Hawaii’s One-sided Love Affair with GMOs
Clearly the GMO corn seed companies have cultivated a love affair with Hawaii’s legislators and governing agencies with a crop of alluring promises of tax and employment benefits. Instead, this love affair has birthed unrestricted and unregulated access to our scarce agriculture resources of water and land for Monsanto, Pioneer, Syngenta, Dow and BASF, with no oversight, no inspections and no protections against unintended – but sure to happen – consequences.
The GMO seed companies are the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone; with no consumer demand for the non- food product, the companies created an artificial demand called “crop improvement”, then manipulated genes to create new patented life-forms, then controlled all research, production, sales, distribution and ultimately replanting.
The global protest against GMOs challenges its science and seeks to abolish GMOs worldwide. Meanwhile, our `aina has become the laboratory test bed for both GMO seed production and also high risk, open-field, bio-pharmaceutical research with the unfortunate result that GMO corn seed – a non-food commodity – is now Hawaii’s highest valued agriculture crop. Shame on us!!
My problem with the global anti-GMO argument that my science is better than your science is that it is a battle of the extremes; it has no middle ground and no solutions, especially for Hawaii. It is a protest movement of anti-establishment activism that offers no alternatives. Better to advocate FOR common sense solutions than activism AGAINST status quo, for example:
Better to advocate FOR environmental responsibility: GMO science promises that there is absolutely NO environmental risk from their new genetic life-forms; that it will never happen. These promises have nothing to do with prudent and practical safeguards that answer the “what if” question and that legislate environmental clean up of any contamination from GMO research companies. Why does our environment need protection?? Just ask BP, our Bayou brothers; then
remember the coqui frog, the ever encroaching miconia and the parasitic varroa mites. Better to advocate FOR sustainable agriculture and food security: if “local food for local consumption” is a new vision for Hawaii’s agriculture, we must determine how GMOs fit into that vision.
Consider: GMO corn seed a non-food product; none of the bio-pharming research will result in local food; Pioneer buys and destroys existing mango orchards in Mokuleia; Monsanto buys Ag lands in Kunia; and none of these lands will ever return to local food production. Better to advocate FOR basic consumer rights: GMOs are the only product that is exempted from open competition in the marketplace. While the providence of consumer choice is already mandated by labeling for nutrition, RDAs, trans fats, calories and country of origin, none of our Federal or State legislators will permit consumers the right to choose whether their food is a GMO product or not. This year’s attempt by Senator Gabbard to require the simple labeling of GMO produce never made it out of his committee on the environment. Even our own GMO papaya farmers have failed to convince Japan to import their papayas without the GMO label, leaving the papaya farmers standing with the proverbial self-inflicted gun shot wound. Better to advocate FOR equitable taxation: while our politicians balance budget shortfalls by cutting services AND raising taxes, these super-rich GMO agribusinesses operate on our lands virtually tax free and subsidized. Their products are classified as “research” and their seeds are never sold here, just shipped to their mainland headquarters. Thus, having no sales means no State excise taxes or income taxes and their employment taxes are also reduced for operating in “enterprise zones”.\
There are many citizens, community groups, associations, activists and advocates engaged in GMO debate and awareness movements. It is time to minimize talk and maximize actions that will eliminate political entrenchment, remove tax subsidies, protect our environment, recognize consumer rights and insist on prudent, practical and ethical protections based on our common cultural heritage – Malama `Aina.
Al and his wife Joan own Poamoho Organic Produce in Waialua; it is the largest certified organic farm on Oahu.