Skip to comments.The Fable of Hawaiian Frankencorn: The Aloha State’s dishonest anti-biotech campaign
Posted on 02/13/2014 10:16:12 PM PST by neverdem
"Anybody you see around here dressed in a Tyvek suit will be someone from Greenpeace," David Stoltzfus joked as we surveyed the thousands of carefully numbered corn plants growing in the stony rust-colored soil of a former sugar cane plantation just a few miles inland from the spectacular Wailea Beach. Stoltzfus, who heads Monsanto's Piilani seed production farm on Maui, was referring to the white disposable coveralls that protesters wear for the TV cameras when "decontaminating" biotech crop fields.
Hawaii is the epicenter of a furious campaign to shut down production farms that yield genetically modified seed. It was September, and I was there to see for myself the "Frankencorn" that haunts activists' choleric imaginations.
Anti-biotech signs and literature were scattered across the Hawaiian Islands. The Crystals and Gems Gallery in Hanalei, a trendy little town on Kauai, displayed several protest posters and offered fliers urging a ban on biotech crops. The gallery is the sort of place where, when my wife picked up an attractive stone and asked a clerk what it was, the reply was, "Do you mean, 'What does it do?'â" Apparently, that particular rock can dispel negativity.
After being advised on the therapeutic properties of various crystals, we asked the clerk what all the anti-biotech literature around the shop was about. She informed us that biotech crops cause cancer, stating emphatically that Kauai's cancer rates were exceptionally high, especially among people who live close to the seed company fields where biotech crop varieties are grown. She added that eating foods containing these ingredients disrupts satiety signals to the brain, causing people to eat too much, resulting in the obesity epidemic. Don't ask me to explain.
Why are the seed companies in Hawaii in the first place? Three words: perpetual growing season. Plant breeders here can produce three crops per year instead of just one. This speeds up the development of new crop varieties from seven years to just four. The seeds can then be transferred to mainland production farms, where bulk quantities of the new, improved seeds can be grown to supply farmers around the world.
Standing in that Maui field, looking at the tens of thousands of inbred corn plants that will be crossbred to produce seed, underlined the enormous benefits of hybridization. The inbred parents of future hybrid corn stand a spindly four or so feet tall. Their high-yielding hybrid offspring will grow as high as 16 feet.
Stoltzfus, a lanky plant breeder from Iowa, explained: "Primarily what we are doing here is just farming. We have no labs. We grow corn, capture seed, and develop a product that can be sold to farmers somewhere in the world." All of the lab work that goes into making modern pest- and herbicide-resistant crop varieties takes place on the mainland.
Hawaii was the site of one of the first great successes of crop biotechnology. In the 1990s, the Hawaiian papaya industry was saved by the creation of a genetically enhanced variety modified to resist the ringspot virus that was then devastating growers. Today about 80 percent of the papayas grown in Hawaii come from these biotech varieties. Instead of celebrating this triumph of human ingenuity, anti-biotech activists are urging the Hawaiian state and county governments to force growers to cut down and burn all of the disease-resistant papaya trees. Some of them aren't waiting: In September, 100 of the trees were macheted down during the night.
The anti-biotech campaign has frightened residents so much that state and local politicians are proposing and passing legislation that could end up pushing seed companies off the islands. In October the county council on the Island of Hawaii (a.k.a. the Big Island) passed a bill that would prohibit the open-air cultivation, propagation, development, or testing of genetically engineered crops and plants. The bill justifies the ban on the ground that it aims "to protect Hawaii Island's unique and vulnerable ecosystem" by "preventing the transfer and uncontrolled spread of genetically engineered organisms onto private property, public lands, and waterways." Violators of the ordinance will be fined $1,000 a day. Amusingly, the bill exempts genetically modified papaya. During my visit to Hawaii, I ate as much papaya as I could.
The measure may be harsh, but it is ultimately symbolic: None of the seed companies operate on the Big Island. The center of the opposition to agricultural biotech is on the island of Kauai, where the county council passed a bill in October that would restrict seed companies' ability to grow biotech crops and use pesticides. The bill justifies its restrictions by citing concerns about the impact of commercial crop cultivation and pesticide use "on the natural environment, and on human health." The bill further finds that "genetically modified plants could potentially disperse into the environment of the County of Kauai through pollen drift, seed commingling, and inadvertent transfer of seeds by humans, animals, weather events, and other means. This could have environmental and economic impacts."
Among other requirements, the Kauai bill mandates 500-foot buffer zones around seed company fields, disclosure of what types of seeds are being grown, and notices to properties within 1,500 feet of a commercial agricultural entity when it plans to spray pesticides. Violators would be punished with civil fines of $10,000 to $25,000 per day and/or criminal penalties of $2,000 and up to a year in jail. On October 31, Kauai Mayor Bernard Cavalho Jr. vetoed the bill, citing a legal analysis that found the county did not have the authority to adopt such legislation. In November, the County Council voted to override his veto; the bill is slated to go into effect in August.
The justifications for these laws don't withstand much scrutiny. Local cancer rates are not in fact up: The Kauai Health Department reported in April 2013 that "overall cancer incidence rates (all cancers combined) were significantly lower on Kauai compared to the entire state of Hawaii." Nor did the department find higher rates of cancer in those districts where the seed company farms are located.
Both the Hawaii County and Kauai County bills ostensibly are intended to protect the state's environment from contamination by biotech crops. Some 90 percent of the biotech crops grown in Hawaii is seed corn; the rest is seed soybeans and canola. None of these crops can commingle with or pollinate any native Hawaiian species. Fears about the "uncontrolled spread of genetically engineered organisms" are overblown. No forests, swamps, or prairies anywhere have been overrun with domesticated corn, soy, or canola plants gone wild.
And when worrying about keeping Hawaii's ecosystems pristine, keep in mind that half of the plant species now living on the islands are nonnative, including such iconic but fading agricultural staples as taro, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, pineapples, and coffee. As for "economic impacts," the biotech seed companies produce about 34 percent of the value of all Hawaiian agricultural crops and employ around 2,000 people, more than 20 percent of the state's agricultural work force.
The chief goal of the anti-GMO campaigners is to disrupt the progress of the technology they abhor by spreading disinformation to frighten the citizens of Hawaii. Sadly, they are succeeding.
The level of understanding I would expect from a hippie clerk at a crystal store.
That that rampage in the village, I can see why the villagers pursued Frankencorn while they brandished pitchforks and torches.
More anti-science Republican conservatives.
Liberals of course embrace and worship Science.
FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list.
As a part time resident of Hawaii I can attest to the fact that the only people complaing, about twenty total, are VERY wealthy elitists that only have a vacation home in Hanelei. To put it in perspective it would be the same as Mickey Moore protesting Oscar Meyer while shovelling Nathan’s in his gaping maw by the truck load.
Hawaii has long slipped under the scrutiny of the media (with the exception of two online (and possibly print) newspapers, including the Hawaii’ Free Press, in regards to communism, marxists, and just plain far-leftist wackos and their machinations.
The history of communist attempts to take over Hawaii go back to the 1940’s (re ILWU, Jack Hall, Frank Marshall Davis of Obama connection, Betty Bourslag, and Jack Kawano, who later defected from the Left, Ewart Guinier, The Honolulu Record and the Hawaiian Civil Liberties Committee).
Though defeated in their attempts to take over the Democrat Party in the late 1940’s (Jack Hall was the unofficial mayor of Honolulu), men like (Sen) Dan Inouye and Jack Kawano fought the reds and pushed them out of power positions except within the ILWU who was organizing workers in the islands and controlled the docks under orders from Soviet asset harry Bridges.
Jumping forward to today, Gov. (former Rep.) Neal Abercrombie (D-Ha) is the last of the oldtime marxists still in power there, though he had support from the late Patsy Mink (d-Ha), Rep. Hirono (D-Ha) today, and others in his rise to power.
The anti-US bases groups, the Occupy Honolulu/Hawaii groups, the anti-Monsanto genetically modified seeds groups, and other dopers have united to keep fighting for control of local and state politics.
On occasion they have linked up with the “Natives” movement to try and reclaim land and buildings they say belonged to the Hawaiian royalty displaced by the US over a century ago.
They are red termites eating away at the foundations of the Hawaiian political system, and they are decidedly marxist in orientation, and wacked out re the drug issues.
Never underestimate the ability of our enemies to subvert our country. Just look at who and what is in the White House today.
People wouldn’t be so upset about Monsanto if it weren’t for that company’s aggressive anti farmer practices. The idea of suing a farmer because Monsanto pollen blew into a farmers field and then fertilized some of his crops is outrageous, and he used the resulting seeds. The farmers should be suing Monsanto for allowing their pollen to trespass and “rape” the farmers’ innocent crops.
The GMO worshipers rely on Big Government more than their opponents do...whether buying political favor or judges...Big Government GMO has their hands into everything
Of course, many Conservative Christians are opponents of Big Govt GMO food and corruption. Simply put...if you have to get laws passed to prevent telling folks if there is GMO content in food....that alone tells common sense folks something is wrong w GMO
They need more anti-negativity rocks! What they have, isn’t working!
Instead of modifying corn to grow in Hawaii, why don’t they just go back to growing sugar? Oh yeah, subsidies, bureaucrats, pocket lining, etc. I momentarily forgot about the corn lobby.
As a side note, has anybody seen the Mazola commercial that claims corn oil is healthier than olive oil?
I was on vacation on the Big Island in the 90s and we took a car tour to see Kilauea which had been in constant eruption since the 80s. The guide bemoaned the unemployment in the area with the closing down of the canning and pineapple industry. While at lunch, I noticed some local cars with bumper stickers of a rocket with a red circle and slash the classic NO
I asked the guide about it and he told me the locals were very opposed to a proposed rocket launch facility that had been proposed for the area. The main objection was the air pollution from the rockets. Despite the fact that the rocket launch facility would have brought in lots of high pay jobs, not to mention the support infrastructure. They could have been a rocket high tech Mecca.
So I turned to the guide and said, you guys have a volcano constantly erupting for a decade, and you are concerned by the air pollution from a couple of rocket launches? He had a tough time dealing with that.
Sorry, but who is Mickey Moore? Just wondering.
While visiting the big island two residents explained that the unions had organized the sugar field workers demanding higher wages. The price of sugar went up and Hawaiian sugar was no longer competitive to the world market. Some off the farms now have coffee trees some have macedamieon nuts (Hershey helped create that market). Most are empty fields. Worth the heli ride just to observe what had been described to us by one of our hosts
BTW I miss the pineapples.
Except for my 10 years away at college and military service, I have lived my entire life in Hawaii. I can attest to your observations and agree wholeheartedly. I have seen Hawaii descent into the socialist abyss due in large part to liberal politics (living on someone elses money) and corrupt politicians. When politics is involved - and that is EVERYTHING these days - follow the money.
Somebody didn't read the article.
Somebody’s a FReeper Creeper!