Anti-GMO mob attracts a colorful, motley, mixed bag

The anti-GMO mob presents itself as a “leaderless” uprising of the general populace fueled by social media. The truth is that they are actually fueled by opportunistic politicians, recycled protestors and deliberate misinformation. In fact, there has been a headlong rush by some to promote themselves as the “voice” of this movement.  But if you take the time to hear what these “voices” are saying, the average resident of Hawaii will run, not walk, away from this avalanche of nonsense.

Dispatches from the Nut House...indeed.

Dispatches from the Nut Farm…indeed.

On the Big Island we have Rosanne Barr, famous for her stint on a national sit-com, less so for her agricultural prowess as a nut farmer, or ability to get along with her neighbors. Yet, she felt compelled to give testimony about the “evils” of GMO’s and urged the continued vandalism of property of any who dare feel otherwise.

“Everybody here is very giving and they would probably bend over backwards to help you burn those papayas,” she said during recent testimony before the Hawaii county council.

Ms Barr, who has previously run for President of the United States, is not known for her subtlety when confronting dissenting opinions.

“The people must have justice and so I want to reinstate and enshrine the blessed and holy guillotine!” she ranted during a “presidential” campaign speech.

Encouraging mob “justice” seems to be a reoccurring theme amongst anti-GMO rabble-rousers.

The siren's call for young men to protest against GMO's

The siren’s call for young men to protest against GMO’s

Rosanne’s friends, the Babes Against Biotech, while never inviting her to pose in one of their semi-nude calendars, share many of the same meager intellectual resources. Babes president, Nomi Carmona was Honolulu Councilman Tom Berg’s secretary while she was growing her grass root network of disgruntled young women.

“Tom Berg is an environmental hero, he busts up corruption,” gushes Ms. Carmona, in defense of her previous employer.  Berg, who is known more for his drunken rants and run-ins with the police than his environmentalism, failed to even get elected to the Ewa Neighborhood Board after getting bounced out of Honolulu Hale.

“I think the media twists Tom’s behavior,” says Nomi.  But, most people think the media has been more than fair, and Berg’s twisting problems are of his own creation.

A milder version of over-the-top, naked exploitation protestors like PETA and FEMIN, Babes pushes a soft-core calendar to troll for young male recruits and attract them to their political causes. And, it seems to work; at least on testosterone driven surfers.

MMA fighter and surfer Dustin Barca apparently wants to do more than "grab" his corporate enemies.

MMA fighter and surfer Dustin Barca apparently wants to do more than “grab” his corporate enemies.

Even notable surfer and MMA fighter, Dustin Barca, has thrown in. Again, not particularly concerned with scientific fact, Barca launches into a mindless emotional appeal:

“On Kauai they have spiked cancer rates people are getting all kinds of weird diseases all sicknesses all around these fields.”

“The largest chemical corporations in history are making our food and farming our land. The same companies that made gas for Hitler are on my island and testing. Google it. It will blow your mind.”

“There has been this astronomic burst of consciousness. It’s crazy..”

Yes it is crazy, Dustin; and none of it is true.

Here we are treated to Barca, amid a flurry of obscenities,  apply a choke hold to his imaginary GMO corn beast.

Here we are treated to Barca, amid a flurry of obscenities, applying a choke hold to his imaginary GMO corn monster.

More disturbing is Mr. Barca’s propensity to resort to something he does know about…physical violence.

“I’m going to go and grab them and tell them, ‘Brah, you can’t do that over here.” threatened Barca in a recent interview.

Barca, previously active only on Kauai, is seeking to expand his range.  He has successfully recruited among the North Shore of Oahu’s surf/MMA/thug crowd during this month’s protest march in Haleiwa.  The event even snagged another actress on the downside of her career.

Daryl Hannah showed up for the rain-soaked Haleiwa event as the crown jewel of the protestors star power. Hannah is now known basically for two things: getting press for being arrested during protests, and two, saying really confounding things to the media that indicate she doesn’t know much about either her cause de jour or what planet she is on.

Hannah shown being arrested during a Keystone XL protest earlier this year.  She does oil, GMO, animal rights and just about any other cause that will have her.

Hannah shown being arrested during a Keystone XL pipeline protest earlier this year. She does oil, GMO, animal rights and just about any other cause that will have her.

“Being a humanitarian, supporting animal rights activists, human rights activists, it’s all the same,” chirps the blonde actress. Even more telling is her micro-biography:

“I was a daydreamer when I was a child and I still am. I like fantasy a lot. It would be great if I could always play mythological characters.”

Unfortunately, these “mythological characters” that we are forced to endure claim they understand modern agriculture and genetic engineering enough to dictate regulatory policy…or worse yet, help rally even less informed people, to rise up and establish the political domination of ignorance.

Lack of Statewide policy threatens new Ag jobs

In the heyday of sugar and pineapple, agriculture in Hawaii was recognized as one of the pillars of our state’s economy. In the seventies, eighties and nineties big ag died off, taking jobs, tax revenues and income with it.  But, now large-scale agriculture has begun to rebuild itself with ag giants Monsanta, Dow AgroSciences, BASF, Dupont Pioneer and Syngenta investing millions of dollars and employing hundreds in the GMO and seed crop industry. This rejuvenation of Hawaii’s agricultural capability has reversed the steady decline of the past thirty years and promises to be an important new part of Hawaii’s future economy. What’s needed now is a comprehensive and well-reasoned statewide policy to keep it from being strangled in the cradle.

Hawaii's seed crop industry has charted dramatic growth since it began.
Hawaii’s seed crop industry has charted dramatic growth since it began.

The lack of direction from the Governor and Legislature has placed the growing ag industry in peril as restrictions and interference are now coming in waves from local governmental jurisdictions.  Spurred on by activists, county governments are rushing to fill the void with poorly-thought-out and punitive new regulations.  Regulations that they are ill-equipped to enforce, and based on emotion-charged arguments and fear instead of good science.  The county councils seem more that willing to sacrifice the economic benefits of a long-term, sustainable new industry, new jobs and tax revenue in order to score the short-term political benefits by bowing to the protestors.

Kauai’s county council overrode Mayor Carvalho’s veto of Bill 2491 in November of this year.  The Mayor described the bill as “flawed” and unenforceable.  Hawaii Island (The Big Island) followed by passing Bill 113, an even more onerous GMO ban.  Maui county lawmakers are now joining in, and protesters have become increasingly active on Oahu.

Early legislation aims at labeling GMO’s, and public disclosures of pesticide use and notification of GMO crop plantings. But, the intent of the opponents is to drive the industry out of Hawaii altogether.

Anti-GMO protesters use scare tactics and misinformation to conscript followers and coerce elected officials.
Anti-GMO protesters use scare tactics and misinformation to conscript followers and coerce elected officials.

This “grassroots” political attack on GMO agricultural operations is manipulative and deceptive, and driven by a small group of agitators, and by most accounts, mainland special interest money. The future of agriculture in Hawaii is too important to be decided by mob rule and misinformation. It should certainly be tempered by factual information, and consider the better interests of the entire population of the state, not decided by hysteria-driven politics.

Where is the leadership at the state level we need to take charge of ag policy on a statewide basis?  We need to determine what is in the best interests of the state as a whole before this new and promising industry is literally pecked apart by local jurisdictions and activist mobs.  The State should separate facts from fiction and institute reasonable controls over industrialized agriculture. People’s health should be safeguarded, pesticides regulated and transparency encouraged.  However, the businesses who are investing, and the people who are employed by these companies should also be protected from irresponsible and short-sighted opposition.

Kauai submits to mob rule (again).

Caption goes here

The screaming mob was described by one activist as displaying “total outrage.” (photo by StarAdvertiser)

The Kauai Council just passed bill 2491 by a vote of 6 to 1.  This installs several new regulatory rules on GMO agricultural operations that more or less duplicate the oversight of the EPA and State Departments of Health and Agriculture.  The one major difference, according to Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvahlo is that the county has no money or personnel to do any enforcement.

This did not stop the anti-GMO crowd from pushing this bill through, and, in the view of most observers, threatened and intimidated the council members in order to make sure it happened.

This exchange appeared in The CivilBeat comment section and testifies to the mob-related shenanigans during the hearing:

CivilBeat

Did the anti-GMO activists deny this bullying activity?  No, they seem to take great pride in it, as demonstrated by the remarks of one vocal anti-GMO supporter:

CivilBeat2

These “mobs” are buoyed by their self-image of “total correctness,” and the illusion that they represent “the people.”  They certainly represent some of the people, not all.  They also tend to represent those who have a flimsy grasp of the facts and a systemic fear and suspicion of science.  The anti-GMO mob is not who you want to be making important decisions on our future, and certainly not how most reasonable people would like to see it done.

Is there a middle ground?

(click on image to enlarge)

(click on image to enlarge)

GMO agriculture and its opponents often appear to be polar opposites with little ability to compromise or even communicate.  Genetically modified organisms, such as types of corn that are developed to withstand drought and disease are derided as “poison” by anti-GMO activists.  Vitamin-rich GMO golden rice is destroyed in the field by anti-GMO activists before it can feed starving children.  Is any of this fear justified?  According to almost every legitimate scientific authority the answer is no.  So, why are “environmental” groups like Greenpeace so opposed to GMO crops like golden rice?  Why are organizations that fight for the protection of whales seemingly indifferent to seeing children go malnourished?

Science is based on logic and facts, a world view that many opponents have rejected in favor of spiritualism and a distinctly non-scientific version of environmentalism.  GMO opponents are more willing to accept conspiracy theories, holistic medicine and the “certainty” that evil corporations are hell-bent on exploiting them.  The emotional polarization on this issue will hopefully give way to more open-minded communication from both sides because our future depends on harnessing our technical intellect to feed a growing population.

Anti-GMO “leaders”

Opposition to GMO’s in Hawaii has attracted an eclectic mix of well-worn politicians and other “characters” interested in riding the groundswell of fear and misinformation.

Anti-GMO movement led by  "an assortment of dented cans."

On Kauai, Councilman Gary Hooser and his ally, fellow Councilman Tim Bynum, have floated an anti-GMO bill at the county level. Hooser has retreated to Kauai after dismal showings for statewide higher office and a brief stint on the Abercrombie administration. Some believe he is looking at a possible run for Mayor of Kauai and a revived political career.

Even less fortunate is Ex Honolulu City Councilman Tom Berg, who rode his GMO opposition into political obscurity. Bounced from City Hall after half a term, he failed to even get elected to the Ewa Neighborhood Board. He is still hailed has an “Environmental Hero” by his ex-secretary, and current President of Anti-GMO activists, Babes Against Biotech, Nomi Carmona.

Perennial activist and failed OHA candidate, Walter Ritte, was recently revealed to be on the payroll of mainland special interest group Ceres Trust, in return for adding his local indignation-for-hire to Neighbor Island protests. Ceres has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into “local” organizations like Hawaii SEED and others.

Oahu adds an interesting twist with anti GMOer Representative Jessica Wooley chairing a key agricultural committee, and Senator Mike Gabbard deeply allied with the organic food industry and Chris Butler Cult. Gabbard was a partner in the early days of Down to Earth organic market in the early days of the Butler operations.

The Big Island has less to do with industrial seed crop companies, but has a slightly different battle with GMO papayas. County Councilwoman Margaret Wille is pushing a bill to ban all GMO crops on the Island and impose onerous penalties for local farmers who defy her edict. Joining the fray is retired comedian and failed farming-reality-show entrepreneur, Rossane Barr. Barr has suggested that Hawaiians should “burn” GMO crops down and “plant something decent.” In fact GMO papaya crops have been vandalized on several occasions.

Floating over this whole affair is spiritual and scientific figurehead Dr. Vandana Shiva. Ostensibly to give anti-GMO arguments some scientific gravitas, Dr. Shiva bills herself as a scientist, but a brief examination of her credentials pins her down as a left-leaning, anti-capitalist with a PhD in philosophy.

The saddest part of this spectacle is that so many people are swept up by the disinformation and joined the anti GMO mob. It’s time to take a deep breath and evaluate the information you are being told, and the motivations and credibility of the people telling it to you.

The risky politics of GMO’s – Grossly Miscalculating Office-seekers

It was once said that politicians look for a parade and then run to the front and pretend they are leading it. This old saying crossed my mind when watching Gary Hooser speak to the anti-GMO “Mana” marchers in Kauai a couple of weeks ago.

Hooser is appealing to an energized, albeit ill-informed, base of activists with his anti-GMO rhetoric, but is he ignoring the more passive majority? Are people on Kauai willing to sit by while their agriculture jobs are threatened, their papaya industry crippled and the last glimmer of a reviving economy snuffed out?

Gary Hooser and Tom   Berg -- Banking on anti-GMO supporters may not work for faltering political careers.
Gary Hooser and Tom Berg — Banking on anti-GMO support may not rescue faltering political careers.

For Hooser, this is a calculated gamble. Passed over by Democrats for Lt. Governor and trounced in his bid for the U.S. Congress, Hooser has retreated to Kauai to revive his political ambitions. Perhaps he should heed the cautionary tale of disgraced Honolulu councilman Tom Berg. Berg harnessed just enough of the anti-rail and anti-GMO crowd to win a narrow plurality. But, after only one term, and disasterous press coverage, he was summarily bounced by the voters.

Berg tried, once again, to ride the GMO issue back into office. Hailed as “an environmental hero” by Nomi Carnoma, his ex-secretary, and head of anti-GMO stalwarts Babes Against Biotech. The sad reality is that this GMO political base couldn’t even deliver a Neighborhood Board election for their “hero.”

Berg found out what Hooser has yet to learn: a relatively out-of-touch gang of activists do not represent the sentiments of the community as a whole. While Berg wanted the voters to respond to his cries of “poisonous GMO’s” and “greedy, tax sucking corporations,” they instead acknowledged Berg’s basic incompetence.