Tag Archives: anti-GMO

What We Learned From Hurricane Iselle

Richard Ha writes:

There are a lot of things we can learn from the hurricane we just went through.

People saw what needed to be done on the ground and they just did it. Trees needed to be cut, so they cut them. Neighbors needed food and ice, so people got them food and ice. People saw the situations that were problems and they took care of them.

This is a good analogy for what we farmers want to do now. We have been dragged into a battle, and all we want to do is get back to providing food for people. We’re farmers. We want to grow things and feed people. We don’t want to be involved in lawsuits and philosophical battles.

What’s happened is that the Center for Food Safety, and Earth Justice, which is the Sierra Club’s legal arm, are fighting against farmers. We farmers are asking for clarity on this anti-GMO bill. We’re saying tell us what the rules are so we can go back to farming. But those two are fighting against us, so we can’t do that.

Here’s an analogy. It’s as if after the hurricane they said: Yeah, we see all the albizia trees are down, but we want you to focus on something that’s happening in the Midwest, or in India.

Those aren’t local problems.

Or it’s like they were saying, Yeah, we see all the trees down, but you can’t use chainsaws because they’re dangerous. You’ve got to use axes, because they’re natural.

We’re saying, look, we’ve got to use chainsaws. We’ve got to help people.

It’s really that simple. We farmers are spending too much time on all that other stuff and we really just want to get back to farming.

When the Association of Counties asked me to talk about climate change and how the farmer looks at it, I quoted Neil DeGrasse Tyson. He talks about climate change being the guy and his dog walking down the beach. The man walking straight down the beach is the climate, and the dog running back and forth is the weather.

The climate is the policy kind of stuff, and hopefully the climate people make the right decisions.

We farmers deal with the weather. If there’s a storm, or an insect, we deal with it. We’ve got to concentrate on growing food. Otherwise, we end up trying to make policy, and we’re not scientists. We’re farmers. 

We just want to get back to farming.


Over The Top Anti-GMO Writer

Richard Ha writes:

Mike Adams runs the anti-science, anti-biotech Natural News.com and he had a whopper of a post recently, even for him. He has lots of websites and makes lots of money from scaring people, but condoning the murder of pro-GMO supporters is over the top, and the anti-GMO movement should be careful not to be used by this nut case.

From Genetic Literacy Project:

FBI turns up heat on Mike Adams as ‘Health Ranger’ fiasco widens, plus Adams’ archive

Jon Entine | July 28, 2014 | Genetic Literacy Project

Last week, Mike Adams, the founder and editor of NaturalNews.com–a favorite site of Dr. Oz and anti-GMO campaigners, from Vandana Shiva to Center for Food Safety’s Andrew Kimbrell to the Food Babe to Jeffrey Smith, but also dubbed by scientists and journalists as the number one anti-science site in cyberspace–launched an all out offensive against crop biotechnology.

Adams posted a screed on his website (since sanitized by Adams; we’ve included link to the pre-censored version) attacking supporters of genetic engineering as modern day Nazis, suggesting that anti-GMO activists should consider murdering scientists and journalists for their crimes against humanity. Adams then alerted readers to another site, Monsanto Collaborators, which was more or less a handy online list of these so-called ‘Nazi perpetrators”–aka scientists, journalists and news organizations that believe biotechnology can play a constructive role in farming–for crazies who might want to follow Adams’ marching orders and begin assassinations. I was prominently mentioned by Adams, no doubt because of the scathing Adams profile and fact sheet summary GLP posted in April….

Read the rest here


‘What if GMOs are the Only Option?’

Richard Ha writes:

Universities in the public sector are supposed to do things in the interest of the public. One example here is that the University of Hawai‘i developed the Rainbow papaya. How come Hawai‘i County passed a bill banning all new GMOs? In the larger view, are we going to be able to feed all the people in the world without new biotech crops?

In the following video, scientists from Cornell, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times writer Amy Harmon, and local boy/father of Rainbow papayas Dennis Gonsalves discuss the anti-GMO phenomenon.

The title is "Modifying the Future of Food: What If GMOs Are the Only Option?, Cornell Reunion 2014."

I have looked at this issue from all angles. If I were not convinced that it was safe, I would not have participated in a lawsuit challenging the anti-GMO bill on the Big Island. An overwhelming majority of farmers and ranchers on the Big Island, like the people on the panel, are very concerned that the correct story is not being told. 



The GMO Skeptic’s Reading List

Richard Ha writes:

It can be hard to get a handle on GMOs if you haven’t studied the issue. Some GMOs opponents jump up and down and talk loud, but it’s interesting that when Seeds of Hope surveyed people who came to their screenings (and had, therefore, self-selected re: interest in sustainability), they found that GMOs came in last on a list of top five concerns – below “food security” (#1) and “difficulties faced by local farmers” (#3).

You don’t have to believe what we farmers say about GMOs. We’re not scientists. We look at farming needs, toss in some common sense, and then come to our decisions.

But here’s a good place to start gathering some background about the topic. Here are three people who started out skeptical about GMOs, looked into the issues carefully and thoroughly, and then found themselves coming to a different conclusion. It’s a good way to learn about some of the questions about GMOs, and how to investigate them.

Mark Lynas was one of the founders of the anti-GMO movement. And then, as he educated himself more, he realized he was wrong. In this video, he explains that he has totally changed his mind about GMOs, his original position was not scientifically based, and he now completely regrets it.

“I want to start with some apologies….For the record, here and upfront, I want to apologize for having spent several years ripping up GMO crops. I’m also sorry I helped start the anti-GM movement back in the ’90s, and that I thereby assisted in demonizing an important technological option that can and should be used to benefit the environment. As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counterproductive path and I now regret it completely….”

The video is called “Mark Lynas on his conversion to supporting GMOs – Oxford Lecture on Farming.” Watch it here to learn why he changed his mind. (In short, he says he “discovered science.”)

Nathanael Johnson wrote The Genetically Modified Food Debate: Where Do We Begin? for Grist, which is often critical of GMOs.

My goal here is to get past the rhetoric, fully understand the science, and take the high ground in this debate — in the same way that greens have taken the high ground in talking about climate. It’s hard to make the case that we should trust science and act to stem global warming, while at the same time we are scoffing at the statements [PDF] of *snort* scientists on genetic modification.

Now that doesn’t mean we have to stop thinking, and simply accept everything that the voice of authority lays in front of us. I’m going to look at the science critically, and take into account the efforts of agricultural corporations to cant the evidence. When Mark Lynas made his speech saying that he’d changed his mind about genetic engineering, I was unconvinced, because he didn’t dig into the evidence (he provides a little more of this, though not much, in his book). Lynas did, however, make one important point: There are parallels between opposition to GM crops and other embarrassingly unscientific conspiracy theories. If there are grounds to oppose genetic engineering, they will have to be carefully considered grounds, supported by science….

If you’re interested, Johnson’s piece has lots of links to explore this subject further.

Mother Jones magazine is usually hostile to GMOs, which makes this article by Indre Viskontas about how GMOs are not dangerous to human health even more surprising.

No, GMOs Won’t Harm Your Health

For this week’s episode of Inquiring Minds, I spoke with Dr. Steven Novella, a neurologist at Yale University. Novella is a prominent voice in the skeptical movement, a scientific movement that, as he describes it, focuses heavily on explaining the truth behind “common myths—things that people believe that aren’t true.” So I asked him to help sort out fact from fiction when it comes to industrial agriculture in general—and GMOs in particular.

“Almost everything I hear about [industrial agriculture] is a myth,” says Novella. “It’s such an emotional issue—a highly ideological and politicized issue—that what I find is that most of what people write and say and believe about it just fits into some narrative, some worldview. And it’s not very factual or evidence-based.”

So where does Novella think the public is misinformed?…

These former skeptics offer up a lot of information for the discerning, science-minded individual who wants to learn more about using biotech solutions for our food sustainability.


Will You Send A Quick Email Of Support?

Richard Ha writes:

Will you write a quick email in support of Big Island farmers and ranchers?

We have formed a group Hawaii Farmers & Ranchers United, which is made up of the people who produce 93 percent of the agricultural products grown and raised on the Big Island. We came together in order to support House Bill 2506 and Senate Bill 3508, which amends Hawai‘i’s Right-To-Farm Act “to ensure that counties cannot enact laws, ordinances, or resolutions to limit the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices.” This is in response to Hawai‘i County recently passing the anti-GMO bill.

Our Hawai‘i state lawmakers are being bombarded with emails, from the mainland and elsewhere in the world, urging them to defeat the Right-To-Farm Bill. Would you consider writing an email in support of the Right-To-Farm Bill?

Hawai‘i County’s recently passed anti-GMO bill prohibits Big Island producers from using any new biotech solutions to their farming challenges. Our competitors, elsewhere in Hawai‘i and on the mainland, will continue to have the benefit of advancing science and technology. Taking advantage of biotech solutions on the Big Island is about to become, literally, a criminal act.

If you can write a quick email in support, just say who you are, where you are from, and add a short note saying you supporting our local Big Island farmers and you support both HB2506 and SB3508.

Use this email to reach all Senators.

Use this email to reach all Representatives.

We appreciate your support.


Our Right To Farm

Richard Ha writes:

Thirty members of the Hawai‘i State House of Representatives just introduced the Right-To-Farm bill, which the Big Island Farmers and Ranchers United support. Farmers just want to go back to farming already.

From Civil Beat:

New Bill Would Strengthen Hawaii’s Right-To-Farm Act

Hawaii Rep. Richard Onishi from the Big Island has introduced a bill that would give Hawaii’s 2001 Right to Farm Act more teeth. 

The law currently protects farmers from nuisance lawsuits, stating: “No court, official, public servant, or public employee shall declare any farming operation a nuisance for any reason if the farming operation has been conducted in a manner consistent with generally accepted agricultural and management practices.”

Onishi’s bill would take the protections a step further and declare that the counties can’t pass laws that limit the rights of farmers and ranchers…. 

Read the rest

The anti-GMO bill that recently passed on the Big Island would prevent only Big Island farmers – and not their competition – from using biotech options and solutions to agriculture situations. It’s a disastrous bill that threatens our island’s food security, rather than strengthens it, which is where our focus should be.

Everybody is happy that this new bill came up, and really pleased so many legislators signed on. We feel that they recognize that we really just need to get back to our farming.

If the Right-To-Farm bill passes, then finally we can have the very important discussion about food security that we have not been able to. Agriculture and energy are inextricably tied together, and the question is:

How will our current and future energy situation affect our food security? And what can we do about it?


Bill 113: What’s Next

Richard Ha writes:

Someone suggested that my change of plans re: putting 264 acres into preservation land smells of sour grapes – that I made a knee-jerk decision because I was upset that the anti-GMO Bill 113 passed.

But that’s not the way I make decisions. I am always looking five, 10 and 20 years ahead and planning what we need to do now to get where we need to be. Suddenly the future of farming on this island looked different, and I needed to be sure we have some flexibility at the farm.

Since I last wrote about this, though, I spoke with the USDA and found an option I didn’t previously know about. We can do a conservation easement that is less than the entire parcel. This will allow us to have a few small parcels that future generations could use for safety valve purposes, and still put land into the conservation easement. We will probably do this.

On Tuesday, the Hawai‘i County Council will decide whether to form an ad hoc committee of council members to analyze GMO issues and give the council recommendations for action. Otherwise, the mayor will do the analysis in-house.

It is no secret that I would have preferred for Mayor Kenoi to veto the anti-GMO Bill 113. But the reality is that the mayor did not have the votes to support a veto, and in this set of circumstances, I support the mayor over the council. He signed the bill, rather than wimping out and letting it pass without his signature. He was concerned about the rift in this community, and he assured the farmers that they would not get hurt.

And most of all, I know the Mayor is fact- and data-driven, something that is sorely missing from our current county council.

What I know about the county council is that its members have proven that they cannot separate fact from fiction, and therefore they are unqualified and unable to prepare us for the future.

In the recent Bill 113 debacle, our county council called Jeffrey Smith as its premier expert. This is an individual who has self-published two books about GMO foods but has zero scientific credentials and has been thoroughly debunked as any sort of credible GMO expert. He specializes in yogic flying (a kind of cross-legged hopping done in hopes of reducing crime and increasing “purity and harmony” in the “collective consciousness”). They allowed Smith to testify about GMOs for more than half an hour.

Three University of Hawai‘i experts on GMOs, on the other hand, were given a total of three minutes, between them, to testify. This averages out to one minute each.

If we are taking science into account, the Seralini study – which linked genetically modified maize and the herbicide RoundUp as having an increased cancer risk, and which was always widely pointed to as proving GMO foods were unsafe – was recently retracted by the scientific journal that published it, and rejected by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for having serious defects and failing to meet scientific standards.

County Councilwoman Margaret Wille made a very inflammatory remark in a comment following a Honolulu Civil Beat article written by University of Hawai‘i professor Michael Shintaku. In her comment, she accused Professor Shintaku, as well as Dr. Susan Miyasaka and Dean Maria Gallo (also of the UH College of Tropical Agriculture), of being “unmistakeably caught in the predicament of becoming the mouthpiece for the GMO biotech industry that provides much of the funding for their employer.”

Michael Shintaku responded with a polite comment that detailed how she was incorrect. Many scientists voiced outrage at the inaccurate and flippant comment that impugned their integrity.

It seems, unfortunately, to be par for the course for some who are anti-science and anti-GMO. Have they made up their mind without regard to truth? Have they dug in their heels, refusing to ever even consider new evidence?

I haven’t. If suddenly there was real science that showed harm from GMOs, I would cross that off my list and move on to the next best solution that would help our island. To date, though, there has never been any such science, not anywhere.

Our county council clearly does not understand farming. Councilwoman Wille likes to show how many letters she has in favor of banning GMOs, but the smaller stack from people opposing the ban was from the farmers who produce more than 90 percent of the calories grown here on the Big Island.

Why is she listening to the gardeners and not the farmers? There is such a difference between gardening and farming. I compare it to cooking turkeys. Cooking one turkey is easy – you just turn the dial for the right time and temperature, and then poof! It’s perfect. Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Cooking one turkey is similar to gardening.

Farming, on the other hand, is like cooking 20 turkeys an hour every hour. They cannot be burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. And they must be ready on time or your customers lose money. And every so often the power goes off or the house blows down and you have to start all over again. Farming is much more complicated than gardening.

Some anti-GMO people proclaim that we should all just eat organic. But have a look at Table 2 on page 19 of this Baseline Food Sustainability chart from the county.

Based on that table, we compared prices between a Kona supermarket and a Kona natural food store. The annual budget for a family of five at the Kona supermarket was approximately $20,000, while at the natural foods store it was slightly more than $42,000.

We did a similar comparison in Waimea, and the results were substantially the same. It is clear that most folks cannot afford organics.

Senator Ruderman, who owns a natural foods chain, claimed our price comparisons are wildly inaccurate, but they are not.

A few days ago, we learned that the Florida citrus industry, which has lost more than a million acres to citrus greening disease, may have found a GMO solution.

Although anti-GMO folks like to say they are on the side of farmers, if citrus greening disease makes it to the Big Island and we are not legally allowed to use the Florida GMO solution, it is only homeowners and small farmers who will be hurt.

Read this link for a sample of what some of the people who testified on the anti-GMO/County Council side of the argument were doing in the background. It is mean-spirited and it’s not who we in Hawai‘i are. There is no aloha in this.


‘La La La La La’

Richard Ha writes:

Farmers and other Ag and business people on the Big Island are in disbelief – to put it mildly – that Mayor Kenoi signed Bill 113, the anti-GMO bill, last week, without first putting together a group to research the science and investigate the serious, unintended consequences we know will result.

But farmers are very practical and play the position that exists on the chessboard, not the position they wish they had. Most of us are moving into strategic contraction mode now.

For example, we had an application in to the USDA to dedicate 264 acres of our farm into agricultural land for perpetuity. We had been going through the vetting process over the last two years and had already been told we were among the top three state projects, as determined by a Department of Land and Natural Resources subcommittee.

I just received a letter Friday asking for more information about our application, with a comment from the Western Region director stating that our project had the highest priority.

I wrote back saying we are withdrawing our application. Nothing personal; just playing the position that now exists. Instead, we will subdivide the property so we have options as we go forward into a future that has some new uncertainties.

If there’s an upside to the mayor signing the bill, it’s that maybe now we will finally take a real look at the current Peak Oil crisis and how it affects the Big Island’s food self-sufficiency situation, and come to grips with finding long-term solutions.

Being open to safe scientific advances when needed (a.k.a. biotech or “GMO”) would have been a way to decrease our dependence on petroleum products, such as pesticides and fertilizers, and increase our island’s food self-sufficiency.

Geothermal energy is another no-brainer that will protect us from rising energy costs. Utilizing geothermal energy – which according to geophysicists will be available to us for at least 500,000 years – we can have stable electricity at an affordable price. As another benefit of geothermal, we can take the currently “curtailed” (collected but unused) electricity and make hydrogen for ground transportation; and by combining it with nitrogen in the air, we can make fertilizer that doesn’t depend on petroleum products and continue to get more and more expensive.

But Senator Ruderman doesn’t see this and wants to kill geothermal energy.

Why? Where is he steering our ship? It feels rudderless.

These are turbulent times. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was on CNN yesterday saying that despite dumping money into the economy, businesses are sitting on a lot of cash and not investing, and banks are not lending because it’s too risky. 

He said that the level of uncertainty is like it was during the Great Depression. The next Fed chair will have to manage the interest rate, and too high an interest rate will roil the stock market. He said, “It’s hard to manage psychology.”

I do not see people paying attention to this, so let me extrapolate from what he’s saying: As a result, regular folk are not earning as much money. As a consequence of that, the government will not be able to tax people at a level needed to keep services going, such as maintaining roads (which, of course, requires products made from petroleum).

How far will this go on before we can no long maintain our infrastructure the way we are accustomed to, or take care of our poor people who need help?

What Alan Greenspan is talking about is serious business, and he’s certainly not the only person saying it.

This all boils down to the cost of energy, and how we utilize our resources in a smart and efficient manner.

I’ve gone to five Peak Oil conferences now, and have learned that experts there are all, consistently, saying that the net energy available to society is decreasing as it gets more difficult to get the energy. The consequence of this is less growth, which means less money for the government to perform the services we need to continue living the way we live. Where will the money come from?

Another expert who is highly respected is actury Gail Tverberg. She is as credible as anyone I’ve heard, and she too says it all boils down to the cost of energy. Not availability, nor how much oil still exists, but how much it costs to obtain it – and we all know those costs are only going higher. She writes

Oil and other fossil fuels are unusual materials. Historically, their value to society has been far higher than their cost of extraction. It is the difference between the value to society and their cost of extraction that has helped economies around the world grow. Now, as the cost of oil extraction rises, we see this difference shrinking. As this difference shrinks, the ability of economies to grow is eroding, especially for those countries that depend most heavily on oil–Japan, Europe, and the United States. It should not be surprising if the growth of these countries slows as oil prices rise…. Read the rest

Using GMOs to help leverage our year-round growing season was a workaround, and in my opinion, it was much less risky than what Alan Greenspan, Gail Tverberg and other experts say is coming.

We need to take action and prepare for these changing conditions. If it turns out they were wrong, no harm/no foul. If they are right, using GMO's to avoid petroleum costs in fertilizer and pesticides would have helped us immensely; and using geothermal energy will improve our lifestyle measurably.

Note that I’m not just talking about this – the whole situation scared me enough that we went and put in a hydroelectric system for the farm.

This is not about the sky falling. It’s about common sense. It’s all a matter of how much risk we are willing to take.

We need to decrease our dependence on petroleum, and our energy costs. Rising electricity costs affect the price of our food, and they take away discretionary income from the rubbah slippah folks. Consumer spending makes up two-thirds of our economy.

It’s foolish for us to put our thumbs in our ears and our fingers over our eyes and sing, “La la la la la,” but that’s what seems to be going on around here. 

We’d better have a clear-headed discussion about our future.


Scientific Journal Retracts Article Stating RoundUp Is Toxic, Causes Cancer

Richard Ha writes:

There’s big news in the anti-GMO world.

Food and Chemical Toxicology, the peer-reviewed scientific journal that in 2012 published controversial research by Gilles-Eric Séralini concluding that RoundUp-resistant maize and RoundUp are toxic and cause cancer, has announced it is retracting that paper.

Séralini’s research was got a lot of press, and has been widely cited by people who oppose genetically modified products. The now-discredited study even led to banning certain GMOs in Russia and Kenya, and it was used in the Proposition 37 debate in California (a referendum over labeling of GM food).

But the study’s design and conclusions were controversial from the start.

From the Economist:

      Smelling a Rat

Dec 1st 2013, 22:08

GENETICALLY modified maize causes cancer: that was the gist of a study, among the most controversial in recent memory, published in September 2012 in the journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology. Well, actually, it doesn’t. The journal has just retracted the article. It would be too much to say that GM foods have therefore been proven safe. But no other study has so far found significant health risks in mammals as a result of eating GM foods…. Read the rest

More about this at Forbes:

Séralini Threatens Lawsuit In Wake Of Retraction Of Infamous GMO Cancer Rat Study

As the Genetic Literacy Project reports, the GMO wars are escalating after the discrediting of a central pillar of the anti-crop biotechnology movement and the stumbling by a prominent science journal.     

Gilles-Éric Séralini, author of the controversial rat study that claimed to show that genetically modified corn could lead to a high incidence of cancer, says he is contemplating suing the journal that published the study if it goes through with its stated plan to retract it.

In a stunning development, the editor of the Food and Chemical Toxicology, A. Wallace Hayes, sent the French scientist a letter dated November 19 saying that the paper will be withdrawn if Séralini does not agree to do it voluntarily. In either case, evidence of the discredited paper will be expunged from the journal’s database…. Read the rest

You can read more about the background on what’s being called the Séralini affair at Wikipedia.


Bill 113: It’s Not ‘Who’ Is Right, It’s ‘What’ Is Right

Richard Ha writes:

All of this hullabaloo about Bill 113, the anti-GMO bill – What it’s really about is that we need to take a little more time, so we can be sure we are making good and informed decisions.

It’s not “us against them.” It’s not “GMO against organic.” It isn't “who” is right, so much as it is “what” is right.

It’s significant that a group of farmers and ranchers who, between them, grow 90 percent of the food produced on this island, have banded together to say the same thing: We need to think this through more carefully.

These farmers and ranchers opposed Bill 113 because the bill was rushed and its consequences were not considered. We didn’t take the time to think it all through and come to the best decision for everyone.

Bill 113 looks through a very narrow prism; there is a much bigger picture that is not being considered. We are not taking into account the risk of rising energy prices. We live in the humid subtropics, where there is no winter to kill off bad insects. Our solution has been to use petroleum products to fight them off and also to make fertilizers – but now, the price of oil has skyrocketed and this is becoming unsustainable.

Use solar energy, some say. But solar energy is only sustainable right now because of subsidies, and we cannot expect that subsidies will always be there.

A leaf, though, is also a solar collector, and it’s free. Being able to leverage our sun energy year round –  assuming we have a way to control our pests – would make our farming and ranching industry, and our local food production, more than sustainable.

A solid solution to the extensive problems caused by rising oil costs is to use scientific advances. Biotechnology. It’s comparable to how we use iPhones now to replace the big walkie-talkies we used before.

This would help us get off oil, and would also give us the advantage of a year-round growing season, among other benefits. It would help us all.

We need to think through all of this in great detail. All of us need to be open to the fact that our research might prove a certain favorite plan of action unsustainable. If that's the case, we need to move on to the next idea and research that one carefully, getting input from every side.

We need to consider unintended consequences of legislation. We need to slow down, and research, and make carefully informed decisions.