Letter: ‘Proposed Anti-GMO Bills Have Consequences’

Richard Ha writes:

My Letter to the Editor ran yesterday in West Hawaii Today:

10:03 am - September 03, 2013 — Updated: 10:03 am - September 03, 2013

Proposed anti-GMO bills have consequences

If passed, Hawaii County Council’s anti-GMO bills 109 and 113, submitted by Brenda Ford and Margaret Wille and to be heard at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, will have unintended and serious consequences.

Both bills send the wrong message to our next generation. In their actions, they imply that conventional farming is not an honorable profession. This, in turn, threatens our goal of food self-sufficiency.

They threaten the livelihoods of Big Island farmers. Competitors who are not on the Big Island would be allowed to use new biotechnology, but not Big Island farmers. New technology generally results in lower costs, thus this would leave Big Island producers as high-cost producers.

We are criticizing and threatening the farmers, the very people who feed us and the ones we should be encouraging to help us achieve food self-sufficiency.

In the old days, farmers were held in high esteem. Criminalizing farmers is a new, and ill-advised, concept. What we need now is to slow down, take a deep breath and do things in a steady, rational manner.

All major health and safety agencies, nationally and internationally, say there is no difference between biotech- and conventional-developed crops in terms of our health and safety.

We are threatening the spirit of aloha. The last round of testimony on these bills resulted in a shameful display, lacking aloha altogether. This could have been prevented with better preparation.

We should kill both bills and form a group – free of politics – to advise us how to proceed. This group should set a goal of figuring out how we can all work together to achieve food self-sufficiency in a way that benefits the most people. It should study economic impacts of various alternatives. It should study and report on the safety of rainbow papayas. This group should also study the social impact of various alternatives.

Instead of acting and then perhaps studying, we really must study the situation first before making decisions and acting.

Richard Ha

Owner, Hamakua Springs Country Farms