Johnny Gordines: A Farmer Caught in the Crossfire

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When most people think of Hawaii, they have the image of beauty.  Beauty of the mountains, the white sandy beaches and bright blue oceans and also the natural fauna of our islands.   The florals of our islands are truly unique and has become a synonymous with what we think of Hawaii.   We are so lucky to have many small farmers who make up the Hawaii floriculture industry.  Many of them have been at their work for a long time sending that bit of aloha around the world.  One of those farms is run by Johnny and Terry Gordines, who owns Tropical Flowers Express on Kauai.

When the issue of Bill 2491 hit the island of Kauai last year, some farmers, who know the agriculture issues in Hawaii, spoke out.  Johnny was one of them.  Others stood in the background instead of taking the risk of being a target.  Little did he know that he was not dealing with local folks, and was barraged with disrespect and hate for submitting testimony for the bill and for a letter in The Garden Island paper.

Here’s his testimony that he sent it which was publicly filed and viewable to all.

July 26, 2013

 

To Kauai County Council members:

 

It would be wonderful if farmers could stand in their fields, wave their arms and weeds, insects and plant diseases would magically disappear. It is too bad this cannot happen.

 

Instead, to banish pests and disease, farmers rely on sound scientific practices. They use pesticides and seeds resistant to insects and diseases. Their crops thrive and people all over enjoy a bounty of healthful fruits and vegetables and beautiful flowers.

 

Farmers use pesticides with great care and regard for themselves, their families, the people who work in their fields and their neighboring communities. Authorities in the State of Hawai’i and the U.S. government monitor farmers and all of the work that goes into pesticide development and application.

 

With its Bill 2491, the Kaua’i County Council seeks to insert itself into regulating pesticides and GMO crops — the exact same things our state and federal governments are already doing. It would take years and untold millions of dollars for our county to develop the same expertise and professional staffing to do what Hawai’i and the federal government are already doing.

 

The bill will impose many of these costs on the commercial seed growers in Kaua’i. Faced with these new costs, the growers will probably close down their farms, layoff their workers and leave Kaua’i.  It has been stated by Mr. Gary Hooser, the introducer of the Bill 2491, that it will not affect the small farmers here on Kauai.  On the contrary, if the seed companies are forced out of business, the chemical supply companies here on Kauai (Crop Production Services and C.Brewer Chemical Co.) will be forced to go out of business. This scenario will be devastating to the farmers on Kauai. We presently purchase chemicals, soil amendments, irrigation supplies as well as organic materials from them!  This will have a major impact on my business Tropical Flowers Express. Please consider the impact on the Kauai farmers.

 

I do know that, as the former farm manager for the Kauai Ag Research Center operated by the University of Hawai’i, College of Tropical Agriculture, this bill would devastate our work. I have applied restricted use (RUP) and general use pesticides in my work at the University for the past 32 years and have been a certified Category 10 licensed applicator. Our employer has provided physical exams yearly as well as a cholinesterase exam.  Department of Labor & Industries rule (WAC 296-307-148) requires agriculture employers to provide blood testing to workers who handle pesticides that can lower “cholinesterase” in the body. In my 32 years of service for the U.H., neither mine nor any of the employees’ level of pesticide exposure or handling, has ever been at a level that was detrimental to our general health! I am now 63 years old.

 

I am also the president of the Hawaii Tropical Flowers and Foliage Association on Kauai and a Director for Kauai on the Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association our statewide umbrella organization. The Floriculture industry is a vanity industry where the newest and unique catches the attention of the market. This means for our industry to remain competitive we need to have new and cutting-edge flowers and foliage in new colors and styles. An important tool for this is to be able to get new varieties, longer lasting varieties, and healthier varieties through the use of science, technology and innovation, such as GMO.

 

We believe it is important to look to the future of our agricultural industry and not handicap ourselves with laws that seek to close the door on technology. It is important that we keep finding solutions to pest and diseases that currently attack our plants and crops. With disease and pest resistant plants, we would be able to use less pesticides, which would lower costs for farmers and have a greater yield of product, allowing our sector in agriculture to improve efficiencies.

 

Please, County Council members, before you vote on this bill consider the damage it can do to agriculture on Kaua’i — the jobs it can destroy and the businesses and communities that will suffer. Please think wisely and vote “No” on Bill 2491.

 

Sincerely,

 

Johnny Gordines

Usually in Hawaii, most people are pretty respectful of differences, however on Kauai, the story is completely different.  What happened on the social media was totally shocking to most levelheaded folks.  The anti-GMO mob decided to attack his business online through his Facebook page and his Yelp page.  Just see what this small farmer and business owner had to contend with, a bunch of bullies right in his backyard.

This is what was being said about his business online in public posts on Facebook after he spoke out.

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One activist even posted this comment on his Facebook business page too.

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They went on Yelp too and disparaged his business.  Some review have been removed but others persist.

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You can read the corresponding reviews below to the above clip since they have since been removed.

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This issue goes well beyond the corporate hate and government distrust that these activists share.  It hurts everyone in the process.  The attacking of small farmers like this, who know the technology and tools available and speak up, ultimately pay the price for doing so.  That is why so many farmers like Johnny Gordines and others look to the leaders, to address this issue first and foremost, with facts and evidence, and not the loudest voices of opinion.

Farmers keep our country country and help the spread the beauty of Hawaii around the world. The support of the legislators is crucial in perpetuating this because you can’t tear apart agriculture, because doing so hurts it as a whole.  We need leaders’ support to keep Johnny at his work to spread that bit of aloha around the world!  Support the Hawaii Right to Farm Bill and stand up for what is right!

Visit Johnny’s work at Kauaiflowers.com and on Facebook at Tropical Flowers Express.

Support the farmers with local voices!

TFE3

Where’s the Giving Spirit of Gary Hooser and Club?

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It’s the holidays and to me that is a time for giving.  It is a time to get together with friends and family, catch up on old times but also a time to give back to others who aren’t as fortunate.  Every single time I go the to market or to the store, I always have some cash handy to let my kids drop into the Salvation Army donation can.  I also make sure that I gave my yearly donation to the Washinton University scholarship fund and to any other new cause that might need some help.  This year I did give a donation to the Golden Rice campaign to help promote efforts to get to the people who need it the most.  There are many people who could use that extra support at this time of year and if I have anything to give, I’ll freely give it if I can afford it.  To me, that’s the right thing to do at this time of year and really, throughout the entire year.

Following what’s going on in the social media, I was surprised to see that the Gary Hooser is once again riling up his anti-GMO club.  Tomorrow, December 15, all of his club members from the Babes Against Biotech to Hawaii SEED and more are going to do yet another march.  All this human energy and resources are going to be used just a few days before the holidays to once again protest and get together.  People are flying in from lots of outer islands to gather in Haleiwa essentially for an anti-GMO party.  Gary Hooser, the head Kauai County Council member riling up these folks even blogged about this march to promote and advertise it to others.  If you read it, he’s perpetuating his myths and conspiracy theories to get people “to rise up against this” and even thinks that people are “more educated” about the issues.  I find it rather sad that Gary feels that during the holidays, he’d rather see people march against something and use all of these resources to do such rather than help others in the communities.

It is really sad that Gary Hooser has really lost sight of what the holidays mean and about teaching others to give.  Consider what he really could have done that would have made someone’s holiday just that much better.  If every person who flew into this march opted not to go and donated that some $200 to a charitable organization, wouldn’t that be such a good thing?  Instead of using Honolulu City and County resources to cover the expenses of the march, these public funds could have been used in a different program to help the homeless or do something for a kupuna through one of the programs offered in the county.  How about using all this human energy to visit lonely people in nursing homes or help organize a holiday food drive?  These same people could have spent the day going into the native forests and cleaning out invasive species too.  Instead of going to the march and potlucking it, go to the IHS in town and feed the hungry that day.  These folks could even bring along their kids also to teach them what the holidays really mean.

Hawaii SEED even got a nice $10K check from Surfer Magazine to continue their misinformation campaign against farmers.  It’s all about how to pit farmers against farmers and not about healing the farming community with Ritte and his group.  I’ve never seen any Hawaii SEED give the needy food drive or help others event.  They obviously have some money but aren’t about to give any of it to people who may benefit from it.  You don’t see Hawaii SEED on the donation list for The Good Neighbor Campaign on the Star Advertiser.  It’s not about sharing with others unfortunately, no matter what time of year it is.

The more you see what these people do, the more you see that it isn’t about giving for them.  It’s all about taking away.  The anti-GMO club even had a float in the Pearl City Parade also where they passed out flyers and GMO free candy.  Instead of self promoting themselves and their issues, why didn’t these folks use that time and energy to actually give something back?  What if they didn’t spend that extra money for GMO free candy and donated that proceeds to the Hawaii Food Bank for someone who really needs nourishment?  They could take their kids with them and a nice sack of food to give to people who need it.  It is so disappointing to see that they continue to promote the fear mongering that make the most vulnerable of people afraid and guilty of what they are eating, while many of them partake in GE foods and admit that it is safe.  

A leader should embody and speak for the values that others should live by so that we can make our society a better place.  We all should be working together to solve the problems of the world, not seeking to continually divide it.  It’s the holidays where we should be working on making life better for others.  The leader should be the example to others to follow by.  Hooser talks about malama the aina and doing what is pono but what about malama the people too?  It is pretty obvious that Gary Hooser is not one of those leaders. 

By the way, if you should decide that you want to give to others at this time of year, here’s some great organizations that I think are worthwhile causes to support.

American Red Cross

The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii

The Aloha United Way

The Institute for Human Services

The Hawaii Food Bank

Remember that this is the spirit of giving and paying it forward.  I did it and I hope you do too!

 

A Farmer’s Say Doesn’t Matter in Hawaii

It is so easy to sit back on a computer and have your opinion about how you  want your food grown.  You have a comfy chair to sit on, a nice computer with a quick internet connection, a fan to keep you cool, and a well stocked refrigerator to sustain you as you comment away on the social media.  That is how you are going to change the world to get farmers to grow food your way.  No. Never.

It is so easy for Jessica Wooley, Russell Ruderman, Mike Gabbard, Tulsi Gabbard, Gary Hooser, Billy Kenoi, and Brian Schatz to dictate the policies that they want done for agriculture because they have nice cushy offices and are guaranteed a paycheck, courtesy of the taxpayers.  They would rather stay in those positions then be on a farm any day.  Why do you think they are in office to begin with?  Farming is just too laborious and risky, while political office is a clean, stable position for life.

As much as these politicians are the listening to the public’s opinions, they have no qualms in ignoring the farmers, ranchers, and scientists testimonies on the future of agriculture.  We’ve seen that what is found on the internet and repeated as truths is much more valuable then the experiences of people who tend and till the land.  They have no say in the issue and are at the mercy of an uninformed public fear mongered beyond belief.  That is the direction that Hawaii is heading when we only consider public opinions for laws.

Our leaders talk about how they want to grow our ag industry in Hawaii but their actions speak otherwise.  Laws upon laws have become huge burdens on our farmers.  From business regulations, taxes, federal food safety laws, labor laws, county laws, and state laws all weigh upon these farmers who are growing food and cultivating the land.  We also can’t forget the outside factors that affect farmers too including energy costs, shipping costs, and being at the mercy of the weather.  These regulations may seem helpful on the outside but make the business and practice of farming less and less attractive.  With all the anti-technology laws being placed upon them also by Kauai and Hawaii county, how much more can these farmers take when potential tools are being kept from them?  What can our farmers do when their hands become tied by the wishes of ignorant politicians and an ignorant public?

As we see more and more farms closing down because of the regulations that our leaders have placed upon them, we get to thank each politician for being responsible for the demise of these farms.  The younger generations do not want to continue family farms because it just is too burdensome.  Would you take a job where your income isn’t guaranteed and bad weather can wipe out your entire crop?  What if the bugs eat up all of your crops and you can’t even use a tool that could help it because some politician said that you can’t?  Imagine having a job where you have to know everything about the tax, labor, and food safety laws to a tee to stay in business.  Not only do you have to manage those issues but you also have to physically work hard to get your product out to your consumers also.  Lastly, you are subject to criticism, thievery and even threats of crop destruction as part of your job description.  That sure doesn’t sound like a very attractive job to me at all. Our politicians have decided that this is the route they want to take with agriculture with their recent actions.  That’s the Hawaii that our leaders apparently want for our future of farming in our islands.

The Real Problem is not the Anti-GMO Club

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As I was talking to my husband tonight about the whole issue with agriculture and the divisiveness going on, he made a statement that really hit me.  I was complaining about how a local farmer, whose crops were getting stolen, did not want to go on television to share his story.  I explained to him that they were shy about it and didn’t want to be out there.  Then my husband said, “Well, then you guys will all lose.”  I wanted to fight back and say something but as I internalized it, he’s right.  “If the silent majority continues to not speak up, then they will ultimately lose and we all will lose.”

No one wants to be at the end of a losing battle but in reality, in some ways he’s right.  The local folks will sit back and complain about what’s going on and then do nothing about it but complain.  Where does that complaining get us?  Does it solve the problem?  No.

Whenever there is a problem, one must realize that by seeing it, we are all a part of the problem.  If we don’t recognize that, the problem can never be addressed.  While many local people are starting to become more vocal about how we are being taken over by these activists, we are not doing our part.  This loud, brazen minority has taken advantage of the culture of Hawaii and used it to their advantage.

Local style ways are pretty simple and learned from the good old plantation days where there were people from all over the world.  Koreans, Chinese, Hawaiians, Portuguese, Filipinos, and Japanese were all joined together to work on the sugar cane and pineapple fields.  There was a unique culture developed through this relationships, much of it a mixture of the cultures.  Even a special language was born through all of this called pidgin that can only be heard by local people.

The local culture was pretty simple and based in respect.  Don’t talk stink about others.  Do your work good.  Respect your kupuna or elders.  Don’t make waves or attract attention to yourself.  No make shame on your family.  Work hard.  It was laid back in its ways really.  No one wants to speak up to get others mad or gain attention to yourself, just be a part of the masses.  No make trouble, just leave it the way it is even if you don’t like it.  Over the years, a huge sense of complacency has been developing as a result.  It’s pretty evident when you see bumper stickers that state, “Ainokea.”  That says it all… I don’t care.

When you look at the low voter turn outs in our state, that just shows how people don’t even bother with the issues nowadays.  The same goes for agricultural issues here in Hawaii.  How many times have you heard a local farmer speaking out for an issue?  There are thousands of farmers here that were born and raised with long time family traditions rooted here.  Where are their voices in the whole issue?  I hardly hear or see of it but I do hear the complaints from others who don’t like what’s happening.  This really sends the message that no one wants to stick their head out about the best direction to take based on their expertise and experience.  The anti-aloha activists and their politicians have seized on this opportunity and are running the show now.  Is that what is best for Hawaii?  These are opportunists supported by ill-informed people supported by lots of outside monies?

So, if you don’t like what is happening to our agricultural industry in Hawaii, you the local born person, go walk in front of the mirror.  Don’t point your finger at the anti-GMO club and blame them.  Point that finger right at yourself and say, “Hey, you!  You are the problem.  Yep, I said it.  It’s you who don’t have the guts take a stand.  Don’t like what’s happening, eh?  Den you bettah speak up do something about it and stop wasting your energy complaining.  You da only one who going fo suffer.”

Wake up local people.  There is a new culture developing in our islands that if you don’t adapt to it, you’ll have to pay the price for your silence.  It’s time for the local folks who don’t say anything to speak up, vote, and say something to help your fellow long time local farmers.  If you don’t, who will?

One way to start is to sign the petition to speak up for farmers!

 

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Hooser’s Regime has a Semantics Problem

Hooser’s Regime has a Semantics Problem

I’ve been called a shill already by politicians like Mike Gabbard and Russell Ruderman.  Mike Gabbard is the state senator who sent me his proof of GMO dangers with the debunked Seralini link and Russell Ruderman is another state senator who owns 4 natural food stores and proudly boasts that the led the charge to ban fracking in Hawaii.  Yes, we have some stellar folks in office here.  Today, officially, I’ve been called a shill by none other than Gary Hooser for speaking out about biotech and farmers.  The shill gambit is just another ad hominen attack at the person when you don’t have facts or evidence to support your claim. Here’s his quote on his blog and guest column on the Star Advertiser:

They hired prominent community leaders, conducted unethical “push polls”, and employ an army of industry bloggers and social media experts that attack the credibility and integrity of their opponents at every step.

Gary Hooser is so dumbfounded and blinded by his broken record statements that he can’t fathom that anyone would speak out for farmers could actually do it for free! Yes, Mr. Hooser and your fellow anti-GMO followers, I have not received a cent let alone any kind of payment to write this blog let alone pay for its existence.  None.  What is true is that I’m sick and tired of you and your activists doing nasty stuff towards anyone who speaks up for agriculture in Hawaii and acting as if you speak for the local people.  No, you are just taking advantage of local people not speaking up, plain and simple.  I find it pretty amazing that your title for today’s blog mentions bullying because you seem to have chosen the wrong word.

Let’s see what the definition of what a bullying actually is:

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Who decided to enact this kind of legislation in the first place Mr. Hooser? Let’s meet the folks that have asked for this kind of laws to be made.  Note some key terms in the definition of bullying: intimidation, harassment, threat, imbalance, coercion, repeated acts, mobbing, targets.  **Note parental discretion due to threats of harm and foul language or gestures.**

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If you read these kinds of comments, would you actually feel safe trying to testify for your cause? Common sense tells you no way.  Does it look like a mob targeting people? Are there forms of intimidation in the comments? Do you actually think that real homeless people would stay there and risk their own safety against people who say and think stuff like this?  I’d have to say I don’t think so.  Real people know the truth of what happened and why.

He himself doesn’t like to see the disrespect, rather any criticism, on his own page also but it must be fine for his mob to do it towards others.

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Hooser’s statement shows the total denial that he’s in and says a lot about the blind eye about what his mob does:

Residents supporting the Bill slept overnight on the hard and wet cement in front of the County building in order to garner a coveted seat inside the Council chambers, while the chemical companies hired the homeless and down-and-out to hold seats for their executives.

Then there is that supposedly “clueless” guy Tyler who claims to no nothing of the issue wearing a Hui O Kauai hat and taking $100 right on camera.  The anti-GMO mob taped the whole thing themselves.  Then there is the admission by Mr. Hooser himself that Tyler is his son’s friend.  Who’s telling the truth?

The biggest discrepancy in his latest blog is this statement:

Bill 2491 does not ban pesticides nor does it ban GMO’s, it simply requires disclosure.

If that really is the case, then why are you a part of this:

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Then there is yet another claim in his blog too about the meeting that the County Council was to vote on the bill.  Had they outright voted on the bill as intended with the 6 members, according to the Sunshine Law, the meeting would have ended.  The had polled for the vote and discovered that there would not be a quorum that set off the motion to get that 7th person in to reach quorum to finally pass the law.

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And Mr. Hooser, as well as Mr. Atchitoff, if you are so determined to be aligned with these GMO Free groups, why were you eating it products that your mob members love to hate at a restaurant that isn’t GMO Free?! Did you thank a GMO farmer that day?

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Of course people are going to say that Mr. Hooser was being spied upon at his dinner but the plain truth is he walked in after this person was having dinner that night. Get your facts straight.  Never mind, there are no straight facts with followers of his regime.

And one last thing Gary and mob members…  Are you trying to bully me for my petition to speak up for the farmers that you have disparaged and been disrespectful too?  You may have the numbers but that doesn’t equal up to the hard work and knowledge that any farmer has any day.  I’m standing with the farmers!

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**Note if you’re an anti-GMO activist trying to post on here, I’m tired of your threats and vile comments.  You can send them and I’ll repost it as a new blog.  All posts found were publicly available on the social media also that were sent in by someone or captured in public forums.  All comments are my own and do not reflect anyone else’s.**

Where’s your Integrity & Leadership Hooser, Bynum, Yukimura, & Furfaro?

As I followed the last hearing Thursday for the Kauai County Council to decide on whether to override the veto of the controversial Bill 2491, it was no surprise that the events leading up to it would be chaotic.  When you see the kind of commentary that the anti-GMO club has spewed out all over the social media and beyond, their behavior of the day is of no surprise.

Grown adults being rude to others and making accusations and threats against their perceived foe.  Essentially this made them bullies all in the name of misinformation and ideology about biotechnology.  The most disturbing part of the whole event was that it was clear that none of the leaders who supported this bill ever acknowledged the threats and violence made to seed workers, scientists, and the mayor.  It was completely ignored as if it was what they wanted to happen.  They did have to state to news outlets that those folks were not representative of the anti-GMO movement.  Sure.

What was supposed to happen on Thursday was a vote to put an end to the issue for once and all.  That did not happen when it was recognized that they did not have the vote to push this override through.  It was then decided that there would be a deferral and then a vote after the 7th council member was appointed even though they decided on an earlier meeting to vote with 6 members.  That maneuvering would give them enough votes for the override.  Note that they had early agreed to no defer it any longer but suddenly backpedaled on it.

That backpedalling is a classic example of the lack of leadership and integrity of those serving in public office.  They took an oath to uphold the laws and serve impartially to the best of their duties.  Are they really doing that in this case?  These four people promised the public, not just the anti-GMO activists, to uphold those duties to do what is in the best interest of the community.  Obviously, they have no integrity by what we’ve seen by their actions.  That is really a sad, sad day for Hawaii.

We teach our kids to be honest and true to our word.  We value conducting ourselves in an ethical manner in all of our actions.  We value honestly and integrity in our children.  Those lesson in turn help to develop a conscience in them so that they know right from wrong.  We, the adults show them this and are the example to folks.  However, in the case of the county council, those basic rules and values are forsaken and what we see upon us is the mess they’ve created.  These lost leaders have thrown the whole community into a divided one by choosing to ignore the evidence and prefer to align with activists with an obvious agenda.  They have also taken advantage of local style of not speaking up and listening to the loudest of the bunch.

The short term consequence might mean that this kind of bill gets passed but the long term issues will be much more costly for all.  These leaders have lost sight of where the evidence leads us and how we’re going to get there.  The leadership needs to guide us based on what the evidence shows, not what a bikini clad activist or a mixed martial arts fighter demand.  These activists are only about taking and not about providing options and solutions to the most valuable folks in our society today, and that is the farmers and scientists.

As much as they may have tons of testimony and hours of videos of testimonies asking for such a law, don’t forget to consider how that meal you just had got to your table.  That testimony didn’t get it there, it was a farmer and that’s the one you should be listening to.  Our leaders owe it to our farmers to stand their ground an listen to the right people to make he best decision for all.

True Leadership and Its Legacy for the Future

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

—John Maxwell

The world is rapidly changing around us.  While many dislike the changes, many really are for the better.  Those same folks that are fighting the changes are the ones who tend to have the least experience or education in the issue also.  The unfortunate thing is that some of these people, who long for the old days and fight changes, are ones holding offices in our government.  These people who have very little knowledge on the technological changes are the ones who are also influencing policy and that is the bad thing.

While the Kauai and Hawaii County Councils are wrangling around in the biotechnology issues, just take a close look at the background of these politicians attempting to influence the laws here.  None of them have any science degree or even touched a genetics class and yet these same folks feel that it is in their capacity make laws in these areas.  There’s something very wrong there because they are just as ignorant as their followers in their quest to kill this technology that has been around for years and accepted as safe by multiple scientific groups.

If we were to jump 20 years into the future, would these same politicians be thinking the same way as they do now?  Or would we see them as obstructionists and just maladaptive to the technology?  Were their decisions on this bill warranted or made out of a marketing scheme that ignored the current evidence base available?  Are they doing something that will ultimately hinder the possibilities for viable agriculture and cause a greater harm when there are no tools available?  Is this the legacy that leaders like Gary Hooser, Tim Bynum, Joanne Yukimura, and Jay Furfaro want to leave the future with?  By ignoring the technology and the evidence base to support it, yes, this is the Kauai that they want for the future.

There is no doubt that the climate is changing for the scientific evidence leads us to it.  These same politicians accept that same evidence which is why there is an effort to go “green.”  That’s good policy making when evidence is used as a guide.  Then why are those same politicians suddenly ignoring the evidence for biotechnology?  The evidence clearly supports its safety and so does the scientific consensus of many world scientists, yet our leaders want to leave us in a legacy of rejection of a very viable tool for the future.  Is that the right thing to do in this case?  Apparently personal ambitions and public pressure cloud what is the right thing to do.

It is no doubt that these leaders came into office to make things better for people. However, they sometimes need to look at the people who are demanding these policies first and foremost and revisit that oath of office they took to uphold the existing laws of our land.  Gary Hooser, Tim Bynum, Jay Furfaro, and Joanne Yukimura, you all stood there and promised this to the people of Kauai, Hawaii and the US to uphold this responsibility to each and every person.  You are not just accountable to the anti-GMO crowd but to all people.  Are you really fulfilling that oath by taking this kind of stance?  Do you want to be left with the legacy of being ignorant obstructionists of a technology that could be a way to get that greener and more sustainable world?  Apparently after today’s events, that seems to be the case.  These pseudo-leaders appear to support this but ultimately thwart this by rejecting this very viable tool that could create that world they envision.  By not even recognizing the way the world is going, they can never show or guide Hawaii in the way we should be headed.

It takes people with more forethought and a more systematic thought process to see through this whole issue to move forward with policy.  A true leader sees and knows this well and have the courage to make those tough decisions and be subject to the criticisms of their constituency that are not the experts or know the evidence base.  Those leaders were shown clearly as Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa.  Their legacy will be the ones that will help us adapt to this technology and move us forward in the future.  Those are the people we need in Hawaii as our leaders.

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

GMOs Banned in Hawaii!

November 2020

Ban-GMO

Hawaii has succeeded in becoming the first state of the nation to completely ban all GMOs .  It comes after a long battle between politicians and their activists and big ag in the state that started back in 2013 with two key bills being passed by county council members.  The early roots of the GMO ban started when a moratorium was passed against any research of the taro or kalo.  Subsequent efforts were started in thanks to Jessica Wooley and her Bill 174 to label GMOs which eventually failed to pass.  However, thanks to the efforts of Gary Hooser and Tim Bynum with Bill 2491 and Margaret Wille and Brenda Ford with Bill 113, subsequent laws continued to follow to suit to limit and eventually restrict biotechnology across of our islands.  Tulsi and Mike Gabbard also were successful at the detrimental labeling of GMOs too which helped to lead to more consumer fear and misinformation, despite their promises to the farmers for an educational campaign to support it which never failed to materialize.

Meanwhile, during all of this furor of anti-GMO sentiment, our sustainable agriculture industry has been suffering many set backs over the years leading up to the eventual ban.  Many local industries have been hit very hard by the lack of tools and technology left for them to remain at the helms of their farms. In a recent survey, the number of farmers had dwindled down to less than .5% of the population and shows no stopping the declining numbers.  As a result of these kinds of restrictive laws placed on farmers, imported food has risen to 98% which was an unintended consequence of these laws due to the black marketing campaign of the organic industry and public pressure on politicians.

Below is a summary of what has happened over the years to certain ag industries in the Islands:

Kona Coffee

The Kona coffee industry has suffered tremendous losses since the initial introduction of the coffee borer beetle (CBB).  It was hopeful that the spraying of Beauvaria Bassiana would control for this beetle.  It worked to minimize the millions of dollars worth of damage being done but it was found that the CBB has developed a resistance to the B. bassiana within a 5 year period that was discovered by a farmer after finding more and more of his crops destroyed.  The industry has also been hit by the spread of coffee rust around the islands due to the recent increases in hotter weather and drier conditions leading to more plant stress on the coffee trees.  The entire coffee industry is at 20% of what it used to be and is mostly being sold as high end niche market products due to the rising costs of production.

Honey

Unbeknownst to the the local beekeepers on the Big Island, the spraying of B. bassiana had a devastating effect on their bee population.  Recognized by the Xerces Society as being highly toxic to bees, the overspray of this organically approved pesticide had residues that affected local bees.  The honey production dropped significantly as the lack of biotech research was banned and the already threatened bee population declined even further with the varroa mite and then increased pesticide use.  Honey is no longer being produced on the Big Island as a result of the demise of the bees.

Papayas

The papaya industry has been completely obliterated by the passage of Bill 113 and the successful lobbying of Tulsi Gabbard’s labeling law passed at the federal level.  Just as Japan was starting the importation of Hawaiian papayas and farmers increased production, the misinformation being spread by the labels caused a tremendous drop in domestic sales across the country.  The demand for the fruit dropped to a mere 10% and took a tremendous dive.  The lack of education as promised by our Congresswoman failed the industry and Hawaii no longer exports papayas as a result of her labeling effort.  Mexico has now become the dominant leader in papaya exports to Hawaii and the mainland US which has had several problems with salmonella contamination and multiple recalls and illnesses.

Pineapples

The pineapple industry has also taken a huge hit in production due to the banning of biotechnology as an imported pest from Mexico caused huge crop destruction across the islands.  With limited ability to use modern pesticides and biotech advances, the entire Hawaiian pineapple is just one a faint memory of our rich agricultural heritage in the islands.  The only fresh pineapples are currently being imported from South America as the state is no longer able to produce these cost effectively.

Kalo

The kalo has also become extinct in our islands also.  With the recent introductions of new pests from imported produce from China and Mexico, as well as the recent prolonged dry spells.  The taro has suffered multiple set backs despite the efforts of the farmers to mitigate the stresses of disease and pests.  The moratorium on the research of taro and resistance to revisit the bill was not removed in time to save the taro from its fate.  The Hawaiian staple of poi is no longer available as a result of the lack of tools and acceptance of biotech to help combat the demise.  Currently, taro is being imported from China and being researched on how to create a similar substance to that of poi.

Cattle 

The once growing demand for locally raised beef was undermined by the efforts of the multiple anti-GMO bills passed in the islands.  Ranchers who’s livelihoods were continuously attacked for their use of GM feed have found that they no longer are able to continue their profession, as the the cost of ranching severely impacted their ability to remain financially viable.  Local milk production has also ceased operations also and all milk is imported into the state due to the high operating costs resulting for the GMO bills.

Other impacts and unintended consequences of the GMO ban:

After initially opening up the UH Cancer Research Center, the ban on GMO inadvertently blocked all research on the latest cancer treatments that were GMO derived.  Scientists and researchers’ works were completely halted as the ban covered all of organisms being used in the state.  Just as they were on the verge of finding a treatment for breast cancer focusing on genetic modification, the attorney general concluded that such research was considered illegal under the law.

The cost of food production rose 30% following the ban due to increased enforcement and regulation on the determination of genetically modified food. GMO food stuffs had strict requirements and testing was enacted as a result.  Testing of the quantities of modified foods were the major reason behind the rise in food costs.  In addition to Hawaii already paying higher food costs, the costs are approximately 40% greater than costs on the mainland.  Poverty rates in our islands has increased from 17.4% in 2013 to nearly 25 to 30% due to the high costs of living factored in.

With the lack of big ag on former cane and pineapple lands, the sustainable organic ag industry supported by small organic farmers has taken a great toll on the capability of the state to manage the current infrastructures.  Land leases to these small farmers have had to rise to help cover the costs of maintaining ditches and water tunnels used for the ag areas.  Pest management has also become a problem due to the fragmented systems utilized by these small farm plots.  Farmers have also had decreased sales as the rising production costs cannot keep up with consumers ability to afford locally grown products.  The infrastructures presently in place have significantly deteriorated as a result of the system change resulting from anti-big ag bills being passed.

The loss of big ag has also affected a key educational system for the native people in our state.  With the lack of reliable tenants on the large stretches of property owned by Bishop Estate, Kamehameha Schools has had to decrease the amount of student aid being provided to existing students and discontinue educational programs being supported by those leases.  Bishop Estate has had major losses of revenue on evictions of these small farms that could not pay market prices for ag property.  They have also suffered losses for covering the maintenance of the existing infrastructures in place that small farmers are not able to bear the burden of.  Many Hawaiians are now on waiting lists to get access to the programs that they were once eligible for.

The recent closures of the seed companies on Kauai has had an especially devastating effect on the island.  Unemployment has resulted in drug use, property crime, and other crimes have tripled as the companies have transferred operations to foreign countries due to intense regulation.  Small organic farmers have tried to use the former seed lands and due to the lack of financial backing have not been able to keep up with rising lease payments to cover infrastructure maintenance.  Due to the inconsistent practices of small farmers and a lack of integrated pest management, yields on these farms have been very poor leading to smaller production.  Inconsistent soil management practices have also led to severe run off problems from the fragmented farming systems created.  Pesticides residues of organically sprayed chemicals have also been found in schools and hospitals at significantly higher levels due to the lack of regulation on these farms.  New reports of skin, asthma, and allergic reactions have been increasing as newer studies are finally testing these pesticides against humans.

With the loss of agricultural lands, the barren farms have been a developers dream come true as more homes and infrastructure plans are in the works.  Due to the isolation of Lanai and potential for power generation, a nuclear power plant is likely going to be built there to power the entire island chains affordably.  The increase of homes in Kauai has also led to the building of the next biggest freeway system in Hawaii, H4.  The Big Island has also had a huge growth in housing and larger freeway systems are in the plans to be developed.  There has been a boom in the construction industry here with the lack of agriculture.

One of the biggest and most detrimental effects of the ban of GMOs is the huge brain drain occurring in our islands.  As the biotechnology sector grows in both the agricultural and medical sectors, the outlook for students pursuing  these careers were bright prior to the ban.  The occupational diversity of our state was glowing prior to the politicians’ decisions to ban this growing sector.  Currently, the major industry in the islands remain in the tourism sector primarily and the lack of more skilled opportunities have led to yet another brain drain effect.

The constant sense of threats and disrespect up until the enacted ban on farmers have cause many farmers to cease participation in farmer’s markets.  Many live in fear that they choices that that they have used to farm has put them up as targets by the activists that were first seeking a label then a ban.  Many have decided prior to the labeling that the farming business is no longer worth it anymore with the added stressors of the activists.  The farmer’s markets have dwindled as the local food supply is dropped dramatically as a result of protesters and activists bullying tactics to farm according to their demands.

So although at the time these regulations seemed like “common sense,” the unintended consequences of this strategy has left many current leaders and a growing number of local people asking themselves, “Where did we go wrong?”  What was supposed to be the “right” thing at the time, has not created the vision that it was intended to do.  It was to create an affordable and sustainable food supply for our state according to what the organic industry was touting as the right way to proceed.  How do we get off the wrong path and get back on track and how do we reverse the permanent damage done?

If our ag industry continues to be badgered and splintered the way it currently is heading, this unfortunately will be the likely consequences of our present actions.  Hawaii can avoid this predicament that is highly likely given the nature of the situation now.  Leaders have to think prospectively and consider the evidence presented to make responsible laws, not ones based on “common sense” and public opinion.  If you don’t want to face the scenario presented, then we must change our path now before it is too late.

Follow the Anti-GMO Money!

The anti-GMO mob is continually stating that anyone who supports biotech should follow the money.  Everyone apparently is a paid shill if they are speaking out for the overwhelming scientific evidence.  (I sure wish I was paid to do this but I’m not which is hard to believe.) So today’s blog is just doing that, following the money with Gary Hooser.

Let’s take a closer look at the hot topic person of the week, Gary Hooser.  Where is his money coming from?  If you visit the Campaign Spending Commission link, you can do a quick search of who has donated to him as well as their personal information.  Some very familiar names come up on there:

Myron Berney–A frequent Civil Beat anti-GMO commenter

Denise Antolini–A former Earthjustice attorney

Bart Dame–A very well known anti-seed company commenter on Civil Beat

Jeri Di Pietro–One of the founders non-profit Hawaii SEED

Monica Evslin–Wife to the anti-GMO retired doctor

Friends of Clarence Nishihara–The senator who received the nasty calls from BABS

Alicia Maluafiti–The HCIA Executive Director

John Radcliffe–The “Monsanto” Lobbyist

Jeff Mikulina–Lobbyist from the Blue Planet Foundation

Nancy Redfeather–Founder of Hawaii SEED

Those are just a few recognizable names that have contributed to Hooser’s campaign over the years and are publicly available.  Even people who are so despised by the anti-GMO mob like John Radcliffe and Alicia Maluafiti gave money but you don’t hear any complaints from them about it!  Some of those names are registered lobbyists in the state.  The definition is found on the Hawaii Ethics Commission site:

“Lobbyist” means any individual who for pay or other consideration engages in lobbying in excess of five hours in any month of any reporting period described in section 97-3 or spends more than $750 lobbying during any reporting period described in section 97-3.

“Lobbying” means communicating directly or through an agent, or soliciting others to communicate, with any official in the legislative or executive branch, for the purpose of attempting to influence legislative or administrative action or a ballot issue.”

The legally registered lobbyists registered with state include Jeff Mikilina, Alicia Maluafiti, and John Radcliffe.  As you can see, even if you give money, the politician does not always listen to it.  The latest list filed with the State Ethics commission can be found online with noted names of the seed companies listed also.  Note that on Kauai, lobbyists have free range there as the county has not take any steps to regulate it despite being mandated since 1978.  What does that say about the transparency issue that Hooser talks about with the seed companies but not within the county itself?  Why hasn’t the county tackled this issue first before others if they care so much about the right to know?!

A group that has a strong hold and lots of playing time in the issue is Hawaii SEED.  They sponsor the GMO Free groups on Kauai and Maui.  Of which Hooser is a member and contributor of.  Take a closer listen to Hawaii SEED’s Jeri Di Pietro talk about what they are doing with legislation here in Hawaii:

Now if these folks are trying to influence legislation, shouldn’t they be subject to the lobbyists laws like the others involved?  Take a look at the tax filing that asks if they participated in lobbying activities.  Their answer is no.  A non-profit cannot be tax free if they are trying to influence or ask others to have an influence on legislation to be in compliance with the law.  The IRS has clear rules for what lobbying is.  The biotech companies have complied with the lobbying rules and why are the anti-GMO side exempt?  I suspect that none of Hawaii SEEDs expenditures have been subject to the taxes that it should be paying for influencing policy and this has been going on for years.  Hawaii SEED is not about educating, the video clearly provides evidence that they want to influence laws.

Let’s not forget the recent expose’ of the mainland monies being funneled into the who issue at the moment.  These very wealthy activists donate money to these non-profits and get a tax write off on that and get to influence policy?!  All the meanwhile the companies paying lobbyists to get some say in the legislation get taxed for the same efforts?  Where’s the equality and transparency?  If a non-profit is getting involved with lawmaking issues, they have to play the game fair and square.  The anti-GMO mob complains about the corruption and money, but quickly hide behind bogus non-profits and skid free from the taxes that they should be paying.

I do have to question the fact that Andrew Kimbrell, Bill Freese, and Vandana Shiva have come down recently to “educate.”  The fact that these people came down to provide consultations as to how to write the bill up which is influencing legislation and contacting lawmakers.  That really starts to sound like lobbying to me.  However, because it is all under the guise of a non-profit, it is not subject to taxes at the current moment.  That needs to change!

How about the other activist groups that have been selling items likes shirts and hats?  When they sell items and are using it for lobbying purposes like travel for other hearings and meeting with lawmakers, that is taxable.  If you search tax ID numbers, there are none for Hawaii GMO Justice Coalition, Babes Against Biotech, or Ohana O Kauai.  These groups complain about how corrupt the biotech companies are but are they really doing their fair share?  I’ll have a follow up article on this soon.

Hooser is all about protecting the people and doing what is right.  Is this really right that these groups are allowed to influence the issue with Bill 2491 and not playing by the rules themselves?