you but keep you from going naked.  We all had a good laugh.

After showing them the cotton, I’d show my red corn and ask if they knew what it was.  Many could recognize it was corn.  I asked them if they ate red corn.  None could say yes.  I asked the kids why was it red instead of yellow.  They had no idea.  

Depending on their age, I’d explain that people trying make corn as yummy as possible by experimenting with it. The older kids knew what DNA was so I explained how the DNA was different leading to different types.

There were many “a-ha” moments in kids and parents.  It made me realize that too many think they know things but really don’t know.  This was only proven when our last visitor to our booth started talking about how he was a fish conservationist but also fished.  

We started talking about fish conservation being good but it means that if oceans are to be protected, one must increase food production on land.  If we don’t give other nations tools for productivity, they will head to the forests or oceans for food.  This awkwardly man in his denim shortalls with a straw hat then said that he is all about that but not frankenfish.

I pressed him as to why he was against it and his reply was that he just didn’t think it was a good idea.  He couldn’t elaborate on it but simply walked away saying no way.  I asked him on what he’d do to protect wild stocks then to which he had no answer.

I really had an eye opening weekend to say the least.  I’ve realized that there is a huge need to connect out with the public to educate them on how we grow or catch things to eat.  Until one sees what it takes to feed someone with their own eyes, they really don’t know.  Without true knowledge, the public can never fully appreciate those who feed and clothe us.  If the farmers and scientists don’t tell their story, someone else will.  

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! 

Protect the Keiki and Kupuna 

I do a lot of training of new interns at work and have noticed a very disturbing trend.  I rarely see them asking how to best prepare for it prior to starting.  I somehow get the feeling that I’m supposed to be holding their hand to teach the everything despite having been educated for 3 years.  People need to come with a desire to learn and take initiative to be active in the process.  If not, how can one ever be a good professional serving their clients?

It’s no different for politicians.  One cannot best serve people if they don’t learn the facts.  I’m not surprised that the younger ones like Rep. Chris Lee of Kailua and Rep. Kaniela Ing are leading the charge for the Center for Food Safety’s anti-GMO, anti-agriculture bills.  Ing is even using this issue to fundraise for himself!  They clearly like the attention created by this outside litigator group over focusing on the real issues and haven’t learned to appreciate the advances made in agriculture.  

What is a major issue that needs to be prioritized here that will forever change the aina and affect the most vulnerable?  It’s not farms and it’s not pesticides.  It’s something more dangerous to our entire state if we don’t address it now.  In fact this problem will likely impact all farms and endanger all farmers and their workers.  It will also affect everyone’s ability to access beaches and parks if we do not educate people about it.  

If evidence led the way, the legislature would be making this a top priority and funding efforts to address it now.  The public deserves resources directed to actual problems that plague us and and work on stopping it.  Groups like the Center for Food Safety will not educate the public about this issue and the very tools needed to combat it.  They turn a blind eye to it.  Meanwhile, the danger remains  ignored.

The SHAKA Movement is no different with their tactic too.  Whether it be the fire ants or dengue fever, that is or no concern to them.  They continue to manipulate people’s fears around pesticides and GM technology.  They waste public resources that could be used to solve these problems.  

Then again, maybe history needs to repeat itself.  The organic industry really isn’t about the health or wellness of others.  In Uganda, they helped to block malaria spraying to maintain their certifications for organic cotton.  As a result of this fear campaign where people were told they’d be infertile and have other unfounded issues, some 2000 children die each day from malaria.  There’s no gray area to balance saving lives by going organic because it’s not based in evidence.  We can’t endanger lives because someone won’t use factual evidence.  That’s irresponsible and deadly.

So while Rep. Lee and Rep. Ing are busy peddling fear with the likes of alien believers of Shaka, the entire state’s aina and its people are left to the side effects of dengue fever and the little red fire ant.  We, the public, deserve better service than self serving charlatans that put us all in harm’s way.  

Politicians in Hawaii clearly do not understand the process of science.

The Truth About Pesticides in Paradise

I want to know the truth about the issue of the pesticide complaints in Hawaii so I decided to review the raw data myself to see.  I made a request in the interest of public information to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.  I looked for complaints across the state in zip codes where many of the farms targeted are located from 2010 to 2015 to see what the truth really is.

So what did I find? I found a total of 365 complaints made.  If you listened to the Center for Food Safety, you’d think all of them are agriculture related.  It turns out that there were 91 out of that 365 being agriculture related.  A total of 38 came from Kauai alone.  And that number doesn’t equate to any violations either.


Pesticide complaints by island.  Note that after 2011 on Maui county there were no complaints made.

So is agriculture the sole source of the pesticide complaints?  Let’s see what the data says comparing total complaints to agriculture.


As you can see, the agricultural sector only makes up a small number of the complaints compared to other uses.  These complaints don’t always mean there’s a true issue either.  And if so, are we really addressing the real problem?


If you look at the data, the homeowners are the biggest violators of pesticide usage.  So where should our efforts be targeted if this is an issue? What does the evidence say?  The data points to the urban users.  (PCO refers to Pest Company Operators.)

It’s of no surprise that Kauai County Council Member, Gary Hooser, just published his op-ed on the Good Neighbor Program being faulty and trying to point his fingers at a certain pesticide, chlorpyrifos.  He fails to mention that homeowners used to be able to purchase this effective crop protection product prior to it becoming restricted in 2001.  There’s also evidence that some residues do remain in the home but again, it doesn’t mean it’s at a level to be concerned about.  So while Hooser tells people that the residues found in homes are from farms, there’s a high likelihood it could be other sources that he fails to mention to them.  It’s still used in agriculture for citrus, almonds, and other crops that he also fails to mention.  It’s also the prime target of of Earthjustice’s litigation to have the EPA ban it.  So Gary tells the Kauai folks that farms are to blame for this pesticide but fails to tell the entire story to them making them repeat things that can easily be challenged.

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Gary is right in some aspect that we should have a good neighbor program and it means starting with your own neighbors learning how to use those pesticides properly through education.  He conveniently ignores this and goes on to target the farms once again to fan more fears in the community.  He makes no statement of the real problem as he’s counting on the masses to just believe his word and not seek the truth.  Don’t be caught making an unfounded statement and have it called out.


The community getting hit by this is the North Shore of Oahu, where agriculture is still a big component of the landscape there.  I learned that even a principal of an elementary school there was accused of poisoning kids by a parent who resorted to yelling at him in front of kids.  There’s something wrong when parents are so fear mongered that they can’t even keep their behaviors in check around kids at a school.  What kind of example does this set for these kids?  This person continues to video farms and make accusations of him being sprayed and yet he stands there nearly a football field away stating that.  If you were so scared of being poisoned, why stay and why even stand there videoing all of this?  Why even move there to begin with?

I’ve also learned from farmers that they still get complaints of pesticide spraying that are unfounded.  When working outside, some people think that any spray is a pesticide and have called the police on those farmers, especially those who live in ag land between homes.  They get to have a friendly visit from a policeman of the complaint.  How much time and effort is wasted by these kinds of baseless complaints?

It’s really taking a toll on many long time farmers who used to be well respected in the community but now face allegations because of the likes of Ashley Lukens and her organic industry funded, Center for Food Safety.  Her group also is essentially a lot of work for the Department of Agriculture and Department of Health that really misdirecting their efforts away from real issues in the community.  (Her effort should really go after “food safety” issues as their name implies, specifically with Chipotle and all the new food truck vendors popping up on the North Shore of Oahu.  If we want to protect keiki, we’d also better take a look at the real chemicals endangering them like the rising drug use in rural communities.)

The new year is right around the corner and I’m hoping that the data will be loud and clear to our legislators and other politicians.  The public deserves wise use of our resources and not have burned away by outside activists trying to divide communities and disinform people.  It cost families’ relationships on Kauai, Molokai, and Maui.  It cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars to have hearings that were chockful of mantras from unvetted websites and psuedoscientists like Jeffrey Smith.  All of this time and money could’ve been used to get someone off of drugs, take care an isolated kupuna, or give a kid a meaningful recreation program.

There are so many people in need in our communities and so many REAL problems that need addressing.  Just look around and it’s clear where our resources need to go.  We, the public, deserve better management of our community pot.  It’s time for our LEADERS to lead with evidence based policies and not whims of conspiracies lingering from the last 3 years.  The farmers have to farm and we want to.  We are tired of defending our work and have to focus on growing Hawaii.

Come learn from a farmer and see it for yourself the truth.  Let’s make it a better new year and heal the divide in our communities.  Our keiki deserve that for their future.  We have to lead and encourage learning for them and end the attitude of A’ole everything.  That’s the real investment we need to start with and it begins NOW!

The Life of the Land

The Life of the Land

The new year is right around the corner and I am hoping that this year will be a better year than the last.  With what I’ve learned at Cornell during my Alliance for Science fellowship, I have even more hope for the future.

Many people are wondering what in the world could I have spent the last  12 weeks in Ithaca doing.  I can tell you that I learned a tremendous amount of information that if I listed it all, it would take hours on end to put it all down.

I’ll do the top 5 things that I took away from my experience at Cornell.

1) We eat science every single day.  

After touring a day at the Geneva USDA Research Center, I have a newfound appreciation of the food we eat.  Before going to Cornell, I’d simply look at an apple in the market and bag it then later eat it.

After being able to try wild apples the size of a pea to a deep red flesh one, I am amazed of how we get the amazing array of foods in the stores.  Those delicious Honeycrisp apples are a product of at least a dozen years of studying the genome of various crosses and development.  An apple, as well as any other food we eat, is a huge product of science.  

2) Publicly funded biotech research is happening worldwide even though we never hear it.

There are countries across the globe conducting research to develop a variety of crops in the public sector.  From Bt cowpea to wilt resistant bananas, the research is happening to help small farmers around the world grow their crops.  The cries of the anti-biotech activists stating that the world doesn’t want GMOs is completely false.  

There are real problems facing major crops around the world and biotech is a tool to help address these problems.  To claim that the multinational agrochemical corporations are trying to take over the food supply is patently false if countries like Nigeria and Bangladesh have their own research entities creating these innovations.

3) The anti-biotech activism uses people’s deepest fears and tailors it to the locale.

In Hawaii, the activists attempted to fear monger on GMOs but failed and decided to go after pesticides.  However, in developing countries, there are substances used that we have banned here so they don’t mention pesticides.  That is reserved for the wealthy countries with lots of food and far from the farm.  Instead they go with claims that GM food make people gay or infertile.  Wild claims that once again create fear and hysteria is their specialty.

4) There are wonderful scientists in the world doing great things for their country that can’t get it out to their farmers.  

I had the fortunate chance to meet Clet Wandui Masiga of Uganda, who is not only a scientist and a farmer.  He has seen firsthand how improved seeds can make a world of a difference for his fellow small farmers.  Farming in his country faces many challenges and devastation from crop failure affects a large sector of the population since nearly 60-70% are involved in agriculture.  

For us as modern day urbanites relying on Google for learning ag technology to tell an African farmer he can’t have improved seeds is misguided.  We don’t live their lives to know what is best for them but too many have made it their life’s mission.

It was sad to see the angry activists at the Alliance for Science Ask me Anything event telling a fellow from Ghana, “If you accept GMOs, you’re allowing   Monsanto to colonize Africa!” If anything is colonizing these countries, it’s their infectious misinformation that is cause real harm.

5) No matter where we are in the world, we share a common bond.  We are wanting a better future for our children.  The best way to achieve this is through using the best information we have.  By asking questions and studying the issue, we can develop better ways of doing things.  It’s using the process called science to continually learn and understand our world better.

There is knowledge there that we are building upon through those who learned before us.  Like my dad teaching my brother to farm and now looking at my son’s future,  we share hope that the next generation can continue a family legacy or a cultural practice.  

Knowing our roots and passing on knowledge is how we perpetuate our values in our children.  Transient social media activism will not continue those familial bonds or teach life lessons.  

My life has changed after this experience and it really given me clearer picture of the Hawaii I want for the future.  We can sustain our families by continually learning and figuring out how to adapt to our ever changing world.  The world is not black and white and we must seek collaboration.  We can’t take away the very thing that gives us life.  That is how we must move forward for the sake of our children.

The Greatest Global Deception is the Deprivation of Others

Everyday while chatting with Cornell Alliance for Science fellows, I’m starting to realize a very peculiar pattern of intentional misinformation throughout the world.  The activists are quite skillful in how they craft their message to fit their audience and their pattern is evident.  They say one thing  but do another and alter their message depending on the region they are attempting to manipulate.

Here’s just a few observations I’ve observed while listening to claims and tracking down the origins.

1) GMO contamination

While the Hawaii papaya farmers were being ravaged by diseases and scientists worked furiously to come up with a solution, the Greenpeace activists were trying to find their fundraising cause.  They tried to use deforestation however it wasn’t creating much noise.  It was the success of the Hawaiian papaya and possibly the Thai papaya that made Greenpeace realize a new fundraising opportunity.  Back in 2004, they also made the claim that growing crops organically, would solve the ringspot disease.  It’s 2015 and farmers are still getting hit by the ringspot virus and there’s no solution offered.

These activists are doing the same thing claiming that GMOs will contaminate their crops but what good is a crop if it’s not disease resistant and what will keep farmers growing their produce?  The disease pressure will always be around because of the source of it is an aphid.  Piling more soil around the base was touted as way of resisting it but logically, how is that going to prevent the virus from getting into the leaves? The best way to address this issue is not making up solutions by systematically studying it with science.  That’s something that threatens the entire anti-GMO stance.

With the news that some serious diseases affecting crops in Africa may be solved through biotechnology, it’s not surprising that this same pattern of misinformation is arising there too.  There was a recent story that Bill Gates was introducing a terrible strain of virus to the continent to destroy their crops.  It’s the typical fear mongering bit that they love to use.  The activists are spreading even more rumors that this virus will contaminate crops, which is exactly what they did with the Thai and Hawaiian papaya.  Meanwhile, the bad virus is devastating crops and treating food supplies.  The invasive species being introduced to the world isn’t the virus but the introduction of dishonest, wealthy, Western activists.  They are the real danger because they don’t contribute any type of solution to the actual problem at hand.  Then again, they really don’t care because they don’t even know what cassava is!


Forbidden Fruit: Transgenic Thai Papaya

2) GMOs cause Homosexuality

I’ve been told by my fellows from Africa that their activists tell farmers and the public that consuming GMOs will cause people to turn gay.  I did find a source of this claim online on an obscure blog.

“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?’

It’s the same pattern of of the anti-GMO movement that uses science and misinterprets it for their uses.  Basically, they took the research of Tyrone Hayes and extrapolated it directly to humans.  There’s no mention that his results could not be replicated which is a key problem with many of the studies the activists use to promote their agendas.  It’s also interesting that the pesticide Hayes was studying isn’t just used in GMO crops but has been something used in agriculture for nearly 50 years so it’s not exclusive to biotech at all but of course they make it out to be.

3) It’s the Right to Know!

I’ve always been skeptical of the activists’ rallying cry that they have the right to know.  One of the reasons why I didn’t think it was sincere was when my hometown Representative Jessica Wooley make a bold statement that biotech products aren’t regulated at a public meeting and it justified her seeking to label GMOs.  In the US, the public is told to ask their legislators that they have this right to know and force others to label their products in an attempt to attack the corporations.  While they are demanding this right, there’s fear mongering happening around the media by these same people.

Then again, every once in a while, these activists, including the Babes Against Biotech, do show their honestly about this right to know.

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I also love how they are great misinterpreters of information much of the time.  When the Attorney General Doug Chin signed on the Vermont Labeling Lawsuit a few weeks ago, I decided to send my concerns about his action.  I’m glad to learn that it’s not what the anti-GMO activists made it out to be.


The supposed right to know clearly isn’t being told to developing countries’ leaders.  It’s being altered to suit their needs and implying that the US and the EU label to show harm.  Can anyone say they never saw monster corns with teeth folks or babies coming out of corn husks?  That right to know label means one thing in the US but it becomes a license to the anti-GMO folks to misinform the rest of the world.

4) GMOs means Monsanto

Take a look at these photos and see if you know what they are.  Can you recognize what’s being shown in the photo?

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If you don’t know, then you can’t say you know about biotech very much.  This is a cassava plant infected with brown streak virus disease.  This is a staple crop in certain parts of Uganda, Kenya, and other African countries and its getting hit by this devastating disease the renders the crops inedible.  Even the wild pigs don’t eat the tubers when it’s affected by disease.  Farmers who grow these won’t know it’s extent until it’s harvested and entire fields go bad.

So what’s the problem with thinking GMOs equates to Monsanto? This research to solve this major plant problem has nothing to do with Monsanto and is being researched by the public sector in the respected countries.  The government, not a corporation, is trying to solve the pathology to determine a solution for combatting it.  The idea of saving it is pretty similar to that of the inoculation of the papaya with with mild ringspot virus.

Then there is also the banana diseases affecting much of these regions.  A banana plantation usually has a span of 25 years of production but due to various diseases, a plantation can die off in a matter of months.  Bananas are a staple crop also in these areas and with that being gone due to disease, not only can farmers not grow food, the people have nothing in the way of income to support their families.  Like the cassava, banana research is taking place through the government and not Monsanto.

5) GMOs means Pesticides

In yet another launched attack against this technology, when GMOs could not be proven harmful, the activists moved the goal posts yet again and stated that using GM technology equates to using more pesticides.  It’s not surprising that they ignore certain data that the insecticide use has gone down tremendously with the adoption of these crops and herbicide use has gone up.  They also obscure the fact that with herbicide use comes less energy inputs as well as less tillage that contributes to erosion and loss of topsoil.  These people also jump on the IARC classification that it causes cancer and don’t really put it into perspective that pickles, being a hairdresser, and other things are also found in that classification.

The anti-GMO folks are experts in doubt and fear.  They make people so afraid of pesticides but never really put the importance of it into perspective.  In some cases, the fear indeed is deadly.  One example I learned of is the use of DDT for malaria control in the developing world.  Just recently, it’s estimated some 42 children have died daily in Uganda from malaria because of the policy to not allow the spraying of it.  The environmentalists in the US and UK complain about DDT use and don’t see the deaths and suffering their anti-pesticide message harms people.  You can bet that if the situation was reversed, they’d be demanding the right to pesticides. But then alas, it’s not in their backyard so they really can’t think beyond that.

“Feed the World” Message is Bunk to the Anti-GMO Activists

There’s clearly a tactic and strategy that the anti-GMO folks are using here with what they do in one country and what they warp it to in another country.  It’s ironic that they demand transparency and yet truly have no trust of any government body or scientist for that matter.  They are out to protect their own conspiracies around corporations and maintain distrust among their followers.  Providing knowledge and learning is once again detrimental to their bottom lines.  Scaring people so much so that they can no longer think of others is a scary society to live in.

Although the messages about biotech applications to feed the world sound so altruistic and great, it really doesn’t resonate with many people at all.  I’ve seen so many activists state that there’s no need to attempt such a feat since there’s too much food going to waste.  The problem with that is there still is hunger and malnutrition around the world  and sitting on your bum proposing that doesn’t change it.  What’s wrong with giving people in their own countries the right to decide what food crop they want to grow and cultivate?  Who are we as well fed folks telling them that they can’t use biotech to fight plant diseases and pests?  Why can’t we allow them home rule?

As much as many Europeans and Americans don’t embrace the feed the world message, they forget that much of our food has come from around the world.  Our corn came from Mexico based on research in unraveling the genetics of teosinte to the modern day corn cob.  Our rice has its origins in China.  The wheat we consume has its origins in Southwestern Asia.  Oats appear to have originated in Asia Minor or Southeastern Europe.  Chocolate isn’t even from America but can trace its early origins to Mexico.  Even the breadfruit tree in Hawaii likely has its origins somewhere in the Pacific.  The new superfood, quinoa, is an Andean plant but now stocked in every store around.  The latest and greatest foods tend to come from distant places from our country and yet we aren’t allowing them to make decisions on what tools and technology they can use.

So despite the Western countries controversy over biotechnology in agriculture, the issue of food is clearly a global one.  We all eat products from all over the world.  That means that we need to think globally about everyone’s food supply because we are all connected to each other because of the origins of our food.  To stand well fed and announce that you don’t care about what the rest of the world eats is hypocritical because most of the food you ate is likely a product of something from around the world.  If you eat globally, then you’d better start thinking globally.  Lastly, be an honest global citizen!

The Peace from Food

Two things happened the other day that has really struck me.  In my GMO debate class, Dr. Tony Shelton, an entomologist, put this quote up on one of his lecture slides.

There can be no peace in the world so long as a large proportion of the population lacks the necessities of life.

–Lord John Boyd Orr

I left the class pondering this quote for some time.  It’s really similar to what Norman Borlaug stated about there being no peace on an empty stomach.  It made me also think of my husband who gets “hangry” when he is hungry.

After my classes were done, I was talking to one of my Alliance for Science fellows, Peter Wamboga, who is from Uganda.  I wanted to learn more about the situation in his country and what was happening to the people there.

Uganda is one of the leading countries growing bananas, which is their staple crop.  It’s getting hit by all kinds of diseases that are destroying plantations.  A single plantation could yield crops for some 25 years but diseases are wiping them out.

The Ugandans other staple crop is cassava which is also being hit with diseases.  He explained to me how a farmer would plant these tubers and wait for six months to dig it up only to find it rotten.  The disease striking the cassava yields it inedible that even the wild pigs won’t even touch at all.

Farmers don’t know what to do and have complete loss of crops and no incomes.  Their children see the devastation of farming and decide to not farm.  With no crops there is no income.  Some 70% of the population relies on agriculture and crop failures hits entire communities.

With no crops, there is no income and plantations are abandoned.  New lines of work must be found and many head for the capital, Kampala, for opportunities which is already hard to come by.  A cycle of poverty starts.  Some 48% of people in Uganda live in poverty.  Peter said that many people are food insecure and live on a single meal a day if they are lucky.  Quite a few don’t eat most of the time.  The very young and old are hit the hardest.

With rampant poverty and few economic opportunities, the youth turn to crime and join terrorist or crime groups.  It’s a bad situation when the primary economic driver is impacted and there is little to do to combat these problems.

The hope that the Ugandans have exists but they can’t access it.  There has been a lot of cutting edge research on biotech solutions developed by the government itself but due to the first world politics in Europe and the U.S., their parliament has stalled the biosafety bill for nearly 20 years.

The papaya farmers in Hawaii know firsthand that crops can be saved by science.  Despite the success of it, outside radical environmentalists are ready to demonize this technology and create fear mongering campaigns.  They made claims that there is GMO contamination but don’t tell the truth that there would be no industry it it weren’t for biotech.  They told other countries that the GMOs would bring worse diseases and viruses and scared them, yet provided no options for solving the real problem of plant diseases.

These same radicals are creating the fear campaigns against GMO cassava by telling farmers to reject it because of the contamination and the virus will get worse because of this technology.  Greenpeace launched an eerily similar campaign against the papayas yet gave no solution to saving this crop.  They created a barrage of fear of in farmers around the world but still gave nothing back to them. They will go so far as to tell them that GMOs make people overweight or gay.  They take advantage of the uneducated population by manipulating emotions.

The events unfolding in front of me became too clear yesterday.  While activists are trying to portray the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation as bad for working with Monsanto, the kind of actions they are taking is way worse than I can fathom.  These people cannot see the consequences of their actions around the world.  By keeping the developing world from producing their own food and using technology to do so, the elitists foodies and activists promote more hopelessness and destitution right at the heart of the farmers.  The farmers are what supports these communities and their work feeds people.  Without food, there can be no peace.

Hungry, desperate people leads to an unstable society that is easily manipulated by unsavory interests.  That’s the real threat that makes this a huge global issue.  Global instability can hurt all of us.  

The most seemingly benign issue such as the “Right to Know” GMO label is even more dangerous.  Greenpeace and ilk tell the people in the poorest countries that biotech products are dangerous which is why it’s labeled.  They are deceitful with what they tell the public here but then craft a different story to others.  They claim that they are being kept in the dark and have named the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act the “Dark Act.” This act is correctly named by the activists as passing this law means less darkness and despair for the developing world who wants this technology.  I can just see it that by giving into the GMO label will be miscommunicated as warning to the poor that they should reject that’s crops.  That’s how these activists will likely spin the stories.

I’m terrified to think of all the consequences of this global GMO debate.  It may mean that one day, my little boy may be called up to fight in a war to protect our country from global instability.  My children may not be able to live in times of peace and prosperity because of an angry, hungry world.

I cannot sit back and let misinformation, dishonest tactics, and willful ignorance deny others the right to food.  The decisions we make now and the global impacts indeed are real.  I want a peaceful world for my children and we all should support those innovations that will lead us in that direction.

The Pay It Forward Shill

The Pay It Forward Shill

My time here in Cornell has been somewhat of an emotional roller coaster ride, but not in a bad way.  I came really excited to meet fellow allies who have been affected by the anti-GMO activism across the globe.  As I learned about their stories and experiences in Kenya, Ghana, Bangladesh, Philippines, and Nigeria, I felt very sad.  They had firsthand experiences of knowing farmers’ who have lost their crops and livelihoods to disease and pests.  My dad’s farm also has had the same experiences but thanks to technology, he still can grow his papayas.

My dad worked two jobs for the majority of his life.  He had a full time day job at the BYU-Hawaii physical plant to provider our family with a steady income and health insurance.  After he finished work there, he went to work on the farm.  When the farm failed over the years to disease, his day job was the backup.  My siblings and I also had to take on part time jobs once we were of age to work to support the family.

For farmers in developing countries, farming is the main economic driver for their communities as I’m learning.  Some 80% of the population relies on agriculture for their livelihoods.  If crops fail, it spells utter devastation for many and the consequences go far beyond just the farm.

I’ll readily admit that I was somewhat ignorant to realizing how important agriculture is to the people of Africa.  I was really saddened when I saw this meme of the Hawaii anti-GMO movement on a slide in a Kenyan farmer advocate’s presentation.

It included many Hawaii politicians and activists that were behind the furor of the movement back in 2012.  Here were well fed and clothed people using misinformation to demand the labeling of GMO under the disingenuous “Right to Know” campaign.  The Hawaii movement was indeed affecting many countries in Africa the right for farmers to use a technology, all of which are public sector developed, to help grow their crops and sustain their families.  I feel ashamed that we, the people of the Aloha State, were using misinformation to keep farmers from these tools that could offer better ways of farming.

The activists were quick to demand their rights but think nothing about the rights of others to have access basics.  Not only do these people promote a selfish message but they also told people that they’d turned gay or impotent by consuming GM foods! They used the battle cry of home rule but knew explicitly that Hawaii’s wins would dictate the issue in far off countries.  I can now clearly see how we as a state is truly being used as a pawn by radical extremists like Greenpeace and the seemingly legitimate Center for Food Safety.

I felt the bleeding of aloha early on in the social media and can now pinpoint the source of it.  The Greenpeace attitudes of using intimidation, threats, and ecoterrorism have taken root in my home state.  Their manipulative fear campaigns take full advantage of otherwise normal folks and get them to reject the science permeating our lives.  It’s mean to take advantage of peoples’ ignorance and turn them into raging bullies on the Internet.  This is a clear reflection of radical environmentalists dictating policy which is wrong but accepted by the activists who defend bad behavior.

I was truly disappointed when the state attorney general, Doug Chin, signed on to the Vermont labeling case.  Leaders of our state still haven’t figured out the true motives of the manipulation.  We are food secure and can demand all kinds of rights about our foods and use it as a means to scare other countries on why it’s bad.  It sets a bad precedent to the world who truly needs these tools.

My heart breaks knowing that my home state is the center of this global battle that shouldn’t be.  How can we call ourselves the aloha state when we allow ourselves to be manipulated like this? We have no aloha if our actions deny others a better quality of life.  

I want others to have a better quality of life and truly believe in using evidence not emotion to guide our policies.  The Hawaii Crop Improvement Association generously gave me $2000 to help further my knowledge about agriculture globally.  I thank them for investing in me but I realize that I am able bodied and can work to earn income for years to come.  

There are people at home who need help and after much thought, I selected the best use for their generosity.  I decided to donate $1000 each to the Hawaii Food Bank and the Meals on Wheels program.  I get peace knowing that 117 meals can go to seniors through Meals on Wheels and some 250 meals can be given out by the Food Bank.  Why should I deny others food when I have plenty?

So, yes, it is first time I can truly call myself a shill for taking money from the industry.  I’m officially the pay it forward shill. It’s not in my pocket but in the hands of those who need it the most.  Will my home state do the same by setting an example to the world by supporting policies that helped our papaya farmers help global farmers? 

Lead by example and let’s start today by giving to others with evidence based policies.



When Science is Silenced

Last week was science week at the Cornell Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellowship Program.  I had a chance to get some great education on entomology, crop science, animal science, and plant breeding.  I’ll admit that I am very much uninformed about many of these areas of agriculture and it’s nice to have a good basic understanding of these topics to start good fact based discussions.  It’s amazing to me how the average social media person can state that they know more than scientists after sitting in on so many of these great lectures.

The other day, I had a chance to hear Dr. Kevin Folta speak about his topic and what’s happening with the Freedom of Information Act abuses by Gary Ruskin’s U.S. Right to Know group.  This group has used the FOIA law to obtain the emails of Dr. Folta in an attempt to connect him to the evil empire of the anti-GMO movement, Monsanto.  (You can read more on this attack on him and some 40 other scientists who have chosen to speak out for science.)

I’m very saddened by the kind of tactics that the organic industry has leveled against people who have chosen to speak out for science.  The leaders of this industry take advantage of people’s fears and bombard them with lots of misinformation.  Their entire marketing scheme relies of maintaining fear.  It’s a very precarious state to maintain when people start to question it.  This industry in threatened by education because once someone is provided some inkling of knowledge and facts are challenged, the truth comes out loud and clear.

Humans are curious brings from the time we are born.  My son reminds me of that everyday.  As soon as he gets up, he’s crawling around searching his environment and exploring his world.  Everything is new to him and interesting.  He has an innate ability to want to touch things, stand up on different objects, crawl or scoot, or just roll around.  Every single one of us is born with that fascination.

I find it very dangerous that the USRTK has taken the liberty to use a law to stifle that curiousity.  When people are no longer encouraged to explore their environments or ask questions, we literally become imprisoned in our own minds.  It’s the same tactic that the Hawaii anti-GMO activists do when they create catchy slogans like the “poisoning of paradise” and “destroying the sins” and so on.  Their slogans are very cleverly framed also so that if one does support GMOs, they back you into a corner that one must be pro-pesticide.

It is no different when people like the Food Babe pre-bans people on her page to avoid criticism.  It’s the same tactic the Babes Against Biotech did to me when I pointed out that some pesticides in organic agriculture are toxic to bees.  A movement based in fear and misinformation can’t tolerate any questioning and relies on repeated slogans and catchphrases.  True education and critical thinking is dangerous to their movement.

The heart of innovation comes from curiousity and always figuring out ways to do things better.  We don’t like doing things the same old way every time and look to be more efficient and improve upon ourselves.  Science is a process that helps us look at things differently to figure things out.  It gives us the base knowledge to ask questions and figure out a plan and process to solve a problem.  When farmers have problems with their crops, it is the scientists who work with them to help provide solutions to sustain their work.  I know because I’ve seen how papayas were saved by research and technology.

The world needs more curiousity and innovative thinkers.  It relies upon leaders like Dr. Folta to challenge, engage, educate, and inspire.  It’s what I do for my children to prepare them for the future.  My dream is for them to become leaders in their fields of choice guided by evidence based reasoning.  I hope that great scientists like Kevin Folta and others light that flame in the youth of the world.  Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know but go out and learn about it and figure out how to solve a problem.   We as a country need to restore respect for work of any scientist who actually do work to help people through educating others to do the same.  When their students leave their classes, they will go on to work some place and develop their skills to make things better for each of us.  That is what we all want for the world we live in.