The Bleeding of Aloha: Ugliness of the Anti-GMO Movement in Hawaii
by Joni Kamiya, Hawaii Farmers Daughter, October 15, 2014
The last 2 years have been very tumultuous here in our state in regards to biotechnology. Hawaii as a state has been the subject of the heavy hand of activism based in fear and misinformation and it hasn’t been pretty at all. Here’s a summary of what’s happening now across our state.
Maui County: A GMO Moratorium Vote
Last year, in the county of Kauai, the notorious anti-GMO bill was passed and invalidated in federal court. It did not stop the mainland based SHAKA Movement managed to garner some 9000 signatures to get an anti-GMO, anti-ag bill placed on the ballot. Despite many of the anti-GMO candidates losing in the primary election, groups like the Center for Food Safety are still working on stirring the pot in this county. Voters will get to decide on the issue on November 4th. This has activated the activists into some interesting behaviors in our the community there. There have been campaign signs vandalized and also stolen, which is not surprising at all.
Gubernatorial candidate, Duke Aiona, had his sign spray painted on Molokai.
The ballot initiative signs on Molokai that asked voters to vote no were changed to “yes” votes.
A vote no sign was taken and frame broken on private property of Christy Gusman.
Proud vandals on Instagram boasting their activities of re-doing the vote no signs on Maui.
The activists have even resorted to defacing private property in the name of this movement. These are photos from the historic whaling town of Lahaina, where someone had some chemical fun with spray paints to get their message across.
These people who claim to “malama the aina” or care for the land and be “pono,” or righteous, apparently forget these thoughts as they go about this campaign. The sad thing is that long time local folks, like this 90 year old senior citizen, are landing up cleaning up their messes.
Not only was there graffiti and theft going on there on Maui, Molokai, and Lanai, but there was also reports of people being harassed by the activists at the County Fair by these people, who were shoving their brochures to vote yes on the ballot initiative. How do I know that? My mom experienced that at the fair herself and gave the activist a piece of her mind.
Someone also took out a Craigslist post against Monsanto too. They took images of Monsanto workers and their families and posted it on these ads to target them. (The ad was flagged and eventually removed.)
Not only were fake ads put out against the biotech workers, but fake profiles were made of workers by stealing their images and turning their names into heinous ones instead. Here someone took the profile picture of a biotech employee and was using it to comment on the social media as the Earthly Farmer. (This is the same tactic done by the anti-GMO activists on Kauai!)
These SHAKA activists also took to photoshop to make posters of biotech employees also to help create the demons. Just look what they did to Dave Stoltzfus.
The missing part of this initiative in Maui County has been recognizing the economics of what a “temporary moratorium” to study the effects of GMOs there could do to those islands. A long time, well known economics expert, Paul Brewbaker, was recently hired by the Maui Chamber of Commerce to study the effects of this proposed initiative there. What he found was that it would be devastating to this county, which is no surprise. It will have a major impact there and would hurt many local families there. It’s estimated that unemployment may rise to some 25% on Molokai alone!
The anti-GMO activists decided to send their biology bachelor of science degree, newly minted “economic expert” Senator Russell Ruderman to supposedly debunk Dr. Brewbaker’s study. Little does he disclose that he owns 4 natural health food stores on the Big Island and has no expertise in economics but he can “debunk” claims. He’s the same state senator that published articles in the Big Island newspaper “educating” people on Bt. This man is always overstepping his scope of expertise, which is typical of many anti-GMO activists. Just take a listen to the claims he makes on the morning news.
The activists also decided to attack the Maui United Way because of the name they chose for themselves, Maui United. The MUW wanted to avoid confusion due to the similarities of the name and sent a cease and desist order for use of the name. These nasty folks tried to play the 6 degrees of separation and trashed the MUW for accepting a donation from Monsanto. Here’s the MUW president’s response:
Maui County is definitely an ugly place at this moment with this heated debate between those versed in science and those who prefer to reject the evidence.
Kauai: Remnants of the Ugly Storm Lingers
Kauai was definitely the poster child of a dysfunctional community last year with the entire anti-GMO movement centered there. With key county council members staunchly wanting to pass their flawed Bill 2491, regardless of it’s validity, it set off a firestorm of discord. The Federal Court recently invalidated the law as expected and that didn’t end the vitriol. None of the studies or evidence collected (Final_Report_Kauai_Air__3_15_2013_submitted-2) to refute the claims being made were ever considered by the activists. The constant battle cry there is “stop the poisoning,” with the evidence showing no such support. The story there is one of manipulation by the mainland funded Hawaii SEED and key leaders in the community. The county has decided to appeal the bill and continue to drain the funds to push this faulty law through.
It’s of no surprise that in the primary election, the top vote getters were not the anti-GMO candidates, but the pro-ag supporters. They have been the subject of vandalism also, which is quite unfortunate but not surprising once again.
Kauai County Council Member candidate, Arryl Kaneshiro, had his banner slashed. His family are long time farmers on Kauai and pro-agriculture, which made him a target of the anti-GMO activists.
Another candidate for the county council, Arthur Brun, has his sign vandalized also. He is also an employee at a seed company, Syngenta.
The vitriol has also spilled out into the community at public places also with the activists’ graffiti with their messages of “stop the poisoning.” Once again, they have fun with chemicals with no bounds and leave messes for everyone to see.
This is what tourists and other visitors get to see when they stop by the historic Menehune Fishpond.
The MMA fighter mayoral candidate, Dustin Barca and his followers are demanding others follow their laws, but can’t even follow the laws in existence already. He has his election signs up on public utility poles and on county owned lifeguard shacks.
Signs on utility poles are against the law for safety reasons but Dustin Barca’s crew have no regard for this law apparently.
A bumper sticker is vandalism on public property but following the law means nothing to this mayoral candidate.
Then there is Kauai County Council Member, Tim Bynum, showing his lack of emotional control and maturity at public meetings. He has tried to initiate more anti-ag laws here and seems to be losing it when others don’t seem to agree with this tactic.
The damage to Kauai’s community is done and it’s clear that it isn’t going to be changing any time soon with these types of leaders in office. The community remains divided and the ugliness is still evident.
Oahu: What the North Shore Drags Up
The latest fiasco with the anti-GMO movement ends with Oahu and the North Shore Neighborhood Board meeting last month. The North Shore Chamber of Commerce was presenting their resolution to the board to support agriculture and that led to a hijacking of the meeting by activists. From what my dad and brother said from attending it, the meeting was a circus of sorts with lots of rude and intimidating folks there. The Center for Food Safety’s director was also there, Ashley Lukens, to stir the pot even further with her lofty agenda. The activists were dictating to the community how they wanted farmers to farm despite not being farmers themselves. The vitriol was so bad that the resolution was withdrawn.
At yet another meeting, a week after the regular board meeting, the North Shore Neighborhood Board Ag committee met to amend the resolution that was discussed prior based on the testimony received. There were about 30-40 activists there who were very rude and hostile and accused the chair of being “a Monsanto lobbyist and having a conflict of interest because she worked for the Chamber of Commerce.” The Chamber receives membership dues and donations from Monsanto as they from 225 other members. The NS Chamber is a 501 c3 and cannot lobby which was clearly explained to everyone in attendance there. A committee member made a motion to kill the resolution and eventually it was seconded and passed, unfortunately. The baby was thrown out with the bathwater. Even an anti-GMO supporter felt that their supporters were rude.
Activists have become the loudest voices there and not about any type of discussion in this issue. According to one member of the chamber, she stated the following:
“I was verbally assaulted by an anti GMO guy about the corporate brick for Monsanto in our walkway a year or two ago, which was a fundraiser to restore the Haleiwa Mutual Telephone Exchange Building, the North Shore Chamber’s home and North Shore Visitor Center. Within a week the brick was gone/stolen. The anti GMO folks were also very rude and hostile at the recent NS Neighborhood Board Ag Committee meeting, making a personal attack on me, accusing me of being a Monsanto lobbyist and having a conflict of interest.”
Other obnoxious things that these activists do include immature behaviors like this too:
Also at the Haleiwa Town Christmas Parade the last two years, which the Chamber sponsors/organizes, they have dressed up in hazmat suits and inserted themselves into the parade between Monsanto’s monster tractor and a cub scout troop probably scaring the kids.
Candidate signs have also been reported stolen and it isn’t a surprise that the person who is losing them is a pro-ag supporter. Kent Fonoimoana, who is running for the House of Representatives in District 47, banned me from his campaign page for questioning his support of the GMO label and pointing out his alliances with the Sierra Club and Earthjustice. He even requested a tour of my dad’s farm only to later that that he’d support farmers but still wanted a state law to label GMOs. This guy is so disingenuous that I’m not surprised that his allies, the anti-GMO activists, have decided to steal signs from people’s yards. If they have done it elsewhere, it’s pretty likely the same bunch of people.
Big Island: The Ugliness Remains
As the court hearing for the anti-GMO Bill 113 is awaiting its judgment, the same pattern of ugliness is occurring there also. The contentious race is with the Monsanto obsessed Big Island county council member, Margaret Wille, against a newcomer, Ron Gonsalves. He too has had signs go missing and recently had a sign damaged. It’s all to clear that this is the work of the same activists over and over again across our islands.
Even with the devastation of Hurricane Iselle, the activists didn’t give up their anti-aloha behaviors either and disrupted rallies that were there to provide information to farmers. They were not there to help these farmers, rather there to harass them instead.
Aloha: Redefined by Activism is Ugly
Our state was known as the Aloha state and I’m really starting to wonder if that is what we really are becoming. From the looks of our communities, it looks as if there is a new brand of aloha being cultivated here and personally, I don’t like it at all. We will never move forward if only attacks in fear are perpetuated in our communities. I hope voters make it loud and clear to these “leaders” that this is not our future.