The title of this post is meant to give an idea of the tension that anti-GMO legislation is causing between conventional farmers using biotechnology (like GMO crops) and farmers that want a more sustainable future for Hawaii’s agricultural production.
In November 2013 the Kauai County Council voted to pass Bill 2491 overriding Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s veto of the bill. Bill 2491 requires biotech companies that use restricted use pesticides, to disclose what they are spraying, where and how much. The law also requires farmers to report which genetically altered crops they are growing. It also sets up “buffer zones” separating schools, homes, parks, and hospitals from fields that are sprayed with pesticides.
The bill was pushed forward thanks to the efforts of local residents that protested and testified in front of the council for hours due to their concern with biotech companies like Syngenta, DuPont-Pioneer, Dow and BASF damaging the island’s environment and the people’s health.
Biotech companies had previously threatened the small county of Kauai with a lawsuit if the county passed the bill, but councilman Gary Hooser, a co-sponsor of the bill, said that if the biotech companies sued it would cause them a “public relations fiasco”.
The Center for Food Safety, a leader in the anti-GMO movement, promised to represent the county pro bono if it is sued over Bill 2491.
A similar bill was also to be introduced in the Maui County Council.
Then in December Mayor Billy Kenoi signed Bill 113 into law, prohibiting biotech companies from operating on the Big Island and banning genetically altered crops (except for papaya). This was not a popular bill; actually most of the Big Islands farmers that rely on GMO crops are angry about this bill passing.
The Mayor wrote that passing the bill shows the Big Island’s position: ” instead of global agribusiness corporations, we want to encourage and support community-based farming and ranching.”
Opponents of the bill argued that since 70% of all food in America contains GMO, and Hawaii imports 85% of it’s food, the bill might make it harder for Hawaii’s small conventional farmers to compete.
The forums and the comment sections on many of the articles having to do with GMOs on the islands show a lot of animosity between those that believe GMOs are safe, and those that do not.
Non-organic farmers that are used to growing monocultures that deplete soil, and that are vulnerable to diseases and pests feel lost without GMOs and pesticides. They believe in the science supporting GMOs safety and are more concerned with their bottom line, and supporting their families. They call supporters of Bill 113 “capitalism-hating environmental utopionists“.
Mayor Kenoi reassured that there will be training available in more sustainable agricultural methods, but people against the bill complain that this would be at the expense of taxpayers.
Change is not easy, and it will always upset a group of people that don’t want to change, that are dependent on the old system. As we move to new ways of living and working we need to be compassionate for those that have a harder time moving forward. They need support and encouragement and to know that they will not be left behind or forsaken.
The Mayor of Kauai Bernard Carvalho, was wrong when he said “We are not placed in these positions to be a hero or pave the way for other communities”. We are always in a position to lead by example, and though it has been a rocky start the islands are doing just that, paving the way for other communities.
It is my prayer that conventional famers and organic farmers can call a truce on the islands and work together to enjoy a good livelihood in a sustainable way.
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