There’s a new super political action committee in town and they are out to influence local politics here. The Washington, D.C. based Center for Food Safety set up office here and is raising money to change Hawaii to their liking. This is actually a neo-luddite group that is disguised as a benign sounding consumer group which it is not. They are really an activist group run by organic industry leaders and activists. They are not about helping with food security and food safety in Hawaii or supporting agriculture in our islands unless it is their way.
Here’s a copy of the questionnaire that they have been sending candidates recently to see where they stand:
Let’s take apart some of the questions that they are posing to see what this innocuous sounding group is really after.
1) Do you support, and if elected, will you vote to require all agrichemical companies to disclose pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers that apply and GE crops they grow to adjacent landowners , businesses, and residents?
Basically, they want to apply the same anti-GMO ordinance that they enacted on Kauai to the whole state. It is discriminating against a safe and approved crop as regulated by the Federal government. Once again, they are seeking to divide and conquer agriculture in our islands by creating this divide again. There already was a pesticide registry passed at the state level last year by a CFS favorite, Jessica Wooley. Who is to say that they are not going to try to have all farmers covered by this law if they use pesticides? How many burdens do we want to put on others for the sake of attacking the bigger industries here?
2) Do you support, and if elected, will you vote to increase financial and programmatic support for organic and sustainable farming?
First of all, the CFS is implying once again that only organic is sustainable. The fail to mention to the candidate who does not do research that this “organic” issue is really a lobby created by an act of Congress. It is under the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service to help farmers to sell their products at a premium. This has nothing to do with food security or food safety or nutrition that’s even listed in the National Organic Program website. Do we want candidates to support only farmers who want to sell high end food to consumers? This group is not about making food affordable for the local people. It’s about growing their industry plain and simple. They use no evidence or science to dictate what has been shown to be truly sustaining. Organic farming is not the only answer to food sustainability and nor is it about food security or affordability. We need all the tools in agriculture to get Hawaii more food secure and not just funding premium products! We’ve got to maximize the yields we get in our currently lands first and foremost to have the least environmental impact overall.
3) Do you support funding state programs that expand support programs (including loans, business planning, safety certification, , education, grants in aid) for farmers growing food crops?
I have no problem with this question being asked and yes, we should look at supporting ALL farmers who grow things, not just food crops! Agriculture in Hawaii is so much more than food. Anyone who grows something here that is their livelihood should have our support, whether it be flowers, coffee, vegetables, cocoa, etc. We’ve got to value ALL farmers and stop dividing up ag into what is and what isn’t considered agriculture. The growing of things are only done by very few people and we should value and give them our support.
4) Do you support legislation that would preserved and support our native species, including pollinators, adversely affected by pesticide use?
This question posed is very biased in how they are presenting the issue. First of all, the honey bees we have in our islands are anything but native. We’ve brought them in nearly a hundred years ago. They have competed with or very own native pollinators and as a result have decimated our true native species of bees.
Typical anti-GMO literature will give people the impression that there’s an armageddon of bee deaths. The antis will all claim that GMOs and pesticides are killing them all. It’s odd because the latest data points in the opposite direction. The latest statistics collected by the USDA shows that honeybee colonies are definitely growing with Hawaii having some of the highest yields also. Honey yields increased by nearly 15% this year. If what they CFS is saying is true, this would not be the case given their statements. Making a law based on false evidence will only have unintended consequences that we just don’t need.
5) Do you support the labeling of foods that have been genetically engineered?
This is typical of the CFS to be touting this. The truth is the labeling issue is not about the right to know as they claim. It’s about a means to a ban. The simple idea of this label goes far beyond just putting a sticker on a package or a fruit. It will include testing, segregation, and enforcement to create such a standard. Do you think that Hawaii as a state can afford to handle such an issue? The DOH has repeatedly stated that attempting to label some 20,000 products and making sure it is in compliance with such a law is going to cost each and every consumer. Who does that hurt? The ones with the least who can barely afford to make it now.
6) If elected, will you vote to protect home rule of counties over agriculture?
First of all, historically speaking, Hawaii was not unified and at a warring state for hundreds of years. It wasn’t until a leader with a keen eye for leadership realized that they islands had to be unified. That person was King Kamehameha who saw to it that the entire island chain became united. Currently, we have politicians like Gary Hooser, Tim Bynum, Margaret Wille, Brenda Ford, Jessica Wooley, and Kaniela Ing who are supporting the home rule clause. They want to undo the unity in Hawaii agriculture and have fabricated a war which only takes away from the big goal of food security and affordability.
Mr. Bynum is also finding out that passing such home rule laws come with a cost that he had ignored. Guess who will have to pay for those costs? Yes, all of the residents in those counties in the form of higher property taxes and fees to cover the implementation of such laws.
7) Do you support the growing of more food in Hawaii?
Um, yes, we all support he growing of more food. Attacking farmers and the technology they use isn’t going to help achieve this goal. CFS is clearly anti-biotech and anti-aquaculture which is some key components to our locally grown foods here. Will that mean they will block new technology if it saves bananas from viral diseases that are hitting farmers now? Does this group wish to be a part of solving the problem or are they contributors to the problem? I see them as the latter when it comes time for more locally grown food. Are they going to help fund research to help solve Hawaii’s food problems or only be takers? Their history of lawsuits against farmers only tell me that they are going to impede options to farmers and ranchers. That’s not what we need in Hawaii at all.
8) Do you support the legislation to access more locally grown food?
This question sends shivers down my spine. How is more legislation upon farmers going to increase locally grown food? More laws mean more burdens and loops that farmers must go through to do their work? What we actually needs is less legislation to achieve more locally grown food. Real farmers already have to contend with the burdensome Food Safety and Modernization Act that costs thousands to implement, as well as labor laws, tax laws, and so many other laws that apply to their businesses. Leaders need to incentivize farming not punish them, which is what we have done in the last several years. Want more food here? Support those farmers and work collaboratively to reach that goal.
The Dirty Truth about the Hawaii Center for Food Safety
I wrote an earlier post about why people, especially leaders, need to be very wary about this group. This group is about taking away possible solutions and use the heavy handed fear tactics that have divided the Kauai community. We don’t need more emotion, ideology based demands in Hawaii’s food security and sustainability issues. We need to use data and evidence to guide the state towards the goal. The Center for Food Safety isn’t about collaborating and HELPING Hawaii people achieve the goal but about blocking possible options.
If you as leaders and candidates choose to align with this group, you’ve just taken us 20 step backwards instead of forward. This group isn’t from here and doesn’t have any connection to the local roots we all share in agriculture. We need collaborators in these issues, not takers and fear mongers. Why do we want to move Hawaii into the dark ages? Open up people’s minds to what’s happening in the world instead of shutting it down in fear and ideology. That’s the true responsibility of a good leader!
If you choose to align with people who believe that they must wear gas masks and hazmat suits on farms, then that tells me that I won’t be endorsing you as a candidate. We don’t need fear peddlers in Hawaii. We need people who do their due diligence and research the issues and not stand on ignorance and ideology.