It’s not about eating the corn
Not for me anyway. The decision to eat or not eat the corn is only a small reason I support the labeling of genetically modified foods and hold deep reservations about the industry as a whole.
People on my island are getting sick. Many believe their sickness is being caused by the secondary and cumulative impacts connected to the growing of genetically modified organisms.
Yet when I’ve asked these companies directly and officially in writing to disclose what chemicals and in what quantities they are spraying, the industrial agrochemical GMO companies on Kauai have refused to do so.
For me, that alone is enough to keep me from buying their products or supporting their industry, and to support full labeling requirements.
63 countries around the world including all of Europe, Russia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand require mandatory labeling of GMO products. Some countries have banned these products completely.
Many questions exist and many doubts persist. There are valid health concerns ranging from allergen sensitivities to hormonal disruption to cancer, related to the GMO’s and to the pesticide spraying that accompanies them.
There are concerns about the globalization and corporate ownership of the worlds food supply. There are ethical and moral questions pertaining to the concept of corporations owning patents on living organisms both plant and animal, and to the increased diminishment of bio-diversity. All valid reasons consumers may not want to buy these products and thus the need to require labeling.
For me, it’s personal.
Kauai is ground zero in the GMO industry. These industrial agrochemical operations dominate the landscape of Kauai’s west side and are now moving into the southern and eastern land as well. The fields of mostly genetically modified corn not intended for human consumption grow on approximately 12,000 acres of prime farmland stretching from the base of the mountains down to within just feet of the pristine ocean waters.
These crops are subject to spraying with toxic pesticides up to 6 days a week.
Over 200 residents of WaimeaValley have filed suit claiming negative impacts from pesticide laden dust blowing into their homes and onto their bodies. Biologists estimate over 50,000 sea urchins died last year in near shore west-side waters.
People in all parts of Kauai County are growing increasingly concerned about the impacts that result from these companies spraying their fields with toxic and experimental chemicals that then flow into streams and near shore waters and cling to the dust which blows daily into neighborhoods and schools.
Yet these agrochemical companies, who are required by law to keep records of their pesticide use, tell me blithely to go elsewhere for the data.
About half the land used for GMO production on Kauai are public lands upon which zero property tax is paid. But they refuse to disclose to the public what they are growing or what they are spraying on these public lands. These large transnational corporations transfer their end products to related subsidiaries, benefit from Enterprise Zone and other GET exemptions and consequently pay zero GET tax on the products they produce.
State law and terms of the public lands lease/license require compliance with Hawaii’s environmental review law Chapter 343HRS, yet no documentation demonstrating compliance exists; no exemption declaration, no environmental assessment and no environmental impact statement.
Growing genetically modified organisms, using experimental pesticides and spraying a wide array of restricted and non restricted pesticides on a mass scale have impacts on our island, our health and our environment. There are direct impacts, secondary impacts and cumulative impacts but we don’t know what those impacts are because they have never been properly evaluated – and the companies in question won’t even give us the information needed to make a proper evaluation.
So yes, I support labeling. Absolutely.
Labeling, mandatory disclosure and a permitting process that requires a comprehensive review of the significant environmental and health impacts to our island and our community caused by this industry – I support them all, because as you can see this is about much more than just eating the corn.
Member Kauai County Council – Former Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control for State of Hawaii – Former Hawaii State Senator and Majority Leader
God bless you Gary! You so need to be there and on top of this horrid monster. From the very first planting on the west side, I knew there was going to trouble and unanswered questions. To take away our cane was a travesty in its self.
I’m just letting you know I support your efforts on this totally and will do whatever I can to help. Also begging you to stay on it, you are in a position of power much more than I. Stay with it please, not just the labeling but until its GONE off our island and out of our lives. Allowing this monster here was a huge greedy mistake. If I CAN help other than passing the word (which I do consistently) please let me know. Thank you, thank you!
My name is Karin Stoll and I was told by Syngenta personnel (when I got sprayed in the face at 10am while passing one of their fields in my truck) that the chemicals are Roundup and 2.4.D Herbicide….I googled the 2,4,D Herbicide and it is definitely carcinogenic. Laurie, from Syngenta, promised me the company would no longer spray during daylight hours, not much comfort, but at least an effort to reduce direct contact…Non the less, the secondary effects are clearly dangerous and unexceptable…Thank you Gary Hooser for standing up!
What a critical time for a wonderful blog such as this. Thank you Gary!!
And thank you Kaiulani for what you do! When are you coming back to Kauai? The next 6 months will be interesting here as the story continues to unfold.
Dear Gary, please encourage Kauai legislators to attend a policymakers’ screening and discussion of Seeds of Hope at the state capitol on Tuesday Feb 26 at 11am. Both AG chairs will be speaking as well as former governor Ariyoshi on the importance of supporting sustainable, local food production.
Thank you for raising the awareness. This is a critical issue that we all need to get behind. Our island will be a better place without the agrochemical companies. Please keep up the ‘”Good Fight. BTW, there is an anti GMO rally scheduled for March 9 in Poipu “March in March”. You and anybody who cares is welcome to join.
This is not just a “personal” issue. I can choose what I want to eat, to the extent that I can determine what’s IN the food I’m eating, I can avoid the personal use of chemicals in my home, lawn, and garden – but I don’t have control over what others are pouring into the water I’m drinking and swimming and fishing in, or the air I must breathe. It enrages me that while I am ever so careful to keep toxic chemicals out of my body and my home, others feel justified in pouring toxic chemicals into the environment we ALL share. What is the value of a few jobs, even a few thousand jobs if we are killing the water, the air, the soil, and the fist we all depend on.
Hey Gary. Let me solve your “personal” problem. You eat what you want. I’ll eat what I want. Let’s keep it personal. That means kept YOUR government out of the middle of it. It’s none of your business.
The challenge is if food is not labelled, then I cannot know that I am eating what I want to eat!
If you eat crackers, cereal, wash your hair, draw with crayons, consume beer, consume alcohol, wear cotton T-shirts or cotton based under garments, consume soda, eat wheat products, walk on golf greens (lawn seed can be GMO seed) if you smoke tobacco products (which is a topic in itself with regard to getting “sick”) or use bio-plastic utensils – you’ve touched/consumed GMO. Educate yourself people, read about ALL types of farming including organic. All farmers including organic use pesticides – also, organic farming is self-regulated, they self-report. The seed industries are regulated; they need to adhere to all USDA and Department of Ag standards. Personally knowing this I would never give my child organic food because I do not know the farmer who produced it. Example of where organic can go wrong, read about the Peanut Corp of America – they went organic in 2005: http://money.msn.com/business-news/article.aspx?feed=AP&date=20130221&id=16149222 Gary’s post is a scare tactic, when people read the word “sick people, sick children or killing of our people” that’s irresponsible politics and irresponsible behavior – just like shouting “fire” in a theatre. Why not target other industries as well, all the hotels spray pesticides, homeowners use pest control (Terminix/Aloha Termite), Home Depot sells tons of chemicals – seriously, educate yourself on farming. The seed companies have some GMO crops but not all their crops are GMO. The seed companies will open their doors to the public, make an appointment to meet with them and learn – then decide. Irresponsible blogs such as this could result in companies leaving resulting in the loss of 1,000 + local jobs. Where will they work? I don’t see Gary creating work opportunities, maybe he should roll up his sleeves and develop the land himself to create sustainable living for all on Kauai – do something vs. talking non-sense and hiding behind a keyboard. I’d hate to see 1,000 locals lose their jobs. Don’t drink anyone’s “cool-aide” – do your homework and then decide. Very irresponsible blog – you’ve lost my vote Gary!
Which part of the blog was not true? People are getting sick. Many people do think it is related to the GMO and related pesticide spraying. When I asked the companies for the information as to what they are spraying and how much they are spraying, they refuse to give it to me. Why do you think they are refusing to make public the chemicals they spray, the amount they spray and the location of their spraying? FYI: I am asking similar questions of golf courses, the State Department of Transportation, the County of Kauai and other large agricultural operations.
If you ask the department of ag they will give you the data on pesticide sprays for all seed companies, this data is reported to them as this industry is regulated. How will you ask the organic farmer for their data since they self-regulate? How will you gage pesticide use for the residents of Kauai when their spray a their property, property they own? Same for other industries?
What about taro, pineapple, papaya? Local crops – these crops are important to Hawaii and I stand by them, they should be here – are you looking at these industries as well regarding pesticide use? Why just the seed industry? Also, for the woman who commented on Monsanto, Monsanto is not on Kauai – again, facts people, facts are important.
As for “sick people”, who exactly is sick? What product created the illness and who died due to the seed companies being on Kauai; names would be a good start.
I live in Kekaha, what about sugar, the chemicals they used still have lasting affects in the ground and the sugar mill is filled with asbestos. Is anyone looking into that? Is this why people are sick?
Is your next push to ban all GMO products: shampoo, cereal, crackers, t-shirts, etc? Where does it end?
If the seed companies leave Kauai what new business will you bring to Kauai to replace jobs? What will 1,000+ displaced local workers do (local meaning those born and raised on Kauai)? How will they pay their bills and feed their families? I hope welfare is not the answer.
If you want to be the “Erin Brockovich” of GMO’s please do your homework as Brockovich did and present facts: who’s sick, why, what are they sick with and how did they die.
Lastly, those who follow your rants (drink your cool-aid) they’ve been destructive to the island of Kauai. If you drive to the west side of Kauai you will see the anti-GMO messages that were spray painted on the road – defacing this beautiful island – is that what you want? You want graffiti? People I know personally have been bullied over the topic because of the anti-messages, those who work at the seed companies have had their cars keyed, they’ve been threatened with violence (call KPD and ask for the police report that was filed this past Wednesday, 2/20/13 where workers were threatened with violence) – is that what you want? You may just get your fatality statistics, next headline in the Garden Island could read: “resident of Kauai killed by anti-GMO protestor”. I would encourage the Erin Brockovich path, don’t be a Jim Jones plus followers….Kauai does not need “Jones Town”, just saying…
This is growing a bit tiring but I will respond one last time.
I am requesting Kauai wide, all encompassing data from the Department of Ag.
I have spoken to people who have cancer, who have several people (some of whom are not blood related)in their family who have cancer and who are convinced it is because of the toxins in the soil and dust from the agrochemical operations occurring right next door to their neighborhood.
My goal was to merely gather the data that would help determine whether or not these companies are spraying excessively and to determine exactly what chemicals they are spraying. But the companies you so vehemently defend refuse to make public this information. The Department of Agriculture keeps records of some of the pesticides used but the only way to get 100% of the data is from the companies themselves. And though I have asked, and though they are required to keep track of the pesticides they spray – they refuse to provide the information. Why? Tell me why do you think these companies are unwilling to make public the chemicals they are spraying and the quantities they spray?
I agree sugar plantations also poisoned much of the soil and left behind a toxic legacy. As did the pineapple with hepticlor. Does that mean we should just turn a blind eye to those companies that are taking the place of sugar and pine?
I don’t believe I said anything about banning anything. What I said is that we need full disclosure so we can properly evaluate health and environmental impacts. If that statement scares the seed companies, then it only reinforces my point.
No, I do not want graffiti. And I certainly don’t want violence. The first hint of any discussion of violence has come from you.
Am glad you are encouraging the Erin Brockovich path. I agree that is what is needed. And thankfully there is a law firm who is willing to take this on and is representing 200 West Side residents in a law suit against one of the largest seed companies. I hope they, like Erin Brockovich, are successful in getting to the bottom of this controversy and settling it once and for all.
I did and am trying to go the research route but the companies will not provide the information so the only options available are to either pass laws making them provide the data, or take them to court and force them to provide it. It appears that both paths are being followed.
And no, I will not carry on this conversation any further at this point in time. I think what you have written so far provides good insight into the other side of the discussion and I appreciate that. But enough for now. gh
And ADAM, when the chemicals these companies are spraying are making people sick, even when they are not choosing to put them in their mouths….I do believe, it is everyone’s business. The effects are wide spread, and go way beyond what people are choosing to eat. Its damaging the environment as a whole. Do a little research, your statements are shallow and completely uninformed.
Thank you for this intelligent, heartfelt post. I have a background in organic farming, and so was devastated when, during my four month stay in Kauai in 2011, I witnessed the endless rows of Monsanto’s corn as we drove to Polihale. We, here in San Juan County, Washington, just recently succeeded in passing a GMO free initiative. I know it is just a small step in a larger battle, and perhaps you are looking into something similar, but I urge you to start taking steps to change legislation. As you so said “it’s personal” when your glorious homeland, children, and families are being poisoned. Keep up the good work.
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Polli Oliver forwarded this to me after we watched ‘Pray the devil back to hell’ (about Liberia and how the wemoon there sang and danced for peace.) Tired of war – even if it’s subtle – our challenge is how do we get all to work with us for healthy food, healthy air, healthy water…Gary sooooo appreciate what you are doing, and for the information.
Let’s label our food – information is good.
Gary, if State law (and terms of the public lands lease/license require compliance with Hawaii’s environmental review law Chapter 343HRS) is in place, did the current GMO companies somehow qualify for an exemption? There is an impact to the environment – so let’s measure it. That is what scientists love to do anyway.
That is an excellent question Carol. Exemptions must be in writing and must be specific to the particular action – there are no “blanket exemptions” for GMO or other industrial use of State lands. From all indications, these companies never complied with Chapter 343 as there has never been an exemption declaration, no ea and no eis. Not sure what the legal ramifications of this are or whether too much time has passed to now enforce.
Thank you SO much Gary, for being willing to have a voice for the many residents who care deeply about the health of our bodies, our families, and the land. We deserve to KNOW what we are buying and feeding our children. I wonder how the health of those 1,000+ workers on these farms will be affected in the future? A job cannot replace one’s health. I would love to see an organic operation in its place…Respect the land, AND our right for truthful information…Mahalo Gary Hooser
Gary, this may be difficult to read because it’s quite apparent you’re more interested in ginning up support from hippies and other uninformed voters than you are in facts, but here’s just a short list of my own thoughts…which are based on facts.
1. Every single peer-reviewed published study has found the consumption of GMO food to have no ill effects on humans. Please see reports from the National Aacademy of Sciences, International Council for Science, World Health Organization (WHO), and most recently a 2010 European Commission study, all of which reported no effects on human health. You can feel free to mention that Europe bans GMO’s, but their own scientific studies show that the ban is based 100% on politics and fear, rather than science. However as a politician, its obvious which way you’re going to lean on that one.
2. The most widely used GMO traits such as glyphosate resistance and Bt actually reduce pesticide use or change pesticide use from more toxic herbicides to the less toxic herbicide glyphosate, which has low toxicity and breaks down quickly in the environment.
3. We now have almost 20 years of real-life research in which people have consumed GMO food and there has yet to be one single documented case of illness due to GMO food.
4. Why would we need to label GMO food when every single unbiased study has shown it is not substantively different from conventional food? Why would we label something as different when it is not? Requiring food to be labeled would add to the cost tremendously. Why add that cost to our food? Isn’t food expensive enough on Kauai? I have a family and its hard enough to feed it. Please don’t make it harder.
5. The bio-tech industry is already heavily regulated. New products take many years, sometimes over a decade to get released to market due to the testing and oversight that products must go through before commercial release. Hawaii plays a part in this, allowing companies to produce crops during the winter time while still following the U.S. regulatory structure. Shouldn’t we celebrate the fact that Kauai is able to benefit from this through the creation of over 1,000 jobs?
6. This one is important…who are you to demand proprietary information from private companies? Is that honestly how you believe our society in this country works? That just because you are a county councilman you can expect a company to share with you their proprietary business practices? I’m pretty sure this country was founded upon principles to help us avoid that. The law is important, and there are several laws created to monitor the use of pesticides through the EPA, USDA, and HDOA. If you wish to access that information, the proper channels should be followed. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a county councilman, governor, U.S. senator, or President Obama…you can NOT simply demand proprietary information from a private company and then throw a fit when they do not provide it. If you want the information, go get it from the proper agencies like everyone else who’s not special like you would have to.
All in all Gary, where would the west side of Kauai be without the seed companies? Who would support the Kekaha minimarts? Who would hire out contractors to build new buildings, repair buildings, maintain landscapes, dig ditches, clear land, etc? Who would keep Subway, Yumis, Wranglers, Big Save, Obsessions, Ishihara, and much more in business? Walk into any of these places around lunch time and you will find multiple seed industry employees supporting them. Who would coach the Waimea high school athletic teams? Who would sponsor fundraisers for town celebrations, local athletic, musical, and dance clubs? The seed companies have their stamp on all of these things? Is the base supposedly enough to keep the west side alive? I highly doubt it.
I know this much Gary: In less than two years when you are looking for either re-election or election to a higher office, I will be shouting on my rooftop that if people care about the west side of Kauai, do NOT vote Gary Hooser.
Well, here we go again. Another commenter who chooses not to read my blog, but instead starts there rant without a clue as to the points I was making.
1) Your point about peer reviewed data – you apparently either did not read the title to my blog or you did not understand it: “It’s Not About Eating The Corn”.
2) My main point about the Pesticide issue is that the companies refuse to disclose what they are spraying, how much they are spraying or where they are spraying. Without the information…these large agrochemical companies are simply saying “trust me”.
3) Again, you miss my point – for me “”It’s Not About Eating The Corn”.
4) The cost issue is a bogus straw man argument. You can put GMO right before the MSG and Red Die #3 and it cost nothing more than printing three letters in caps GMO. The reason to label is to give me a choice. Read the blog and you can see my reasons why I want to choose whether to support a company or an industry, or a food – I deserve a choice.
5) Why are these companies not willing to provide full disclosure to the information that they already are required to keep in their files and is already technically public?
6) The basic information I am requesting is not proprietary. The Department of Agriculture has some of it but the companies have the rest of it. If these companies want to use public lands at subsidized rates, and utilize public funding via tax exemptions – then they should be willing to provide the information relevant to public health.
7) My blog is in response to West Side residents and other Kauai residents who are concerned (200 of which live in Waimea Valley and are suing a seed company). These companies should simply provide the information requested.
Full disclosure will not put these companies out of business. These are billion dollar transnational agrochemical companies who own half the seeds in the world and sell about 70% of the pesticides globally. They publicly state a $250 million dollar annual value for Hawaii but pay no general excise tax on the products they produce and no property tax on the public lands that they lease. Yes, they are valuable contributors to the economy on the West Side and no, public disclosure of the chemicals they are spraying and an evaluation of those impacts will not put them out of business and not even make a small dent into the profits they generate.
Gary, I do not work in agribusiness but I do work in manufacturing and we would never disclose more than required about how we produce our products as it would allow our competitors to match or improve upon our production methods – and risk putting us out of business.
The cost of labeling gmo does not come from the ink and space on the label but from the flood of litigation that would take place following the labeling.
Finally, anecdotal evidence like “someone I know who is sick thinks it from the chemicals” is not sciece it is fearmongering. You want to take down agribusiness go get some funding and do a scientific study that proves they are doing damage to the environment, people, or economy and take them to court. People have been trying to get scientific data to substantiate any of claims in this post and comments but have so far been unable to do so. Whereas the these innovative companies fueling our economy have been able to time and time again prove that not only are their products and production methods are not unsafe (hard to prove but they have) but also have often prove they they are in fact safe (extremely difficult to do but they have). How about instead of living in a world of anti science and fairy dust you join the world of hard work and innovation and find ways to attract more companies like this to our island.
Thank you for your comment and you raise some good points.
1) A manufacturing business would likely be located in an industrial zone and not in lands adjacent to residential areas, schools, streams and along coastlines and thus may not be held to the same level of scrutiny. However, if a manufacturing operation was utilizing toxic chemicals in its manufacturing process then similar questions would be asked and a higher bar of government regulatory authority would be in place.
2) Also, if that manufacturing operation was located on State land they would be required to comply with Chapter 343 and have to complete an environmental review and or EIS – that is existing State law.
3) Labeling occurs now in the majority of the industrialized world and to my knowledge it has not caused a “flood of litigation”. I agree that the law must be designed appropriately to allow for very small trace amounts and inadvertent contamination etc.
4) It is not anecdotal evidence that over 200 West Side residents living in the near vicinity of GMO fields are suing one of the seed companies alleging negative health impacts from pesticide laden dust coming from those fields. I have spoken directly with residents who are very ill and whose family members are very ill, and who believe without question that their illnesses are related to these operations.
5) My attempt to obtain the data from these companies was/is intended to be a reasonable approach to the situation and to help determine:
*What chemicals exactly are being sprayed/used?
*How much of these chemicals are being used?
*Are there more chemicals being used today than yesterday? And during the past few years?
*Do these companies in fact use more or less pesticides than conventional farmers on Kauai?
*Are experimental chemicals being used? **The answer is yes.
However, because the companies have chosen not to provide the information I am unable to determine the answers to these basic questions that I believe the community has a right to know and is my obligation to ask.
Final note: For the most part your comment was professional and mature, and I felt added value to the conversation. You fell off the cliff however when you close by accusing me of “living in a world of anti science and fairy dust”…
Dear Gary, perhaps you should not condescend to the commenters who seem to grasp the concept of science the most. Essentially, what you are attempting to do rhetorically is to de-legitimize the contentions of the previous poster by claiming s/he did not read your blog and instead decided to launch into a rant.
I suspect s/he is confused by your scientific illiteracy in regards to GMOs and pesticides. As you state, the blog is not about eating the corn. You dismiss two of the previous poster’s points, I assume, because the inherent bad in the situation is not limited to the ingestion of the aforementioned GMOs. So the question becomes, if they did not ingest them, where did the exposure come from? You then proceed to launch into a crusade about the use of pesticides, which is where your real contention is. Ironically, your quarrel with genetically modified organisms is unrelated to the sickness that your weepy-eyed acolytes attribute to them.
The problem with your blog here, and your laughably pathetic solution to a problem that has not even a shred of peer-reviewed scientific evidence, is you routinely confuse exposure to GMOs and exposure to pesticides. You have propped up the GMO as a boogeyman in your crusade for social engineering. Your endgame here is to empower the organic farming industry by labeling GMO products (or using government coercion to label them) and your desirable outcome is to increase organic consumption and thereby, production.
You then proceed to lay out a solution to a non-existent problem. Your contention is that by labeling products as GMO, you will have achieved success in limiting sick people on the island. You will have obliterated the non-valid concerns of your retching populace all by using the power of three little letters!
As any nanny stater, your solution to label GMOs is rife with problems, so allow me to lay them out for you in four easy to read points:
1. Genetically modified organisms are engineered to withstand pests and herbicides, which would actually decrease the exposure to the pesticides that you claim are creating the problems.
2. Labeling GMO products will not decrease exposure to pesticides.
3. Alluding to point 1, attempting to inhibit companies from using GMOs would actually increase exposure to pesticides to offset losing the desirable trait of pest-resistance present in GM crops.
4. If your objective is truly to provide people with a choice, that choice already exists. It’s labeled USDA Organic.
However, I wish you luck in your silly little conquest of self-importance and may the Law of Unintended Consequences rear it’s ugly, albeit logical, head at your anti-scientific, flat earther nonsense.
At first I thought not to post your comments because of the tone and the words you choose to use. But upon reflection I thought your sarcasm will also serve to illustrate the arrogance and contempt some like yourself who are in love with the science feel about people like myself whom you believe to be an ignorant fool barely deserving of your rebuttal:
You start with: “I suspect s/he is confused by your scientific illiteracy in regards to GMO…” which is brilliantly understated and thus a potentially very effective rhetorical device.
But then you blow it by going over the top and saying “your laughably pathetic solution to a problem that has not even a shred of peer-reviewed scientific evidence”.
Then…you throw good money after bad by saying “Ironically, your quarrel with genetically modified organisms is unrelated to the sickness that your weepy-eyed acolytes attribute to them.”
“Weepy-eyed acolytes”? Now that is a really, choice phrase – I can imagine you have been waiting for a long time to use that one.
“You have propped up the GMO as a boogeyman in your crusade for social engineering.” Where did this come from?
“You will have obliterated the non-valid concerns of your retching populace…”. Now I get it. Your disdain for people who question your science is really coming out. What is in your heart of hearts emerges.
And then you close with the line that really blows your cover “may the Law of Unintended Consequences rear it’s ugly, albeit logical, head at your anti-scientific, flat earther nonsense”.
Yes – Thank you for posting these comments – it shows clearly who you are. If your words were not so full of contempt for those of us who have a different perspective, they might be humorous and entertaining.
I’m not going to pretend I know the percentage of everyday groceries that contain GMO products but Its about 90% of the groceries I purchased today (what can I say, I love high fructose corn syrup). If you think that there would be not impact to a company other than printing 3 extra letters on a package that is fairly naïve for a man who fancies himself well informed member of elected government. Do you think that by labeling GMO on every product that there wont be huge impacts to that business, there would be billions in advertising to inform the everyday buyer that there is no scientific health impact from consuming GMO products as Stampi so eloquently put it, to keep the conventional food manufacturers from suffering huge profit losses. Those billions of dollars in advertising and profit losses would be transferred directly into the costs of the product making the costs of food more expensive. I guess if you shop at the Whole Foods Market and buy only organic like some of our better off members of the community maybe it wont be any impact, but for the rest of us there would be no doubt be a significant impact. There is more with the costs I’m sure like tracking which chickens ate GMO corn or conventional barley when labeling my chicken nuggets and all the legal fees in battling the necessity of labeling each product but you get the idea. Not going to argue the economic impact to the west side as that is absolute ignorance if you think the Island can sustain its self without the seed industry because without it all the west side businesses would shut down and where do you think they would go to look for work? I guess the answer I keep hearing is give everyone an acre and we can live off the land right? The only people that I have ever heard say that are the ones that have never worked a day on a farm in their life. Please work on getting the economy back on track again in Kauai so we can all afford organic produce please and quit blogging about what you think is going to get you the most votes.
P.S. I thoroughly read your blog and every reply.
P.P.S I live in Koloa and in business for myself and don’t work for the GMO industry but like most educated people believe in Biotech for the sustainability of the 7 billion people in the world.
Again – I think it is useful to hear your perspective and respond at least briefly as best I can.
1) Labeling of GMO food is already required in much/most of the modern world and it has not caused the sky to fall on the GMO industry. To say that it will cost the industry billions of dollars in advertising and profit losses is pure speculation and has no basis in reality. IMHO
2) Feeding the world through genetic modification is also a false premise. Not unless you intend to feed the world via Twinkies and ribeye steak. As you state – the vast majority of GMO products go into making processed food or food-like substances and/or cattle feed. There have been numerous credible studies that state clearly the main challenge is solving world hunger is with food distribution and not food production. Genetic modification encourages mono-cropping and the weakening of the core species because it is the antithesis of bio diversity. Bio diversity is at the central core of strong and healthy ecosystems.
3) Most educated people in the world believe in labeling transgenic foods – as evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of the industrial world already requires labeling.
Council Member Hooser,
I’ve read and reread your blog and forgive me but your point is extremely difficult to follow. Even your last response to “Stampi” seems to lack a central theme. Obviously, “It’s not about eating the corn” but then what is it about–GMO’s, sick people, corporate ethics, pesticides, food security, tax exemptions? Your entire blog simply raises more questions.
As a public official why would you be so irresponsible as to post comments that have potentially misleading implications?
You state that seed companies are “spraying their fields with toxic and experimental chemicals.” Is this a fact or a bit of sensationalism or your part? Isn’t the main reason that seed companies grow crops in Hawaii because the environment allows them to grow multiple generations in one year? Assuming that these seed companies experiment with chemicals at all, wouldn’t it be much more likely that they do those tests on the mainland where such studies have traditionally been done?
To be clear, is your position that the seed companies are not acting responsibly when using pesticides? If so, by extension are you then implying that we cannot trust our federal and local government staff that closely regulate this process?
As someone that we look to for leadership on policies, how much have you educated yourself on GMO’s or for that matter the seed companies? Do you contend that GMO’s are unsafe?
Is it your contention that GMO crops require more pesticide use than other crops? It is difficult to determine your stance on this from your blog but it seems to be what you imply.
You state that ” Kauai is ground zero in the GMO industry”….. and that “[GMO crops] grow on approximately 12,000 acres of prime farmland stretching from the base of the mountains down to within just feet of the pristine ocean waters. ” As a resident of Kauai and a person that has grown up around agriculture, I am curious as to what you define as “prime farmland?” Kauai is certainly beautiful, but isn’t it true that much of the “prime farmland” you mention requires significant financial investment to amend the soil and provide consistent water in order to support a crop? So we all can understand, what is your purpose for making these statements?
You state that people on “your” island are getting sick and that your blog is in response to West Side residents and other Kauai residents that are concerned. I believe we all sympathize with our friends, family, and neighbors whenever they have health concerns. Don’t those concerned residents, the approximately 1000 local seed company workers, and all of the other Kauai residents deserve a more balanced discussion from our council members rather than ill-informed rhetoric?
The only question you have answered in mind is whether I would vote to re-elect you.
Am posting your comment as it is helpful understanding your mindset on this important subject as well. I will try to keep my responses short and to the point.
1) You say you have read and reread my blog but are having difficulty trying to understand my point and that my blog “simply raises more questions”. Good observation! The fact that there are so many unanswered questions is one of my points.
2) All statements I made are true including the fact that toxic and experimental chemicals are being used.
3) By not providing the information as to what chemicals are being sprayed and how much are being sprayed, it leads me to believe that those companies doing the spraying do not want me nor the public to know the facts and this causes me to trust these companies less.
4) You are correct, I do not believe the State or the Federal government are providing adequate oversight on many levels with regards to this issue. This is one reason why it is important that we at the local level must step forward.
5) Yes, I have spent a significant amount of time educating my self on these issues. Yes, I believe there are many aspects of the GMO industry that are unsafe and that the development and production of new genetically modified organisms must be done very carefully. My contention on the safety of GMO’s is that there are direct impacts, secondary impacts and cumulative impacts that apply both locally and directly to the Kauai community and to the planet as a whole. These impacts have to a large degree not been adequately studied. The accidental release of experimental transgenic organisms, the cross contamination of GMO and non GMO species, the insertion of animal genes into plants, the development of bio pharmaceuticals and bio industrial organisms utilizing food crops as a base organism – all have potentially catastrophic potential on our planets ecosystem as a whole if not managed very, very carefully.
6) This is why I requested the information on pesticide use that is not being provided. Conventional wisdom in the community is that GMO crops that are “Round Up Ready” do utilize more pesticide spraying than other crops, because they can do so without harming the crops. Because Kauai crops are grown very intensively on a year round basis it is also commonly believed that therefore these large agrochemical companies do use more chemicals than so called conventional farmers. Thus my questions which were intended to address this issue in a reasonable manner. But the companies have chosen not to tell me or our community what or how much they are using.
7) The State of Hawaii both in the States Constitution, in the States 2020 Plan and in many other documents – has pledged a commitment to local food sustainability. I believe our first priority in the utilization of prime farm lands should be producing food for local consumption. This especially holds true for public agricultural lands. There is no question that prime farm lands are more expensive to lease and thus less available to local food farmers, as a result of the competition and demand from the GMO companies. The best State agricultural lands should be provided first to local food farmers and at lease terms that support the production of local food for our community.
8) I agree a balanced discussion is important. Because these large companies refuse to reveal what they are spraying and how much they are spraying (let alone what they are growing) – it is very difficult to have that discussion and to reach any conclusions that are meaningful.
9) Who you vote for has no impact on decisions I make that have potential impact on the health and safety of our community.
Thank you, Gary, for supporting mandatory labeling of GMO products and environmental impact studies for companies on public lands. I would like to have a choice in what I put in my body and also be aware of the chemicals and waste flowing into our streams, oceans and ground water here on our precious Kauai.
Thank goodness for the Erin Brockoviches and Gary Hoosers of this world. People who are willing
to tirelessly and thanklessly do the footwork that most of us are unmotivated to do and to stand up and be concerned about our health and well being . Thank you Gary, your letter is excellent,
extremely valid and you have my full support.
I wonder if the negative responders were at the incredibly inspiring GMO gathering last month?
All the facts and figures were laid out by those speakers who have done so much research. The
picture does not look good from where ever you are standing except perhaps those in line at the bank.
If everything is good and wholesome at the pharm why is there such resistance to labeling our
food so we can make our own choices?
Gary, thank you for this blog and for all your work on this issue! I want a choice too, and I don’t want the land and ecosystem poisoned. I’m not selling our kid’s health for jobs or anything else! You are the voice I’ve been longing to hear. I stand with you 100%. Please don’t let up!!
Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Gary, and for exposing the real issue in all this emotional debate. I just posted the following on my Facebook page:
GMO foods? Biotech foods? As Gary Hooser of the island of Kauai in Hawaii says: “It’s not about eating the corn.” Much more significant is the reason for which a company will not disclose what chemicals are being sprayed on the crops, and in what quantity. What’s the old saying? Where there is smoke, there is fire. When I am afraid that if I label something GMO people will refuse to buy it, perhaps I should realize there is a reason that people are concerned. If GMO crops are truly safe and healthy, then we should be seeing an increase in the health of our population, because they are eating healthy food. I agree with Gary. It’s not about the corn. I can make my own decisions in that department – chicken nuggets or chicken breast? It’s a no-brainer. The real question is: why the secrecy? Is there something to hide? Check out the blog: https://garyhooser.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/its-not-about-eating-the-corn/
Having been a reader of these types of arguments over and over on a litany of subjects related to health and the things corporations do that endanger their fellow human beings, it is quite clear that those claiming they are all about the “science” are simply big agribusiness employees sent to this blog in a attempt to silence Gary who is clearly a rare voice of reason. He is simply saying lets pause and get all the information, and ensure all the laws are being followed, and that there is not an (assumed unintended) consequence of harm taking place. If anyone who lives on the island thinks that being certain no harm is taking place to humans or animal and plant life on the island is unreasonable it would leave the rest no choice but to question whether they have a conscience. If you are an employee of agribusiness and can justify your position as just doing your job, then you have already sold your soul, if you believe the propaganda of the corporate bottom line then I pity the day you wake up to your wife/husband daughter/son or other loved one being diagnosed with cancer. Of course no doubt most are working in some corporate office PR department far far away from the west side of Kauai!
The first priority of businesses, especially those who help in the process of providing the community food, should always put people first. People, Environment, THEN Profit. I know this is not realistic to how most companies operate, but for a business like this, you need to think about the possible consequences, because it doesn’t effect one or two people, it affects entire communities. It seems only sensible and logical to put labels of what’s being used to grow our crops, like many other products on the shelves at our stores, because we ingest those things directly and indirectly. Who knows, say there is a chance they are possibly not doing any harm, then what harm does it do them to let the public know what they are taking into their bodies and environment. People’s health need to come first, not profit.
You just gained my vote, and I’ll be sure to spread the word to other fellow Kauaiians who are concerned for their safety. Someone had to say something, I’m glad you did 🙂
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Aloha Gary and al,
Mahalo for all you bring forward in support of our ‘aina and our people. Sorry that some of your bloggers have attempted to distract from the real issues at stake; You have been talking about poisons in your “It’s Not about Eating the Corn” and the necessity of transparency so that we can move forward in a responsible way. It hurts my heart when people are in deep denial of the safety issues when real people are being impacted by the trespass of pesticide drift, affected by inhaling pesticides, their water sources affected by pesticides, with impacts to their own health, their kids, and their dreams of growing their crops untainted are dashed–as if we have to just be forced to accept toxicity as “standard practice.” The other side of this, is that it has awakened many willing to take a stand on this. Transparency regarding these practices is sorely needed, and we are at a point of having to demand industry comply with that. You speak of what has happened on Kauai to the ‘aina and her people and see what is really needed on behalf of those who have come to you to represent them. We don’t hide behind organizations, or outdated ideas of safety. I think we are discovering that the parameters used to define “Safety” isn’t set in concrete, changes with updated information, time, both individual and political will and greater awareness of what we are doing to one another and our planet. Given all of this, there still is a knowing in our gut if something is really off. In this case, the emperor is not wearing any clothes so to speak, and there’s no hiding from the situation. We are now 16 years later than when GMOs were introduced; and now larger quantities and strength of pesticides are being used both generally and experimentally. Contrary to some other comments on this blog, there is now an abundance of studies that do show the “widespread” harms of pesticides–whether placed in the seed or externally. This is whether accumulating impact to our lands or impactis our bodies. It’s now coined “toxic burden”. The body and ‘aina may be able to safely break down toxins in small amounts. However, as you are aware, we have reached a tipping point with the amount of toxic burden we are all subject to– as well as the disruption it can cause. It behooves us to pay attention to best practices. If that means changing our agricultural practices, so be it. The words “Conventional”, “Modern Practices” and “Food Security” should be challenged when they are simply a cover for toxic practices. Outstanding current compilations of studies are in truth available that show which ag practices are actually sustainable, and which are not. I find very compelling “GE Crop Risk Assessment Challenges: An Overview” by Dr. Charles Benbrook May 6, 2013 from Food Safety News http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/05/ge-crop-risk-assessment-challenges-an-overview/#.UYg5xoI7iCc , as well as his peer reviewed study, ” Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops And Pesticide Use In The United States–the first Sixteen Years” compiled from USDA Survey Data. He had previously tracked GE crops at various time intervals over the years and written reports on such. This WA State Univ. Professor did a very large compilation of studies as well on Soy? Responsible? Glyphosate that shows the real issues of harm. Most relevant to Hawaii is “Environmental and Health Risks of Synthetic Chemicals used by the Biotechnology Seed Industry in Hawaii” by Hector Venzuela, University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, Dept of Plant Environmental and Protection Scientist, via email@example.com viewable at http://dl.dropbox.com/u/33544971/PesticidesKauaiHV12.pdf For those who want to sort out the rhetoric from the reality, one of the clearest presentations I’ve viewed is the point by point comparisons backed up by a large amount of studies in the freely downloadable version of “GMO Myths and Truths–An Evidence-based Examination of the Claims made for the Safety and Efficacy of Genetically Modified Crops” at http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.3b.pdf. I am grateful a movement is happening in our islands, and I am heartened by the response of so many who care deeply about perpetuating its life, and our health and well being without excuses or settling for less. Are we not worthy!!!!
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Thank God for Gary Hooser and everyone else who supports putting a spotlight on GMO and corporate chemical companies in Hawaii in order to inform all the residents about the unknown dangers which can and will our families! The corporate giants want to use our precious lands to experiment and poison our environment and people in secret. We need an army of Gary Hoosers to fight against this unscrupulous, unconscionable, undesirable effort. We need to kick them out of Hawaii. Shame on any and all elected officials who take money from these corporate giants and blatantly work against the interests of the people they represent. Investigate before you vote! No aloha for the corporate giants and elected officials on the take! Save Hawaii! Rise up!
Thank you Marisa. Please keep spreading the word!