Time to Turn the Tables on Activist Supported Politicians

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As I write my thoughts on this blog, I have been quite direct in who I am targeting it towards.  (Why beat around the bush and be coy?)  I’ve seen many of these same politicians acting high and mighty with lots of their pandering followers giving their support.  I find it quite funny how the followers of these politicians are so thankful and grateful towards them, but are down right nasty to others elsewhere who disagree with their views.

As a daughter of a biotech papaya farmer, I’ve had my share of these dual faced activists’ comments.  I chose to speak out for the papaya farmers because I know firsthand what happened to many of these farmers.  So many lost everything to the virus and had to make up for losses as a result.  Then when research provided a glimmer of hope and things started to look brighter, these farmers are subjected to the hate and misinformation campaign by these activists.  They are ready to take away something from the farmers but have nothing to offer in return.  Then when farmers start to speak out against them, they become targets themselves.

I have been writing many politicians with my thoughts and opinions, as well as noting what I have seen being done by a certain class of them in office.  When they are called out, these politicians clearly don’t like being targeted in my blog.  Good because you can walk in the shoes of the same farmers who have been targets for the past several years now.  You can also feel some heat that your fellow politicians who have helped us have experienced.

When you as a leader fail to see how your proposed laws are affecting agriculture, the silent public’s opinion should not be discounted.  Those who are unhappy with you are no longer going to grumble quietly to themselves and not say anything.  We are coming out just like the activists too and we expect to be heard and considered.

Leaders like Senator Clarence Nishihara, Representative Richard Onishi, Hawaii County Council Member Greggor Ilagan, Kauai County Council Member Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa, and Mayor Carvalho have all been targets of the activists like Babes Against Biotech, Hawaii SEED, and all the other anti-GMO groups.  I have yet to see any other legislator stand up against these groups for these barrage of attacks that they levy towards these leaders.  These groups enrage the masses with so much hate towards these people, while their preferred politicians quietly sit back and let it all happen.

What’s even worse is that certain politicians then accuse farmers of being the bullies?  Say what? What kind of leadership is that?  The complacency sends me the message that they support this kind of tactics.  That is truly disappointing to me.

What leader fans fires?  Unfortunately, we have many who have contributed to this problem.  Some are driven by fear to sit back and do nothing, some are egotistical, and some are fueled by the highs of the moment.  In either case, these are not leaders.

However, when I, a single person, place my opinion on my blog about politicians’ actions, they don’t like it at all and have told me.  I’m one person.  I don’t go out telling hundreds of others to go after people.  I state my take on the issue.  If it hits a nerve with you, let’s talk about it.

Babes Against Biotech and others sow seeds of fear and discord among hundreds that direct their spiteful words towards politicians either, and there is no condemnation of that by their preferred politicians.  It’s allowed to happen right in public view.  I am speaking my views and I don’t agree with what many leaders are doing and I’m telling them out loud.  I don’t put out nasty memes of targets on people’s heads or photoshop them to look awful.

I know that I must be causing a stir among our political leaders because I’ve noticed that I’ve been blocked by them on the social media.  You know who you are and why you choose to do that.  As a leader chosen by the people, I would have expected one to have a higher standard for one’s actions and consider the evidence and everyone that put you there in office.

Sometimes the truth isn’t what you want to hear, and hiding from it under the loudest activist is the easiest and least painful route to take in the public arena to save your public office seat.

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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 Sad Day for Science and Agriculture In Hawaii

Although the anti-GMO factions may be celebrating today, those who are versed in the sciences and technology know that it is a very disappointing day.  Through sneaky maneuvering and dirty politics, the ignorant lawmakers strong armed their way to pass a bill doomed to fail.  The only way that they could get it to pass was to break their word to vote with the 6 members and fill it with the 7th one.  Call it what you want, but it just shows the lack of integrity by Hooser, Bynum, Yukimura, Furfaro, and the latest add, Chock.

The writing is on the wall when many of these leaders are associated with the GMO Free groups and anti-ag groups like Earthjustice and Center for Food Safety.  If these leaders are so honestly wanting for the public to be safe, why not do this kind of legislation across the board instead of pinpointing at a single industry?  If the pesticide issue is truly a real issue that you are worried about, why not cover the disclosure across the board to protect everyone?  Why isn’t the county going to be a part of this disclosure since they use the most to begin with?  Why aren’t all pesticide users from homeowners to pest control companies to hotels and golf courses not covered but such a law if the county is out to protect people?  This law reeks of corruption and underhanded motives operating that is the very thing that these activist complain about yet openly show it front and center.

What makes this day very sad is that we have these so called community leaders, who have been oblivious or just choose to ignore the kind of environment that the agricultural industry is enduring here.  These leaders “listen to the people” and ignore the evidence.  Evidence and data mean nothing here in our state and hearsay and anecdotes rule.  That is really a blow to the scientific method and evidence base that has been built for over 2 decades.

While there are MMA fighters, bikini clad art majors, bus drivers, social science PhD candidates, and other followers cheering today, the people who studied crop sciences, plant pathology, cell molecular biology, agronomists, plant breeders, and others with the right background to make the statements about the issue have been completely ignored today.  The researchers and other scientists who are a looking at ways to solve the world’s problems and their work has been silenced by an overwhelming majority of naysayers, who have no clue about the direction of this evolving technology.  Today was a win for ignorance and it isn’t going to move Hawaii anywhere other than to keep people in the dark.  Apparently, that is what the politicians like Hooser, Bynum, Yukimura, Furfaro, and Chock prefer our future to be like.   That is just plain old irresponsible and they don’t even know it.

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

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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.