Tag Archives: Hawaii County Council

Subsidizing Electricity Bills

Richard Ha writes:
 
The Big Island Community Coalition is going to advocate that Hawai‘i County pay the electricity bills of people who choose to live in close proximity to any of the island's geothermal projects. 
 
It makes perfect sense that if we are going to use our geothermal resources to provide electricity for our island population, we also use some of it to benefit those who live nearby and have to deal with the inconvenience and noise.
 
Our proposal is that the County Council tap into funds that come from geothermal to cover the first 600kw of electricity for families, perhaps for those that live within the one-mail radius previously identified by the County (this is the area where they have offered to buy back homes). Six hundred kilowatts is the figure HELCO cites as an average monthly home usage. 
 
It would be a win for the people, and also for the County. Instead of buying homes, which would mean putting out $250,000 up front to buy back a home, the County would pay approximately $250/month or $3000/year. That original $250,000 would last about 80 years.
 
Everybody benefits.
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Our Newspapers Need To Cover The News

Richard Ha writes:

Where are our local newspapers?

Why does it take the Honolulu Star-Advertiser to back up our island’s local farmers and ranchers, and to point out that agricultural policy should never be set without the participation of the people producing our food?

This is what appears to be happening in Hawai‘i at the moment.

An excerpt from yesterday’s Star-Advertiser editorial, which talks about the Big Island’s recent passage of the “anti-GMO” bill 113:

“The state Legislature may be able to undo this wrong, but it will take true leadership and real political courage. Lawmakers should assert the state government’s authority over agricultural rules and enforcement, rather than standing by as the counties continue to impose undue burdens on local farmers.”

The article also asserts: “It’s time for elected officials and policymakers throughout the state to stand up and be counted. Let’s have an ‘Eat GMO Papaya Day.’ This food is safe, it’s affordable and it’s grown right here at home.”

And why does it take the Star-Advertiser to point out that our policies are exhibiting an unwarranted distrust of University of Hawai‘i specialists in tropical agriculture?

State must take lead in GMO debate

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 12, 2014

That a Big Island councilwoman would seek to revive a bill banning all genetically modified crops on Hawaii island, even though strict limits on such agriculture were approved only a month ago under another bill, indicates just how emboldened biotechnology foes have become in their quest to control Hawaii farmers.

The measure is not expected to pass, and should be rejected. It should not, however, be ignored, especially on Oahu. Councilwoman Brenda Ford’s proposal signals that rather than taking responsible action to assess the impact on local agriculture of the newly approved Bill 113, some elected officials are willing to put productive local farmers flat out of business. Login for more…

WHY does it take reporter Amy Harmon from the New York Times to tell us what is happening on our own island?

A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops

By AMY HARMON

JAN. 4, 2014

KONA, Hawaii — From the moment the bill to ban genetically engineered crops on the island of Hawaii was introduced in May 2013, it garnered more vocal support than any the County Council here had ever considered, even the perennially popular bids to decriminalize marijuana.

Public hearings were dominated by recitations of the ills often attributed to genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.s: cancer in rats, a rise in childhood allergies, out-of-control superweeds, genetic contamination, overuse of pesticides, the disappearance of butterflies and bees.

Like some others on the nine-member Council, Greggor Ilagan was not even sure at the outset of the debate exactly what genetically modified organisms were: living things whose DNA has been altered, often with the addition of a gene from a distant species, to produce a desired trait. But he could see why almost all of his colleagues had been persuaded of the virtue of turning the island into what the bill’s proponents called a “G.M.O.-free oasis.”

“You just type ‘G.M.O.’ and everything you see is negative,” he told his staff. Opposing the ban also seemed likely to ruin anyone’s re-election prospects.

Yet doubts nagged at the councilman, who was serving his first two-year term. The island’s papaya farmers said that an engineered variety had saved their fruit from a devastating disease. A study reporting that a diet of G.M.O. corn caused tumors in rats, mentioned often by the ban’s supporters, turned out to have been thoroughly debunked.

And University of Hawaii biologists urged the Council to consider the global scientific consensus, which holds that existing genetically engineered crops are no riskier than others, and have provided some tangible benefits.

“Are we going to just ignore them?” Mr. Ilagan wondered.  Read the rest

Enough is enough.

Our newspapers need to report the news.

And our leaders need to step up and be accountable.
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GMO Facts? Or Fiction?

Richard Ha writes: 

State Senator Russell Ruderman used his own company’s letterhead when he submitted anti-GMO testimony recently to the Hawai‘i County Council. He owns Island Naturals, the natural foods markets.

It certainly seems to be a conflict of interest for him to be supporting the Big Island’s anti-GMO movement, and he should recuse himself from all discussions and votes regarding GMOs. Submitting testimony on his company’s letterhead does not help lessen this impression of his having a serious conflict of interest.

Letter
 

He also wrote an article for Big Island Weekly recently, titled GMO Facts and Fictions, which he says is the first in a series of installments.

What’s most interesting are the comments that follow his article, like this one from Karl Haro von Mogel, Ph.D. Candidate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics, UW-Madison, Chair, Biology Fortified, Inc. Von Mogel is highly educated on issues regarding GMOs, and he wrote this:

I applaud State Senator Ruderman's desire to clear up confusion about genetically engineered crops, but in this 
opinion piece, he has made a great number of outright falsehoods that 
further confuse the topic and muddy the waters. I am a plant
 geneticist who studies this topic very closely and is building a 
database of all peer-reviewed scientific studies on genetically 
engineered crops, so I am very familiar with this field. I will attempt 
to correct the most egregious of Ruderman's errors.

He goes on to correct many of what he calls Ruderman’s "outright falsehoods" in detail. It's a very long comment.

Ruderman responded with this:

As mentioned in my column, I will be addressing these studies in more detail in future columns. I look forward to discussing the Seralini study, which, in addition to showing serious effects from GMOs, illuminates the aggressive tactics of biotec companies in suppressing science it doesn't like. These studies point to the need for long-term follow-up studies, which have not been done. I will also clear up the confusion of how Bt affects humans by disrupting our essential gut bacteria, which is not understood by some of the previous commenters.

And then von Mogel, who is highly educated on the science of biotechnology, responded with this:                              

Mr. Ruderman, you have made a series of very outlandish and false claims about Bt that you did not support with any evidence. This comment of yours would have been the time to at least give us links to the studies that you say exist, or to correct the record. Saying that you are putting off supporting these claims with evidence until some future column suggests that you don't have such evidence. Indeed, I was very direct in saying that for some of the claims you made, there is not a single study that even remotely suggests anything like that – such as your claim that the genes have transferred to our gut bacteria.
By bringing up the Seralini study, you are changing the subject. Seralini's (now retracted) study did not involve Bt at all, so it does not support any of the arguments you have made. Indeed, there have been long-term feeding studies with Bt. There have been feeding studies that look at effects on gut bacteria and conclude that there are none. As I said, I am intimately familiar with the scientific literature on this topic, and I can help you find answers to your questions. 
As a State Senator, it is your duty to consult with scientific experts – especially those in Hawaii who work for the state that you represent – so that you can make decisions based on established scientific facts. Hawaii needs leaders who can represent both the concerns of the population and duly weigh the evidence to make informed decisions. Will you be that leader?

We need to hold Senator Ruderman to a higher standard than he's holding himself to, because he's our elected official and making decisions on behalf of all of us.

There are other interesting comments there, as well. They’re by far the most interesting thing about that article, in my opinion. Read them all here.

I have asked Senator Ruderman many times how his stance, which does not even seem to be supported by science, will help the Big Island and its food security status. How will it help the rubbah slippah folk in his district? I have never received an answer. 

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How Things Work: A Disconnect

Richard Ha writes:

Take a look at this survey of “Hawai‘i’s Food and Ag Challenges Ranked in Order of Importance.”

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 1.20.27 PM

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Between October 2012 and December 2013, while the Hawai‘i Rural Development Council screened the film “Seeds of Hope – Na Kupu Mana‘olana” around our state, it asked viewers to fill out this survey about the issues discussed in the movie.

Survey takers ranked “Food Security” as our number one food and agriculture challenge (note that “GMO Agriculture” came in as lowest priority of the five issues discussed).

Statewide, 94 percent of survey takers thought Food Security should be either “top priority” or “important” as a state policy issue, and on the Big Island, 97 percent of people thought so.

This is what I have been saying, over and over. Food security is a critical issue out here, in the middle of the ocean, where we import most of our food. We need to have important and rational discussions, now, about how we will ensure we are food secure as conditions continue to get more challenging.

It’s a real disconnect to realize that 97 percent of people on the Big Island consider food security “important” or even “top priority,” and then to think about recent community support of the Hawai‘i County Council’s banning GMO/biotech solutions on the Big Island.

All I can come up with is that there are a lot of people who don’t see the whole big picture and who don’t see that there are unintended consequences:

  • Because only Big Island farmers are banned from using biotech solutions to agricultural problems, their competition (farmers on other islands and the mainland) will end up having lower costs and more successful crops
  • This will undeniably lead to a decline in agriculture on the Big Island
  • This will undeniably lead to less food security

We need to take a hard look at what we are doing now so that we head down the right path. The decisions we make now will affect not only us, but also our grandchildren and their grandchildren. Let’s make sure they are able to thrive and live a good, affordable, food-secure life here on the Big Island when it’s their turn.

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NYT Article: ‘Lonely Quest for Facts on GM Crops’

Richard Ha writes:

The New York Times just ran an excellent, balanced and well-received article on Hawai‘i Island’s recent GMO ban. It was written by Amy Harmon, a national correspondent for the Times who covers the impact of science and technology on American life. She’s won two Pulitzer Prizes for her work.

A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops

By AMY HARMON

KONA, Hawaii — From the moment the bill to ban genetically engineered crops on the island of Hawaii was introduced in May 2013, it garnered more vocal support than any the County Council here had ever considered, even the perennially popular bids to decriminalize marijuana.

Public hearings were dominated by recitations of the ills often attributed to genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.s: cancer in rats, a rise in childhood allergies, out-of-control superweeds, genetic contamination, overuse of pesticides, the disappearance of butterflies and bees.

Like some others on the nine-member Council, Greggor Ilagan was not even sure at the outset of the debate exactly what genetically modified organisms were: living things whose DNA has been altered, often with the addition of a gene from a distant species, to produce a desired trait. But he could see why almost all of his colleagues had been persuaded of the virtue of turning the island into what the bill’s proponents called a “G.M.O.-free oasis.”

“You just type ‘G.M.O.’ and everything you see is negative,” he told his staff. Opposing the ban also seemed likely to ruin anyone’s re-election prospects.

Yet doubts nagged at the councilman, who was serving his first two-year term. The island’s papaya farmers said that an engineered variety had saved their fruit from a devastating disease. A study reporting that a diet of G.M.O. corn caused tumors in rats, mentioned often by the ban’s supporters, turned out to have been thoroughly debunked.

And University of Hawaii biologists urged the Council to consider the global scientific consensus, which holds that existing genetically engineered crops are no riskier than others, and have provided some tangible benefits.

“Are we going to just ignore them?” Mr. Ilagan wondered.

Urged on by Margaret Wille, the ban’s sponsor, who spoke passionately of the need to “act before it’s too late,” the Council declined to form a task force to look into such questions before its November vote. But Mr. Ilagan, 27, sought answers on his own. In the process, he found himself, like so many public and business leaders worldwide, wrestling with a subject in which popular beliefs often do not reflect scientific evidence…. Read the rest

Hawai‘i County Councilperson Margaret Wille, though, refers to this article as “Hogwash!”

She’s the local councilperson who spearheaded the Big Island biotech ban, and her comment on the New York Times article kind of says it all. In her second-to-last paragraph she lumps farmers in with “GMO apologists,” which makes us the enemy. We are not the enemy.

Her comment follows the New York Times article:

Margaret Wille

Hawaii Island Hawaii

The underlying message in this article is that pro-GMO is pro-science and those opposed are anti-science. Hogwash! It is the biotech corporations that politically obtained the USDA “political” exemption from being required to do premarketing health and safety tests. This political decision was based on the claim that GMO crops are “substantially equivalent” to the corresponding non-GMO crops. Instead of government required health and safety testing, uncontrolled “open field” testing is occurring right here in Hawaii on Kauai– where all the evidence points to immune disruption of the young and unborn , as well as harm to the soil and adjacent aquatic life.. At the same time these same corporations obtain patent rights based on the distinction of their GMOs, allowing the intellectual property laws to function as the barrier to obtaining the information independent scientist needed to do long term studies.

And whenever an independent study is underway, the GMO offensive position is to discredit the scientist or buy out the organization, as occurred in the case of the international organization doing studies on the adverse affects of associated pesticides on bee populations.

The bottom line is that we passed Bill 113 despite all the opposition from Big Ag GMO proponents and their on island mouthpieces.

Hopefully in the future, the New York Times will curb its biased approach to coverage of GMO related issues. 

Contrast Councilperson Wille with Councilperson Ilagan. What a difference.

At this point, it’s really not a matter of who can yell the loudest, but of sitting down and deciding where we want to end up, and how we’re going to get there. We have a very serious food security issue (I’ll be writing more about this next time) that, with our Peak Oil situation, is only likely to get worse.

We are not looking at a First Amendment situation here, where everyone’s opinion matters. Everyone is welcome to his or her opinion, but at this point, when it comes to making important policy for our people and our food security, we need to sit down and form the best policy we can, using the best science.

What was not covered in the New York Times article was Big Island farmers’ concern that the ban on biotech solutions only applies to Big Island farmers, and not their competitors on other islands or on the mainland.

The president of the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association asked why only papaya farmers are beng required to register their crops and pesticide usage. He said that papaya farmers feel like they are being treated like sex offenders.

And why is there a blanket ban on open air testing? With bananas, flying pollen makes no difference, because they don’t have seeds.

Fusarium wilt killed off the mai‘a maoli as well as the mai‘a popoulu, two banana plants that came to Hawai‘i on the canoes. What if we could bring them back?

What if a virus threatens to kill off all our taro? Would we want to be able to try and save it? What would the ancient ones do?

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Day In The Life Of Real Farmers

Richard Ha writes:

There’s a farming emergency in Costa Rica. Scale insects and mealybugs there are threatening more than 100,000 acres of export bananas. This is brand new information that’s just hit the news.

It’s the stuff farmers deal with, day in and day out. Could this hit us here? Could this take out the Big Island’s banana industry? Are we in danger?

The Big Island Banana Growers has sprung into action. We’ve already sent word about this to the University of Hawai‘i plant experts, as well as the state Department of Agriculture. We already have reports back, and everyone is watching this closely. All the right wheels are turning.

Note that it’s not our Hawai‘i County Council that we alerted for help. They have no idea things like this happen in farming, and wouldn’t know what to do about it if they did know.

From ThinkProgress.org:

Banana Emergency Strikes Costa Rica

by Joanna M. Foster on December 12, 2013

In 2012, Costa Rica exported more than 1.2 million tons of fresh bananas worth $815 million according to the Foreign Trade Promotion office.

This year’s crop could be substantially less thanks to an outbreak of scale insects and mealybugs. Currently the pests have spread across 24,000 hectares of plantations in the country’s Atlantic region.

…Costa Rica’s immediate response to the outbreak has been to import more plastic bags impregnated with the pesticides buprofezin and bifenthrin. The bags are wrapped around individual banana bunches to protect the fruit from the destructive pests…. Read the rest

Note, too, that unlike Costa Rica banana farmers, we don’t use any chemicals in the bags we wrap around the banana bunches while they are on the plant. Farmers in Costa Rica use heavy chemicals in their bags in order to keep their bananas blemish-free.

We have always kept our bags completely chemical-free and are willing to accept the blemishes that result. We do this in the interest of worker safety.

I’ve seen what’s happening in Costa Rica several times before. Chemicals kill off the good insects as well as the bad, they become immune and you get a spike in their population. We don’t allow any of that to happen. Our philosophy with bugs is: Don’t hurt the good guys, and give the bad guys a hard time.

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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.

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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.

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Big Island’s Bill 113 (Anti-GMO) Passes

Richard Ha writes:

There are strong signals all around us that the era of cheap oil is over and we will soon face enormous social consequences – but we choose, instead, to focus on banning biotech solutions to our farming challenges. Where is our common sense?

We say that the Monsantos of the world are evil, and then we turn around and beat up our own small farmers.

Where is King Kamehameha when we need him?

I keep saying it because it’s true and it’s important: If the farmer makes money, the farmer will farm. Bill 113 will, without a doubt, make Big Island farmers less competitive. Bill 113 will make the future of farming even more difficult than it is today.

It is going to have a huge, very negative, impact on our island’s agriculture industry.

People are angry at Monsanto and are willing to punish their own, local, small farmers – their family, friends and neighbors. It’s hard to understand.

I am very disappointed that Bill 113 passed. And I am truly concerned about what it says for our society that people have come to distrust and even fear science.

But coming out of the council room after the vote, I felt so much better when two ladies I had never met told me they respected our point of view, and that we all need to work together.

I told them how much I appreciated them reaching out to say that. The most important thing we will need for an uncertain future is our spirit of aloha.

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Snatching Defeat from Jaws of Victory

Richard Ha writes:

Tomorrow, the Hawai‘i County Council will make the most important decision of our time.

Bill 113, the “anti-GMO” bill, would make it illegal for Big Island farmers to plant new, federally-approved biotech plants. We would be in the first farmers in the U.S. with such a ban. This bill would criminalize Big Island farmers who chose to plant what is legal in the rest of the country.

It would also prevent open-air testing of new biotech plants, which is required before biotech varieties are approved. This is a lawyerly way to ensure that biotech solutions will never be allowed on the Big Island.

This bill does allow biotech solutions to be used in cases where it can be shown there has been economic damage. That sounds good, but it is no help to the farmer – he or she would go out of business first, because it takes years to find a biotech solution. Farmers are not dumb.

Fundamentally, this all boils down to whether we are going to continue to avail ourselves of the scientific method, which allowed us to discover, for instance, the structure of DNA. From Wikipedia:

The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as: “a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”

The scientific method puts a solid foundation beneath our ideas, and we selectively ignore it at our own peril.

Farmers know that nothing is perfectly safe; it’s all a matter of risk and reward. So when every major scientific organization in the world says that biotech crops are as safe as conventional crops, farmers take notice. These scientific organizations represent thousands of front-line scientists. The Nobel Prize is awarded for finding something different, not for going along with the crowd, so it is very significant that there is such consensus among scientists.

Somewhere between the scientific and the non-scientific method lies common sense. Farmers have common sense.

  • Farmers see that Bill 113 would make farmers on the Big Island less competitive with the rest of the world. This is not good.
  • Farmers know that if the farmers make money, the farmers will farm, and this bill would eventually cause farmers to lose money.
  • Farmers have seen the bad effects of rising oil prices on farm expenses. They know that people have less money to support farmers when oil price goes up.

So this bill would make Big Island farmers less competitive, and our community would depend on cheaper food imported from elsewhere. Common sense tells us this is not good.

On the other hand, we could ask our local scientists to help develop biotech solutions to help us leverage our year-round growing season. Leveraging our Hawaiian sunshine will help farmers lessen their cost of production, protecting themselves from rising oil prices.

Any solutions in this direction will help farmers compete and increase our food security.

Will our County Council kill Bill 113 and move us in the right direction? Or will it snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?

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