The Hate Towards Farmers Must Stop

Today there were two articles featured in Civil Beat.  One was on Senator Nishihara’s introduction to the SB110, with the Right to Farm Act provision, and the second one was one done by Ross Sibucao, a papaya farmer and Hawaii Papaya Industry Association President.

I had thought that the hateful comments would stop, boy was I wrong.  The hate and nastiness is coming out in full force against the farmers.  It’s just despicable that our leaders can’t see this or choose to ignore it.  Read on below to see what heinous things are being said.

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This is not what Hawaii agriculture needs right now.  We need leaders who will foster its growth and development.  It’s amazing to me how so many people believe the earth is changing, but then reject the same technology that can give farmers the tools to overcome this.  A recent news article shows that this is indeed a real problem that will eventually affect us.  The farmers and scientists all know this but somehow the news has missed our government leaders.

It will be more important than ever to have the latest tools available to maintain our food supplies.  When there is a drought or some other extreme weather, we’re going to have to choose what works and in many cases, it may not be organic.  Whatever the case, the most efficient and highest yielding methods must be used.  Why limit the tools now with popular opinion vs. what the data says?

As legislators, you have a responsibility to all of us to do what is right, not just to the loudest shouters and conspiracy thinkers.  Many of you were able to make that same hard decision when it was the issue of gay marriage.  You chose to look at the evidence and support the minority that needed their rights protected.  I still can’t understand why you as leaders, can’t step up and do the same for the rights of farmers.  When there are no tools available to the farmers and too many burdensome laws, will you leave that as your legacy to our islands?

A Journey Out of the Fear Mongering Jungle for a Politician

Just this past Sunday, Amy Harmon, a Pulitzer prize winning NYT writer, did a great story about a Hawaii County Councilman’s journey through what I call the fear mongering jungle here in our state.  It is something that many of our politicians should read about to get through the fact vs. the fiction around the issue.  It is a long read but covers through many of the statements that one has heard in testimonies from the anti-GMO activists.  It also points out to the resources that debunk many of those same claims.

It is of no surprise that the anti-GMO activists have jumped on this story.  Their retorts on this is far from facts but once again at personal attacks.  Just take a look at what Food Democracy Now posted about it on their Facebook page.

This kind of tactic only proves more and more that there is no facts or evidence in the so called GMO debates.  It’s based on conspiracy theories, propaganda, and fear mongering when they have to come down to this level.

Jessica Wooley Wants to Redefine Agriculture Rather Sink Farmers

I realized last year, with the brouhaha of the failed labeling law, that we do not have enough local voices in politics. I decided to start participating in the neighborhood board meetings. I have been attending these meetings monthly since June this year.

At this last meeting something very peculiar happened. Jill Tokuda and Ikaika Anderson’s representative attended as usual and are very regular in their participation to notify the community of what’s going on and what they are working on. The others like Clayton Hee, Cynthia Thielen, and Ken Ito, are non-existent. Jessica Wooley will send a representative twice but never attended it herself since June. At this past month’s meeting, no one on the board recognized her, and as a result, and mistook her for another presenter.

She did a quick report on what she plans to do as the agriculture chair. Basically she wants to redefine what agriculture means in Hawaii, referring to calling it the growing of food. I asked her what she will be doing to help farmers. She also talked about attempting to get that label on biotech derived foods and stated, “there is no regulation” on it. Of course she continued stating that consumers should be able to know and that papaya farmers are already doing it for export and it won’t shouldn’t affect them by doing it here. She did also state that, “I would not ban GMOs.”

As I listened to her answers and statements, I started to think more about what she was saying. Okay so you feel that there is no regulation, which is completely false, and that a label is going to suddenly create this sense if transparency that her “constituents” want. Something doesn’t make any sense here.

Why is a label suddenly going to solve the transparency and so called “right to know issue” after you just stated that there is no regulation? If you are so concerned about no regulation, then why don’t you work at the federal level to start these regulations that you claim there is none? Doesn’t that make more sense? If you were to travel to somewhere else, as a consumer, you won’t be able to get your right to know since there is nothing across the board by state. A consumer could unwittingly eat GMOs at a restaurant and that would be such a travesty too because that is not labeled!  Even the locally produced foods like papaya seed salad dressings to some locally made taro chips would all need a label too so that these folks’ right to know are fulfilled and that they are suddenly enlightened by this label!  Poor Hawaii constituents would not have their rights respected Ms. Wooley if they were to go to a Las Vegas Trader Joes! You’re not protecting peoples’ rights! What a non-tragedy!

Of course Ms. Wooley doesn’t show her transparency when it comes down to who’s feeding her this information. She is well connected to anti-GMO groups like Center for Food Safety attorney, Andrew Kimbrell, and is married to David Henken of Earthjustice. Take a look at what these people say about why they want this label from the Genetic Literacy Project.

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Knowing all of this, I asked her if she was aware of what is happening to many small farmers in the community. I shared with her, as well as all the board members present, about how some farmers reported being asked if their bananas and produce were organic.  When it was told to the person that it wasn’t, the questioner tossed it aside very rudely and marched away in disgust.  Jessica raised her eyebrows stating that she was not aware of this and it should have turned into a police report of some kind.  I told her that these farmers are afraid to speak up against this and become targets.  Local people don’t speak up against these activists for that very reason.  I’m not sure which planet she lives on but these anti-GMO activists have been doing this for some time already and there was a public incident with this already that made the news.

We all know that there is a lot of hope in the anti-GMO movement that somehow this is going to make people eat healthier.  Do you actually think that a little sticker on a package is going to help that?  When those fat free labels appeared on food stuff did it make people eat better?  Uh, no.  Shame on her for thinking that this really is going to make a difference all to earn more money from consumers marketed with fear.  That’s where shortsighted thinking in politicians get us no where.  A label isn’t going to change people’s weights! Education about healthy eating is!

If Jessica Wooley is really wanting the focus of agriculture to be on food and growing it, I suggest she rethink her strategy.  Making more laws against farmers isn’t going to make more people want to get into farming.  It already is a difficult business to stay afloat given the high costs of land, labor, and supplies.  It doesn’t help that weather, disease, and other uncontrollable variables can devastate your whole year’s worth of work either.  If you make laws to limit the tools and research in agriculture, that itself will make it even less viable as a profession.  Does that mean your out to kill farming that isn’t organic because it sure appears that way?

I was sent some commentary about the petition that was posted to help open up a forum for others to speak up for our farmers.  This has created a small storm of controversy in the GMO Free Groups of course and someone sent this comment to me.

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I find it amazing that her GMO Free followers actually get it but they just don’t connect the dots about what they say.  Yes, farmers are poor and why are you making it harder for them to do their job Ms. Wooley and GMO Free groups?  Wouldn’t it be better to ask them, “How can we make your job easier so you can do what you need?”  That would be a much better option then outright stating that you need to label your produce because your right to fair treatment is outweighed by the needs of activists.  That’s a pure kick in the face to our farmers.

If Wooley is about fulfilling her role as someone who wants to make Hawaii better as a transplanted local, she needs to take off the anti-GMO hood and stop wasting our taxpayer dollars on that little label of hers.  If she really wants to help people live better, have more farmers, and grow more food, she needs to get off her “right to know” “label it” podium and reinvest those monies and resources back to the farmers and towards educating the public about healthy eating if her motives were right.  But we all know the truth about her agenda here which is plain to see where she wants to take small papaya farmers…  Into extinction.

Mayor Carvalho: Doing What is Right for Kauai

This is a letter by the Cassel Family submitted to the Kauai County Council in support of Mayor Carvalho’s decision on Bill 2491:

We support Mayor Carvalho’s courageous decision on Bill 2491. We commend him for standing up for respect for the law, taking the time to do things right the first time, and making sure everything is legal. We need to work together to change gradually to organic methods and find realistic ways to support agriculture on this island and not destroy it first.

We love seeing the beautiful coffee trees while driving from Eleele to Kalaheo; with the proposed large buffer zones tourists may only see weeds. We really appreciate all the work that G & R, the corn companies, and Kauai Coffee do to keep the westside rural; it’s a blessing.

Real change comes from working together in a spirit of lokahi: unity, harmony, agreement. Out of the currently existing division and hysteria, our incredibly strong mayor can build lokahi and support for traditional Hawaiian values. We have become such a litigious society; even both sides in this issue are sue-happy and want to just settle it in court. We fully support the Mayor’s statement that “It would be my preference to achieve the goal through cooperation and understanding, instead of through adversarial legal action.”

The corn companies are already highly regulated by very diligent Department of Agriculture inspectors. Workers receive extensive pesticide application training, as opposed to homeowners we’ve seen spraying in shorts and t-shirts, totally violating the label law of over-the-counter pesticides. If they didn’t read the label enough to dress properly, can we trust that they read it enough to apply the proper amount? Actually, a lot of this boils down to trust, and after all this public hysteria and attacks, those companies are going to be sure to do everything right according to the label laws.

Another thing to remember is that thanks to Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, the pesticides used now-a-days have shorter half-lives and are pretty specific to their target. Before, for instance, to prevent termite damage decades ago, they used to spray so much Chlordane by foundations of plantation houses in Kekaha that you can still smell it in the soil. Despite this, the life expectancy is higher than ever before on Kauai, and the only cancer that is increasing is melanoma on the skin from spending so much time in our glorious sunshine (if one looks carefully at Department of Health statistics.) In other words, it’s something that needs regulated, not something to get hysterical about.

If the people fighting agribusiness want to fight something that is really killing the brain cells of our youth, destroying our families and our lives, raising crime rates, they should go after ice and other drugs.

It would behoove us to build a unified vision for Kauai and our mayor has the character to be a true leader. Stellar leadership involves charting the unknown, much like how the original Polynesian canoe voyagers set out into the unknown, with only their known values the stars to guide them, and found Hawaii.

This uncharted territory to try to re-unite Kauai could involve developing a workforce to prove the feasibility of farming organically on a large scale: pick bugs, pull weeds, mulch with guinea grass, expand the integrated pest management the companies are already doing, etc. Provide a framework for people to put their time where they say their convictions lie. Workdays could be combined with vision brainstorming sessions, with both sides involved. Kauai could become a world class example of “agribusiness meets organic farming and — they won!

A people united can do anything they put their minds to. Mayor Carvalho is truly the subject of the song “You raise me up to walk on stormy seas” that he sang so beautifully at the Mayor’s Prayer Luncheon a couple years back. I’m sorry he’s had to take so much verbal abuse for this, but we need more people to stand up for what is right, and we thank him for his great and shining example.

Aloha,

The Cassels of Waimea Valley
Ruth Cassel, James Jr. and Katie Cassel, and Tom Cassel