She’s baaack, and it’s not good news for science literacy, farmers and food-minded Hawaiians.
I’m referring to Vandana Shiva, the Indian anti-GMO crusader who kicked off a five-day blitz through Hawaii with a talk-and-music fest at the Capitol Building on Wednesday.
It’s a grand tour, marked by private fund-raising pitches to wealthy locals and wannabees from the mainland who view the limited role of biotechnological research in modern agriculture as an anathema–Hawaii is a world center because of its favorable climate.
Campaigns like this tour aimed at shutting down nursery centers, most based in Maui, could send the seed giants fleeing to Puerto Rico or the Philippines, costing Hawaii hundreds of millions of dollars and hurting the cause for sustainability in the process.
Shiva’s tour caps off with a Sunday afternoon rally at the Seabury Theatre on Maui with headlined demands for what the prime organizer–Washington, DC-based Center for Food Safety (CFS)–calls “home rule.” While polls show a majority of Maui farmers and residents oppose the effort to shut down the seed nurseries and research labs, anyone but diehard opponents of modern agriculture will be personae non grata at this rally.
Shiva is reprising her 2013 tour, also led by CFS, which oversees scheduling of her $40,000-a-pop promotional speeches. A Brahmin who professes to stand with women and the poor, Shiva maintains her goal is “giving voice to those who want their agriculture free of poison and GMOs.”
On her arrival two years ago, Shiva was an exotic unknown–an “eco warrior goddess” and a “rock star in the global battle over genetically modified seeds,” in the words of journalist Bill Moyers. Here in Hawaii, she was treated as a foreign dignitary. No one dared criticize her.
Now, two years later, as more details of her philosophy and background have emerged, a darker picture has emerged. She leverages her claim as an expert at every stop. “I am scientist… a Quantum Physicist,” she claimed, until recently on her website and in many books, a claim repeated by journalists, even prominent. But she’s not. Her degree was in humanities–she’s a philosopher of science, but has no professional hard science background or writings.
To her followers? Details, Details.
Each week, we will answer a question from our readers regarding our operations and community outreach in the State of Hawaii. Submit your question by visiting the contact page. Thanks for reading. Mahalo!
Q: I’ve heard that Monsanto Hawaii wants to put smaller farmers out of business. Is this true?
This is absolutely not the case and, in fact, the exact opposite is true. Monsanto Hawaii is 100% focused on agriculture and our mission is to help fellow farmers succeed through the use of innovative practices and tools that empower farms to produce more food, fiber and fuel, while at the same time conserving natural resources and operating more sustainably.
As an agriculture company, we believe we have a responsibility to work collaboratively with our fellow farmers to promote a strong and successful Hawaii ag industry. Some of our efforts to help other farmers throughout Hawaii include:
- The Hawaii Agricultural Foundation Ag Park at Kunia promotes sustainable local farming by making land and other resources available to small local farms growing a variety of produce and other crops. The Park was created through an innovative partnership between Monsanto Hawaii, Island Palms Communities and the Hawaiian Agricultural Foundation.
The GMO debate is considered one of the most controversial and confusing issues facing our state. Supporters say the technology behind genetically modified organisms is feeding the world at a time when the population keeps exploding and space to farm is getting scarcer. Opponents say it poses health and environmental risks – the full scope of which is unknown, because its application is too new.
A genetically modified organism is a living thing, like the corn grown on over 2,365 acres in Kunia by Monsanto, which has been altered to produce a desired trait.
"A good comparison is to an iPhone. The iPhone is like the basic corn – putting more genes in or making it GMO is like adding additional apps into that phone, into that corn. It makes it more valuable and a better tool for farmers to produce their crop," described Fred Perlak, Ph.D., Monsanto Hawai’i Research & Business Ops Vice President.
Perlak says GMO corn can be engineered to resist insects and herbicides and tolerate droughts.
"Ethanol production, high fructose corn syrup, feed for cattle, fed for pigs for chickens – all that comes from this particular kind of corn," explained Perlak.
According to experts, approximately 90% of all corn grown in North America is GMO – along with cotton, canola and soy. Continue reading
SEATTLE — A Washington state ballot measure requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods has been rejected.
The campaign over Initiative 522 has been one of the costliest initiative fights in state history, drawing millions of dollars from out of state. The measure was failing 46 percent to 54 percent after more ballots were counted Wednesday evening, with the “yes” side trailing by almost 100,000 votes.
“We’re delighted with the vote tonight,” said Dana Bieber, a spokeswoman for the No on 522 campaign. Voters “gave a clear message. The more they looked at the initiative the less they liked it.”
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
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 court unanimously rejected farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman’s argument that he was not violating Monsanto’s patent because the company’s pesticide-resistent “Roundup Ready” soybeans replicate themselves. Justice Elena Kagan said there is no such “seeds-are-special” exception to the law.
“We think that blame-the-bean defense tough to credit,” Kagan wrote. “Bowman was not a passive observer of his soybeans’ multiplication; or put another way, the seeds he purchased (miraculous though they might be in other respects) did not spontaneously create eight successive soybean crops.”
She added: “Bowman devised and executed a novel way to harvest crops from Roundup Ready seeds without paying the usual premium.”
While the case was about soybeans, the broader issue of patent protection is important to makers of vaccines, software and other products. Corporations were worried about what might happen if the decision had gone the other way.
But, as the justices had indicated at oral arguments in the case, they believed Bowman’s practices threaten the incentive for invention that is at the heart of patent law.
If someone could copy Monsanto’s product, “a patent would plummet in value after the first sale of the first item containing the invention,” Kagan wrote. “And that would result in less incentive for innovation than Congress wanted.”
Farmer’s use of genetically modified soybeans grows into Supreme Court case
By Robert Barnes, Saturday, February 9, 3:12 PM
In SANDBORN, Ind. — Farmer Hugh Bowman hardly looks the part of a revolutionary who stands in the way of promising new biotech discoveries and threatens Monsanto’s pursuit of new products it says will “feed the world.”
“Hell’s fire,” said the 75-year-old self-described “eccentric old bachelor,” who farms 300 acres of land passed down from his father. Bowman rested in a recliner, boots off, the tag that once held his Foster Grant reading glasses to a drugstore rack still attached, a Monsanto gimme cap perched ironically on his balding head.
“I am less than a drop in the bucket.”
Yet Bowman’s unorthodox soybean farming techniques have landed him at the center of a national battle over genetically modified crops. His legal battle, now at the Supreme Court, raises questions about whether the right to patent living things extends to their progeny, and how companies that engage in cutting-edge research can recoup their investments.
What Bowman did was to take commodity grain from the local elevator, which is usually used for feed, and plant it. But that grain was mostly progeny of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready beans because that’s what most Indiana soybean farmers grow. Those soybeans are genetically modified to survive the weedkiller Roundup, and Monsanto claims that Bowman’s planting violated the company’s restrictions.
Those supporting Bowman hope the court uses the case, which is scheduled for oral arguments later this month, to hit the reset button on corporate domination of agribusiness and what they call Monsanto’s “legal assault” on farmers who don’t toe the line. Monsanto’s supporters say advances in health and environmental research are endangered.
And the case raises questions about the traditional role of farmers.
For instance: When a farmer grows Monsanto’s genetically modified soybean seeds, has he simply “used” the seed to create a crop to sell, or has he “made” untold replicas of Monsanto’s invention that remain subject to the company’s restrictions?
An adverse ruling, Monsanto warned the court in its brief, “would devastate innovation in biotechnology,” which involves “notoriously high research and development costs.”
“Inventors are unlikely to make such investments if they cannot prevent purchasers of living organisms containing their invention from using them to produce unlimited copies,” Monsanto states.
Bowman said Monsanto’s claim that its patent protection would be eviscerated should he win is “ridiculous.”
“Monsanto should not be able, just because they’ve got millions and millions of dollars to spend on legal fees, to try to terrify farmers into making them obey their agreements by massive force and threats,” Bowman said. Continue reading
Monsanto Fund Donates $20,000 for Molokai Watershed Protection
Monsanto Molokai News Release
The Monsanto Fund awarded a $20,000 grant to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) of Hawaii for watershed protection at Kamakou Preserve on Molokai. Since 2006, the Monsanto Fund has contributed a total of $130,000 to TNC’s protection and restoration efforts of critical watershed and fragile ecosystems on Molokai.
Located high in the mountains of East Molokai, the 2,774-acre Kamakou Preserve is a rainforest like no other on the planet. This magnificent natural treasure not only shelters hundreds of native plants and animals, but also serves as an important source of water for the island and its people.
TNC’s work at Kamakou Preserve, in collaboration with the public and private landowners of the East Molokai Watershed Partnership, is focused on invasive animal and weed control.
“Molokai’s forested watersheds today are under constant assault from established and new invasive species,” said Ed Misaki, TNC’s Molokai Program Director. “Feral ungulates (hoofed animals) like wild pigs, goats and deer are steadily eroding fragile topsoil. Once this soil disturbance occurs, invasive plants that did not evolve here, like blackberry and strawberry guava, steadily displace our native forests and watersheds. Once lost, they may be impossible to fully restore at any price.” Continue reading
WASHINGTON » The Supreme Court agreed today to hear a dispute between a soybean farmer and Monsanto Co. over the company’s efforts to limit farmers’ use of its patented, genetically engineered Roundup Ready seeds.
The justices said they will hear an appeal from Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman, who is trying to fend off Monsanto’s lawsuit claiming Bowman made unauthorized use of the seeds.
Monsanto’s patented soybean seeds have been genetically engineered to resist its Roundup brand herbicide. When Roundup is sprayed on a field, the product will kill the weeds without harming the crop.
The Obama administration urged the court not to take the case and warned that the outcome could affect patents involving DNA molecules, nanotechnologies and other self-replicating technologies.
Monsanto has a policy that prohibits farmers from saving or reusing the seeds once the crop is grown, ensuring that farmers have to buy new seeds every year.
Bowman used the patented seeds, but also bought cheaper soybeans from a grain elevator and used those to plant a second crop. Most of the new soybeans also were resistant to weed killers, as they initially came from herbicide-resistant seeds, too. Bowman repeated the practice over eight years. Monsanto sued when it learned what he was doing.
The company has filed lawsuits around the country to enforce its policy against saving the seeds for the future.
Bowman’s appeal was among seven new cases the court added today to its calendar for argument during the winter.
The justices also will consider whether a government’s refusal to issue a development permit can amount to “taking” private property for which the owner must be paid. Continue reading