I recently watched “OMG GMO,” Jeremy Seifert’s aggressively uninformed “documentary” about the corporate duplicity and governmental callousness that he says drives the production of genetically engineered crops—which are, in his view, such barely concealed poisons that he actually dressed his children in full hazmat gear before letting them enter a field of genetically modified corn. Seifert explained his research process in an interview with Nathanael Johnson of Grist: “I didn’t really dig too deep into the scientific aspect.”
Fair enough. Normally, I would ignore anyone who would say that while publicizing his movie. But Seifert has been abetted by Dr. Mehmet Oz, the patron saint of internally inconsistent scientific assertions, and Seifert’s message of fear and illiteracy has now been placed before millions of television viewers.
Seifert asserts that the scientific verdict is still out on the safety of G.M. foods—which I guess it is, unless you consult actual scientists. He fails to do that. Instead, he claims that the World Health Organization is one of many groups that question the safety of genetically engineered products. However, the W.H.O. has been consistent in its position on G.M.O.s: “No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of G.M. foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.” Continue reading
Authorities were investigating a new suspected case of crop contamination on Thursday – the second in the Pacific north-west in five months – after samples of hay tested positive for genetically modified traits.
The investigation was ordered after a farmer in Washington state reported that his alfalfa shipments had been rejected for export after testing positive for genetic modification. Results were expected as early as Friday.
If confirmed, it would be the second known case of GM contamination in a major American crop since May, when university scientists confirmed the presence of a banned GM wheat growing in a farmer’s field in Oregon.
The suspected outbreak comes in the run-up to a ballot measure in Washington state that would require mandatory labelling of all GM foods.
Alfalfa is America’s fourth largest crop, behind corn, wheat and soybeans, and the main feedstock for the dairy industry. A confirmed case of contamination could hurt the organic dairy industry, which is now worth $26bn a year, forcing farmers to find new sources of GM-free feed. It could also hurt a growing export industry. Alfalfa is increasingly sold for export but buyers, such as Japan, do not want GM products.
Campaigners said the suspected case of contamination provided further evidence of the difficulties of containing GM crops.
“It’s telling that these things keep happening repeatedly,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney at the Center for Food and Safety in Portland, Oregon. “It’s a systemic problem. We have a failed regulatory system for these crops.” Continue reading
September 12, 2013
Power Brokers takes a turn over the waters of the Pacific to Hawai’i, whose indigenous population shares a common history with Native Americans and Alaskan Natives on the mainland. In 1893, the sovereign kingdom of Hawai’i was overthrown, with the country seeing an eventual annexation by the United States five years later. Since statehood in 1959, there has been a growing movement of recognizing the importance of Hawaiian language, culture and sovereign recognition. This includes war crime complaints filed within the International Criminal Court and the UN Human Rights Council.
Because of the growing interest in Hawaiian sovereignty, it is important to recognize the members of the Hawai’i State Legislature who are open about their indigenous identity. Many of these indigenous legislators have been in office for several terms and hold majority leadership positions. Continue reading
Thousands on Kauai marched the streets to show their support of the “Right to Know” Bill, a bill that would require agricultural companies working with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to disclose the chemicals they’re using and take extra steps to keep the chemicals contained.
It’s a volatile debate. One side is arguing business and development, the other side health and safety.
The bill is going to its second hearing Monday in front of the county’s Economic Development and Agricultural committee, where changes could be made before a final city council vote on the measure.
Roads were shut down as nearly 2,000 people marched in the streets from Vidinha Stadium to the Historic County Building, the place where the Right To Know Bill will go before a committee hearing Monday morning.
“We’re united. This is exactly what they didn’t want to happen,” a community activist at the Mana March said.
They rallied to send this message to the agricultural corporations that are reportedly testing new pesticides and GMO technologies on Kauai agricultural land.
“If you like poison, poison your own place. If you like experiment, experiment on your own family,” activists said.
Many said they have had enough and are concerned about the health effects the chemicals are having on their families, and the environmental impacts that the pesticides may have for generations to come. Continue reading
It’s known as the premier epicurean destination event in the Pacific, an annual festival co-founded by Chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong.
The Hawaii Food and Wine Festival started with an event on Maui last weekend and has been going on all week long, with wine tastings, cooking demos, and field trips.
They’re some of the biggest names in food world.
19 celebrity chefs from Hawaii, the mainland, and around the globe are here in Hawaii to create gastronomic delights showcasing local ingredients.
“Lobsters from the Big Island, tomatoes from here, all my herbs are from the island,” Chef Chris Cosentino Said.
“The true essence of what we do is to cook with what we have, and that’s what cooking is about,” says Chef Mark “Gooch” Noguchi.
“Mr. Kenney cooked this amazing sandwich with nori and poi. It was just amazing, and tasted like a desert and savory, just delicious,” attendee Sherrie Straus Fogel said.
At $200 a ticket, folks could eat to their hearts content, sampling not only food but also wine. Continue reading
Much attention has been turned in recent months to the fact that the agro-chemical/GMO industry — corporate giants Dow, Pioneer DuPont, Syngenta, Monsanto, BASF — have been using Hawaii since the 1990s as one of their main testing grounds for experiments engineering new pesticide-crop combos. On the “Garden Island” of Kauai, the industry controls over 15,000 acres of prime agricultural land, which they drench with over 17 tons of restricted-use pesticides each year, and likely at least five times that amount in non-restricted pesticides that may be equally as harmful (such as glyphosate).
Because genetically engineered seeds are most typically designed to be used in conjunction with specific pesticides, the development of new GE crops (or at least the types the industry is choosing to develop) requires repeated applications of these chemicals and their mixing into new toxic cocktails with unknown consequences. From a lawsuit, we know that Pioneer DuPont alone has used 90 pesticide formulations with 63 active ingredients in the past 6 years. They apply these pesticides around 250 (sometimes 300) days each year, with 10-16 applications per day on average. The amount of pesticides used on the island by these operations makes the corn fields in Kansas look organic.
Pesticides are sprayed next to schools, hospitals, neighborhoods and major waterways, with zero buffer zone and zero public knowledge of what is being sprayed and when it will happen. Preliminary evidence suggests that living in the shadow of these companies may be causing alarming rates of rare birth defects and cancers. Continue reading
The nonprofit Hawaii Agriculture Research Center in Kunia on Oahu plans to build a 500-kilowatt solar photovoltaic facility on two acres of land owned by the center and Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., according to a City and County of Honolulu Planning Commission public hearing notice.
Solar Hub Utilities LLC and the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center are named as the applicants.
In June 2012, SPI Solar said it acquired the rights from Solar Hub Utilities to co-develop and build almost 70 solar energy facilities in Hawaii.
The facilities, which will be no more than 500 kilowatts each, are located on Oahu, Maui and the Kona side of the Big Island, and are mostly ground-based with some rooftop and shade structures, SPI Solar previously said.
The solar facilities are expected to feed energy into the power grids operated by Hawaiian Electric Co., Maui Electric Co. and Hawaii Electric Light Co. through the utilities’ feed-in tariff programs.
Hawaii regulators are re-examining the FIT program, which is designed to encourage the addition of more renewable energy projects in the state.
The hearing on the project is scheduled for Sept. 18 at 1:30 p.m. at the Mission Memorial Building located at 550 S. King St. in Honolulu.
HILO >> Hawaii County lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it easier for small farmers to give tours to visitors, usually for a fee, and to sell related agricultural and nonagricultural products at a gift shop. Large agricultural operations already can do this.
The legislation, which the council is scheduled to hear Thursday, proposes separating agricultural activities into “major” and “minor” operations, West Hawaii Today reported.
Minor operations would be required to limit annual visitors to 5,000, with a maximum 100 visitors per week. Major operations would be allowed up to 30,000 visitors per year.
The Hawaii Agritourism Association and other supporters say the bill will help small farmers survive the vagaries of the economy and weather by providing a reliable supplemental income source.
Opponents worry the measure will distract farmers from their primary occupation of food production, while increasing the value of agricultural land and property taxes.
Freshman Puna Councilman Zendo Kern proposed the bill. He’s been trying to draft a measure balancing the needs of small farmers and would-be “agritourism” businesses with rural neighbors who worry about impacts like increased traffic and noise.
Major agritourism operations still would need to get their plans approved, while minor ones would not. Both types would be required to turn over financial records upon the request of the planning department to verify compliance.
North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff hopes the bill can be delayed a little longer to ensure it’s the best it can be before moving it on to its final hearing later this month.
Flowers conjure a variety of emotional and sensory responses as well as memories. Loving sentiments are often attached to roses. Violets are sometimes associated with youthful sweetness and a bouquet of daisies brings cheer into any room. Gladiolas often appear in funeral arrangements and the scent of lavender might stir memories of fields of flowers on a hot summer day. A sunflower’s appearance literally fills the space with sunlight.
Though the sunflower, Helianthus annus, has been widely cultivated to produce flowers with different colors, shapes and sizes, the basic structure of the inflorescence continues to be reminiscent of the sun.
Most varieties maintain an attraction to sunlight with heliotropic buds that move to follow the sun and mature flowers that face the rising sun in the east. The botanical name Helianthus is derived from the Greek words helios for sun and anthos for flower.
Sunflowers are members of the largest family of flowering plants, the Asteraceae family. Like most family members, sunflowers have composite heads consisting of hundreds of tiny flowers clustered in the center of rays of petals that can vary in size and color depending on the cultivar. The flowers on edible varieties produce delicious seeds when pollinated. Many ornamental cultivars have been bred for their long-lasting beauty as cut flowers.
The original sunflower was an oilseed plant native to temperate North America. It was transported to Europe in the 16th century and nearly 100 cultivars, including many ornamental varieties, have since been developed.
Several edible varieties are recommended for West Hawaii gardens. The most popular, and the largest, is the Russian mammoth. Russian breeding in the 1800s produced this giant with bright gold petals and heads that reach 10 to 12 inches across on 8- to 10-foot stalks. The flowers that make up the head result in gray and white seeds.
The edible snack seed hybrid is somewhat smaller, reaching about 6 feet. This variety produces deep golden petals and heads that produce plump seed kernels. Continue reading