A Conversation with an Anti-GMO Armchair Farmer

The other night, I was checking my newsfeed on Facebook when I came across a friend’s post about TEDx no longer going to post pseudoscience.  Apparently, an anti-GMO fanatic decided to chime in on it and add some 100 or so replies with the pro-science folks there.  The kind of things she was saying were way out there and just spammy.  I decided to send her some feedback on her commentary to him.

My first message to her was, “Just saw how you spammed up Richard Ha’s thread.  Geez.”

Surprisingly I got a reply from her!  Of course she mentioned that she did not want her comments reposted even though she was reposting the whole conversation on her own public page.  (You can read the entire conversation on her page since she didn’t want me reposting but she did the favor of posting it herself.)  She was afraid that “with my mentality it would get a distorted interpretation.”  Interesting.

I won’t repost her comments but I’ll list the common statements made by these anti-GMO armchair farmers.

1.  You can’t trust any study at all because they are all paid for by the industry.

2.  I can’t figure out real studies from papers.  This is a study to her.  Looks legitimate so it must be.

3.  You can grow things without chemicals and just kill bugs by hand.

4.  GMOs like spam and McDonalds are direct causes of diabetes.

5.  There are chemicals being sprayed all around that are killing us.

6.  Because I know and read a lot about farming, I can tell farmers how to rotate their crops and how to plant it.

7.  We should go back to how we ate in 1778 because life was better back then.

8.  There are no long term human studies on the safety of GMOs.  I don’t know how it would be tested but we do need them.

9.  GMO papaya leaf extract can’t cure malaria.  Only organic papaya leaves can cure it.

10.  Bans of GMO foods are the reason why they are bad.  Forget the fact that the country imports it in for feed, it still is bad.

11.  In order to have studies that will satisfy an anti-GMO activists requirements, the biotech industry must pay for it and the organic industry chooses the scientist.  No one can be trusted unless it is chosen by their side.

12.  Bugs are all the same, they aren’t different and we should love them all.  Bugs are not pests.  Hmmm….

13.  Organic farmers should not be governed by any corporate law.  Um, did you know that organics are owned by large corporations?

14.  The land is being poisoned but I have no evidence to that claim but I’ll still say it.

15.  I am pro science but I can’t tell you how to conduct a study or even know how to discern out legitimate ones.

16.  I love watching videos, scary ones too like this one.  I’m fixated on DDT.  Videos relay all the information I need to know about GMOs.

16.  Join in on the marches because they are fun!

Does any of this make sense to you?  It sounds like a lot of mumble jumble just like the posts she puts all over the place.  And these are the kinds of people that are telling our farmers and lawmakers how and what kind of laws we need in our communities.  That is not the responsible thing to do and just shows that a politician or farmer should not have to listen to these kinds of constituents.  Just because they are loud and proud of their ignorance does not translate into making laws.  That is purely irresponsible!

**Her tirade continues on tonight once again and sure enough, out comes the Natural News links!  Proof that these people don’t know quackery from science.**

A Day on Papa’s Farm

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From the time my siblings and I could follow directions, we were working on the farm.  Our Saturdays were spent on the farm working.  We did get to play here and there while waiting for the harvested fruit to come in from the fields.  Those were some fun and great memories.  The memory that sticks in my head is

My mom reminded me that at 3 years old, my youngest sister was already stickering the papayas.  As an 8 year old, I was one of the washers who cleaned the fruit before packing.  From there I moved on to grading the fruit to some packing.  It was hard work!

I want my kids to experience that too so we headed down to the farm today.  I already warned them that we were going down there to work and not just play.  My older daughter agreed to it since she found out that she could collect recyclables and make some money afterwards.

Today started out with my younger one, KK in awe of all the tractors everywhere on the farm.  She saw some at the sales lot a few days ago and kept telling my dad that she wants to ride one.  Just look at her face and see the thrill of just sitting on one.

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KK getting to hang out on one of papa’s tractors. She’s my dirty little farm girl kid.

While the fruit was being picked in the fields by my dad’s hard working staff, we were preparing for the packing and processing.  Harvesting is done by a forklift as the trees do get pretty tall and this is a much more efficient way to get the work done.

Processing the fruit takes a lot of prep work.  That included taping up boxes to pack in, setting up the bins and wash tub to clean the fruit in and setting up the sorting area as well as the final storage area after it was packed up.  Our farm complies with all of the food safety certifications and follows the rules very closely with washing the fruit properly as well as handling it as approved.  We are food safety certified with a perfect passing score according to my brother, Mike.

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The hard working staff processing the fruit by grading it, washing it, and sorting it.

After it is prepared, the fruit is then packed up according to size which takes some skill as to packing them properly.

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Finally after being packed, these fruits are stickered and palleted.

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KK and Ky hard at work putting those exclusive Kamiya Papaya stickers on the fruits.

Tomorrow it will be ready to go out to the stores, restaurants, small markets, and hotels to be sold or served up to their customers.  Many of whom come clamoring for it every week for years!

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My Adventures with the Anti-GMO Club

I remember back last year when the hot topic issue was the labeling of GMOs in the legislature.  I really didn’t care too much about it until I got meme after meme about the dangers of GMOs from a Facebook friend of mine.  I thought, wow, this must be bigger than I expected.

Having worked on the research myself, I knew the safety and testing and had no qualms about it.  I even ate the transgenic stuff myself and the PRSV infected papaya as green papaya salad with no problem.  DNA was nothing I considered terrifying because I knew what is was and what it does.  So when I heard that papayas were now being touted and “poison” and “dangerous,” I thought I’d better learn about this issue more.

One of my first searches on the internet about these so called claims of dangers was on the claims of these movies being watched.  The searches come up chock full of Natural News, Collective Evolution, Green Med Info, Institute for Responsible Technology and so on.  After sorting through all of that stuff, I found this blog talking about the anti-GMO movement.  The more I learned about the issues from Bt genetic engineering, organic farming, and regulation, the more I realized that the information was so easily distorted by the social media.

Ready to start speaking up in the forums, one of the first places I started was with Civil Beat.  Little did I know that it was a haven for anti-GMO commenters.  It was amazing the sheer numbers of commenters I found on there every single article on GMOs.  Everyone was fixated on this evil called Monsanto, corporations, and poisons.  The more these repetitive comments repeated itself over and over, I started to realize how these folks just read things right off of a Google search and never even bothered to check the source.  It becomes really evident when the majority of the commenters use the same phrases over and over.

As I read the stuff from Natural News and so on I realized how easily someone with very little scientific knowledge could be beleaguered by the information presented.  I thought if I didn’t get some science background, it would be so easily believe the fearful and terrifying things being posted on these sites over and over again.  I’m too much of a skeptic to believe it and searched and read more about the so called claims and sure enough, debunked by noted scientists with ease.

Then of course, the big gem of the anti-GMO movement came the Seralini rat study.  The media was a ruckus over their final proof of the dangers.  Instead of reading the news interpretations of the study, I went straight to the study itself.  I also did searches on it by putting in “debunk Seralini study.”  And I found out a totally different side all together.  One of the first outlets to debunk his study was the media itself.  Shortly after I stumbled upon a wonderfully insightful site called Biofortified.  It had great articles by highly educated scientists and scholars.  I found it way more trustworthy than any of the other sites popping up.

After doing a lot of research and comparing articles across the internet, I’ve come to realize that the regular folks would not be able to understand half of the stuff being presented.  The Latins recognized this behavior eons ago when they coined the phrase, “Damnant quod non intelligunt.” They condemn what they do not know.  The scare mongering is so great on the anti-GMO side that it can really make you start to believe it.  Just like the phenomena when you leave a movie theater after watching a horror flick, you get a little spooked out for sometime.  Emotions are powerful strategies that work.

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The only thing with the anti-GMO messages is that if you’re on FB or Twitter a lot, you get bombarded with hundreds of images every single day from multiple sites that it becomes all you can see.  It is almost like a brain poison that these marketers know how to prey upon.  Then when you walk into the grocery store and see that clean, neat little label that proudly states, “GMO-Free,” you feel relieved.  Some things marked GMO-Free are indeed that to begin with like coconut milk and almond milk.  There’s no such thing as GM coconuts or almonds!  It’s a scam to me and I despise the fact that it makes people feel bad about their food for no reason.  And especially here in Hawaii where food is even more expensive, making the people most prone to this kind of messages only takes advantage of their lack of knowledge.

The more I talk to people who repeat the myths, the more I’m able to see where their hang ups are about this “new science.”  It really isn’t new, it is just more precise and better controlled despite the anti-GMO club claim.  We have to do more on our part to educate people about this issue.  We don’t eat like we did 100 years ago and why would we want to go back to those ways.  Research, education and scientific evidence moves us forward.  That’s the direction our society should be moving towards a better future.

An Open Letter to Hawaii Politicians about Agricultural Technology

Dear Governor, Legislators, Senators, Representatives, County Council Members, City Council Members,

I am writing to you as a daughter of a long time farmer, Kenneth Kamiya.  Our family has been long time farmers for over 4 decades on the Windward side on Oahu.  My grandfather farmed the land with beans, Okinawan potatoes, cucumbers and finally papaya, which my dad and brother continue to this day.  I am asking for your support in these contentious times of dealing with the issue of agricultural technology, specifically GMOs.

The First Kamiya Farmers

I speak out not only for our family but for all other families in our islands who use this technology to run the farms that they do.  Our state cannot afford to be left behind because of the maligned fears of the public of this technology.  You as a leader also have to be able to separate fears created by the black marketing strategies and consider the evidence that is presented.  That is your responsibility to us as your constituents, even though the farmers and ranchers make up 1-2% of the public.  Those are the voices that should ring loud and clear in your minds.

What does the evidence show us?  Worldwide, there is a consensus that biotechnology is safe.  Read below for the worldwide organizations that have made statements about biotechnology in food:

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Given this evidence, will you accept what the worldwide scientific community states?  Or will you fall prey to the fear mongering of the environmentalists and the organic industry’s tactics like this:

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The public sure has become beleaguered with fear which is evident when you see these kind of events happening across our islands:

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The same people that join in these protests are so fear mongered that they have even done this to farmers or anyone who speaks out for biotechnology:

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Activist groups too are guilty of promoting hate and crop destruction as in this meme from the Babes Against Biotech with Roseanne Barr’s quote:

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Notice how much hate there is because fear has made many people irrational already.  Ignorance is evident here in many of these comments.  And it’s not pretty to be at the receiving end of it.

We know that many of you have become the receiving end of these activists, especially the Babes Against Biotech who went after Senator Nishihara last year.  We know that many of you have also been portrayed as targets too.

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As a result, not many people want to speak out for agricultural technology here and when you do, many times, you get threats like this sent to you.  Here’s one I personally received a few days ago:

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Or you might get called a name or something, but it doesn’t bother me for I know what the truth is:

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So when leaders like you decide to reject the evidence presented, you are feeding and fueling fear.  This same fear happens because so many people have little to no knowledge about agriculture or the technology around it.  They may be loud and demanding but you must also listen to the quiet ones who toil in the fields every day.  My family like so many others are just regular people who want to have access to the tools to do the job we have at hand, which is to feed people the best way possible.

Kenneth Kamiya, my dad

Kenneth Kamiya, my dad

When it comes time to listening to your constituents, all I ask is that you listen to your most valuable ones.  The farmers!

Aloha,

Joni Rose

The Hawaii Farmer’s Daughter

What can a Farmer do?

Kenneth Kamiya, my dad

Kenneth Kamiya, my dad

Growing up as a kid and having to work on the farm, it is easy to not appreciate the things you have until you’re older.  As a kid, I hated having to wake up early on the weekends to go down to the farm.  We never had the chance to lounge around watch cartoons in the mornings.  I used to think that this was so unfair that we were the only kids who couldn’t do this.  It was like drudgery every weekend to know that we were the workers.  From the time I was about 8 until I was well into my twenties, it was working on the farm at least once a week.  Even during the summers it was working for me and my siblings.  The work got easier when we realized that we could negotiate being paid.

My parents always taught us that if we ever wanted something, we had to earn it fair and square.  You couldn’t make deals with them if you wanted that new cassette tape of Wham! or Madonna.  If you wanted it, you had to work.  There was no other option to them.  We did learn that grandma and grandpa were great ways to just get things easer though.

Well, you can bet that as a teenager, when I had the first opportunity to get a job elsewhere, they were all for it.  It felt great to not be working in the fields, or in the shed processing papayas for hours.  To scoop ice cream in an air conditioned mall and decorate cakes was fun!  The work was way easier than the farm any day.  I was happy to be free as teen and later as a college kid.

As I step back, my views of the farm have changed now that I have children.  I realize that as much as I hated working on the farm, I truly had the best childhood growing up and an amazing farmer father.  He was a tough guy as a dad and very strict but the lessons I learned stick with me to this day.  He may have officially retired from his regular job, but he still works more than 40 hours a week doing what he loves the most:  farming and agriculture.  His family always comes first but those are his other true passions in life.

His own early lessons in life helped to build his values to what they are.  My dad grew up very poor.  His dad was a dairyman and farmer himself.  He spent his childhood playing around in the dump searching for handy reusable trinkets or other recyclables.  His way of recycling would put the modern day green person to shame.  They reused everything and saved many things.  He has some of the same tools that his father used on the farm that is still usable to this day, some 60 years later.  Talk about durable!

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As a farmer’s kid himself, at a young age, he learned the ropes of how to do everything.  He could ride a water buffalo to use it to plow fields, tie knots of every kind, drive any vehicle, and fix it too.  He was always tinkering. Later when he realized that the military could give him an education and other skills that also shaped his life.  Soon he was in Vietnam fixing aircraft in the Air Force also.  Those experiences gave him the skills to do practically anything, which he indeed does.

My dad is unbelievably skilled at nearly everything which is no understatement.  He rigged up his own tractor to become a forklift, welded the picking platform, built bins, built the shed and processing portions, plows, drives a backhoe to dig up stuff or uses a bulldozer to grade the land, can diagnose plant pests and diseases, knows how much and when to fertilize the fields, lays out drip lines and irrigation systems, knows which cover crops to grow and when to plow them in, delivers and packs the fruits and can instantly spot a ripe one from 10 feet below, hauls 50 lb. boxes of fruit several hours a day, knows how to control any weed and what to treat it with, knows almost every kind of plant there is to know and how to grow it, can reuse old fence posts to build a new fence, fix big rigs and trailers as well as park those things, can maneuver in the tightest of spots in Chinatown when delivering the fruits, and so many more skills that I could not list.

Farmers like my dad and others across the world are truly amazing people.  Until you know one personally and see exactly what they do and how they do it year after year, you can appreciate the depth and dedication that these people live and breathe each day.  Farmers were considered one of the noblest of professions which should still indeed ring true today.

In the words of Thomas Jefferson:

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.”

Small Kid Time: Lessons Learned on the Farm

Today, I am inspired to actually sit down and write this blog.  Why? Because the Hawaii that I was born and raised in is changing.  Some for the good and some for the bad.  Changes are occurring rapidly with how we live and do things in our islands.  Local people have to wake up and be part of what’s happening, which is the reason for why this blog is born.

I grew up in a time where life was pretty simple.  Our family lived on the North Shore behind the Mormon Temple.  We were raised in the country where there were no paved roads and mud puddles were our pools.  The grassy fields and prawn farms were our playground to wander in all day long without a care in the world.  Scoop net fishing, catching catfish, digging up worms, rafting down a stream on an inner tube, and playing mud were some of the activities we did when were done practicing piano or homework.  I really had the best childhood a kid could ever have.

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Here’s a great pic that brings back many of my childhood memories of growing up on the farm.  My grandpa would walk us down to the convenience store and buy us candy, then we’d cross the street and play at the beach.  Finally, it would  be back to the farm for more adventures.  As my siblings and I got older, little did we know that we’d become the laborers.

The farm life was not an easy one but it really taught me a lot of life lessons that are still instilled in me to this day.  My dad would always be on us to always do our best, quality job number one.  Never sit to work because that is being lazy.  Keep yourself busy, always.  Take initiative to do something or find something to do.  These were the life lessons learned on the farm that were pounded into our heads.  Don’t do things to make the family shame, make us proud of you in everything that you do.  Growing up, we’d get sick of hearing it every time it was farm day.  Now that I have my own kids, I’ve learned to realize how so many valuable life lessons were acquired on the farm.  It’s those things that you can never learn anywhere else.

My adventures and insights here are reflective of the lessons learned on the farm that are important lessons for all to learn about.