Rainbows not Roundup
In his recent letter, Richard Ha claims that if we don’t grow GMO crops on the island, food prices will go up, and the island will move further from attaining food security. While I would not say that he is intentionally scare-mongering, Richard Ha doesn’t offer any proof at all that GMOs will be the miracle cure for the island’s food challenges.
First, since most of our food is imported, local agriculture has almost no effect on grocery price tags. Only produce and a handful of other items, such as milk and grass-fed beef are grown locally. But the Hawaii milk and beef are already double the price of imports. Also, any locally grown produce in the grocery store is always more expensive than equivalent produce at the farmers market where marketing costs are low. GMOs won’t change those economics because the Big Island can’t compete with other regions for labor costs.
Next, Mr. Ha doesn’t explain how GMOs would increase food security. Rice can and has been grown in Hawaii, but the costs are too high if the end market is island grocery stores. A GM rice wouldn’t change that; we would still be importing rice and flour and bread.
Anyway, if biotech did offer us the possibility of growing some crop that could only be grown as GM on Hawaii, that is not “security.” Instead, it represents complete dependence on a corporation that likely has a monopoly.
A GMO ban would only affect our agricultural exports. Right now, there would be no negative impact, assuming papayas keep an exemption. There could be benefits, as Hawaii would gain worldwide notice as a GMO-free oasis.
Let’s face it: No one is clamoring for GMOs or says, “Can you please direct me to your genetically modified selections?” People paying a premium for a Hawaii product have an image that includes rainbows and sunshine, not viral coatings and Roundup resistance.
Let’s try the GMO ban and give these buyers what they want. In the meantime, food security will increase for Hawaii when it begins to make more sense for people to plant a sweet potato patch, or raise chickens and goats as people in other tropical regions do to make ends meet.
Don’t blame activists
As a grower and GMO activist, I view the vandalism of J. R. Bernardo’s papaya trees a criminal act, and denounce it as selfish and cruel.
However, for the papaya association to insinuate that the current debate over the GMO prohibition bills at the County Council is the cause of this vandalism is really manipulating this issue to turn Bernardo into a victim of the grass-roots effort to enact legislation to balance agriculture on Hawaii Island by working towards protecting it from contaminating GMO crops.
The papaya vandalism began back in 2010, but the GMO bills were just introduced this year. When the GMO papaya was first introduced in 1998, Japan rejected it and sales began to slide, from over $15 million to $9.7 million in 2011, according to USDA figures. Hawaii Island activists had nothing to do with that set of circumstances.
Activists working on refining the GMO bills have asked that GMO papaya be exempt, to let it continue to be grown, because it has contaminated the state to the extent that it is impossible to recall from the environment. There is no point in penalizing the growers.
GMO papaya growers have to stand on their own merit and keep their industry going. Don’t blame it on we activists who are attempting to work out the problem of crop contamination through the democratic process available to us.
Better warm than cold
I am writing this in response to the front-page article (Tribune-Herald, Sept. 20) titled “Global cooling?”
I strongly believe that global cooling is a lot more damaging to our Earth than global warming, mainly because of the fact that we have the knowledge and technology to prevent and mitigate the effects of global warming, but not so for global cooling, which could start at any time as a result of massive volcanic eruptions.
This happened on June 15, 1991, when Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted violently, ejecting one cubic mile of materials and creating an ash cloud that rose 22 miles into the air, covering the whole world, including North America. We lived near Boston at that time, and there was no summer that year because of the cooling effect of the ash cloud. During the last ice age, Boston was under a mile of ice, and global cooling could make it happen again.
Since there is no control of volcanic activity, there is no prevention of ice age, but we have the technology to control the global warming.
Arabinda N. Dey