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The Garden Island: Walter Ritte, Andrew Kimbrell address Hawai‘i SEED event

Posted: January 20th, 2013 | Filed under: Press | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |
andrew kimbrell hawaii seed tour kauai The Garden Island: Walter Ritte, Andrew Kimbrell address Hawai‘i SEED event Wheat Walter Ritte University of Hawaii Syngenta sustainability sugar beets State Capitol Salmon RoundUp rice Public Land Development Corporation Proposition 37 PLDC pesticides Nancy Redfeather Molokai Lihue Kaua‘i War Memorial Auditorium Kauai Kaho‘olawe International Center for Technology Assessment India HI Hawaii SEED Tour Hawaii government GMOs GMO Labeling Gary Hooser Flavr Savr FDA Family Dupont Dr. Vandana Shiva Dow Chemical Dicamba Corporations Center for Food Safety California Bayer Andrew Kimbrell alfalfa Agent Orange 2 4 D

Walter Ritte, Andrew Kimbrell address Hawai‘i SEED event

By Laurie Cicotello – The Garden Island

LIHU‘E — Wendell Berry once said, “To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration. In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness, and others to want.”

Environmental attorney Andrew Kimbrell shared Berry’s quotation with a standing room only crowd on the final evening of the Hawai‘i SEED Tour event featuring Dr. Vandana Shiva Thursday at the Kaua‘i War Memorial Auditorium (see Saturday’s online edition for a full story about Shiva’s presentation).

Berry’s quotation resonated the most during the evening, with Dr. Shiva also paraphrasing it before announcing that she would return to Kaua‘i, “only when you have driven those criminals off this island.”

Opening the event for Dr. Shiva Thursday night were Kimbrell and Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte.

In introducing Ritte, emcee Nancy Redfeather of Hawai‘i noted his work in 1975 reclaiming Kaho‘olawe from the U.S. military, which was using it for target practice.

She also recalled watching him and his two sons testify to stop a company from doing biological drug testing in Hawai‘i and how they successfully blocked the effort.

“On Moloka‘i, we are fiercely protective of our natural resources,” Ritte said. “We have a cash economy and a subsistence economy and we need both to survive.”

He said some islands have lost one of those economies and people get by on a cash economy.

On Moloka‘i, though, he said, “We fiercely protect the environment because that’s how we feed our family. The skills that allow us to harvest these resources and feed our families are traditional skills. Monsanto is the No. 1 problem we have right now.”

He said Native Hawaiians are asking him ‘We have sovereignty and rights to take of, why are you wasting your time on GMOs?’

For him, the answer boils down to food sustainability.

“If we are not going to learn how to feed ourselves, we are never going to be independent, self-sufficient and sovereign, never. Never,” he said.

Ritte described having the doors shut on protesters last year during an anti-GMO rally at the State Capitol.

“It was a horrible feeling,” Ritte said. “These elected officials have joined the corporations. They have declared a war on our environment and this island has the most to lose, because it is the most beautiful island in all of Hawai‘i. You have the most to protect.”

He said his job for the evening was to instill in the audience the idea that talk alone would not solve problems.

“If we don’t do anything, we are going to lose. We need you to participate in government,” Ritte said.

He praised the efforts of the Hawai‘i SEED leadership in getting people involved on both leading a three-mile march from UH to the Capitol on O‘ahu and in filling the entire facility on Kaua‘i.

“It’s these women who have all this energy and commitment. Holy burning on my ballbearings, I cannot keep up with this group,” Ritte said to applause. “The leadership right now coming from Kaua‘i is ahead of any other island. No other island can fill rooms like this. The leadership is coming from your island. You guys are in the lead, just like you were on the Superferry.”

Ritte also addressed the issue of the Public Land Development Corporation, calling on Gary Hooser to take the lead on making changes. With the changes in House leadership, Ritte said the doors are open to affecting change statewide.

Ritte said yesterday marked the 120th anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. He said the issue needs to be made pono, to be corrected in order to move forward.

“If you build the foundation of how we’re going to protect our environment, using the most powerful laws in the state, it’s not going to be just the Hawaiians rising up. It’s going to be all of us joining up and rising up together because of the love we have for future generations,” he said.

In thanking the crowd for allowing him to share his mana‘o, he said, “We are all here because we love our environment and we love our Islands. We need to protect them come hell or high water.”

Along with Shiva was Andrew Kimbrell, who became the executive director of the International Center for Technology Assessment in 1994 and the executive director of the Center for Food Safety in 1997. As one of the leading environmental attorneys in the nation, he has authored several books on the environment, technology in society and food issues. In 1994, Utne Reader named him as one of the world’s leading visionaries.

Kimbrell opened his talk by paying homage to emcee Nancy Redfeather and her work in the legislature and to Jeri Di Pietro, president of Hawai‘i SEED.

He shared a story about Walter Ritte after he stopped the genetic engineering of taro. A group was sitting around trying to figure out the next step and Kimbrell suggested the company might try to patent taro, to which Ritte replied, ‘They can’t patent my older brother!”

The next thing Kimbrell knew, Ritte and his Hawaiian warriors chained themselves to a building where the Regents for the University of Hawai‘i was meeting to give up the patents they had on taro, which ultimately they did.

“To my knowledge, it’s the only time a patent holder has ever given up a patent, particularly under the threat of imprisonment,” Kimbrell said. “They say if you want something done, give it to a busy man. I say if you want anything done, give it to this man.”

Kimbrell said he met Dr. Vandana Shiva in 1989 at the first global warming conference for NGOs. He said the “beauty and nobility of her presence” immediately drew him to her.

He said that during that first meeting, Dr. Shiva said that in India, her people “have for millennia lived, more or less, in harmony with the world, but here in the West, in less than 150 years, you’ve created almost a terminal threat to the planet. So from now on at this conference, why don’t we call you the underdeveloped world?”

Kimbrell fired off a long list of products his group has stopped, including the Flavor Savor genetically engineered tomato to wheat, alfalfa, sugar beets, slo mo grass, rice, even biopharmaceuticals.

“Monsanto can be stopped. We were outspent 20:1 by Monsanto and won,” Kimbrell said to applause, adding that it’s not a matter of “if we’re going to have labeling, but when.”

He described writing Proposition 37 in California, and how they lost the proposition 51 to 49. He said Monsanto spent $50 million and only won by a narrow margin.

“I love suing Monsanto,” Kimbrell said in discussing gene and patent cases heading to the U.S. Supreme Court. “It never stops them from being passive aggressive cause we just get to sue them.”

He noted there are five major companies equal to Monsanto including Dow Chemical, DuPont, Syngenta and Bayer.

The crowd loudly tried to correct him, shouting out “Pioneer!” to which Kimbrell reminded them that Pioneer is a subsidiary of DuPont.

Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta own 51 percent of the world’s seeds, he said.

The seeds are designed to withstand huge applications of pesticides, which the same companies sell, Kimbrell said.

He said the Big 5 put out 115 million more pounds of pesticides and “we get rid of 40 million pounds of pesticides,” but it creates an adaptation of super weeds through survival of the fittest and weeds that can’t be killed with RoundUp.

Dow Chemicals said took over and created 2,4-D resistant crops.

“2,4-D is one of the elements in Agent Orange. So then they start a chemical arms race because Monsanto says they are going to go with Dicamba,” Kimbrell said, adding that these crops are currently up for USDA approval.

Kimbrell said Dicamba is one of the most terrifying weed killers as well because it volatilizes. “That means that under certain warm and wet conditions, it comes back up in a cloud after it’s been sprayed and can move miles over an organic farm and kill everything there. We’ve had conventional farmers say they don’t want this thing, so our work is not done.”

He went on to say “one of the most troubling things for me” is that the FDA is currently finalizing the approval of genetically engineered salmon.

“The salmon was originally engineered with human growth genes to make it grow larger, faster, and now they put some pout genes to do the same thing,” Kimbrell said.

He added that researchers said it would take a very small number of these salmon to decimate all salmon.

“Sixty fish like this, if they are released into a population of 60,000 native salmon, can cause extinction in thirty generations,” Kimbrell said.

He said there are about 45 days left for people to contact the FDA and tell them not to approve the fish.

Kimbrell added that 1.25 million people so far have signed a labeling petition asking President Obama to label GMO foods and said it is the largest response the FDA has ever had.

Based on the passion shown for the petition, Kimbrell encouraged the audience to have passion for their convictions.

“People who make war just for making war will fight for any side and quit when they want, but if you’re a lover … If you are a lover of seas, if you are a lover of lands, if you are a lover of rivers, if you are a lover of animals, then you will fight. You will fight for that. Lovers are the best fighters.”

Kimbrell once got called out for being against progress, but offered that the question needs to be “progress toward what?”

“The U.N. just came out with a report that said the way we are going to feed the world is not through genetic engineering, is not through toxic inputs, is not through pesticides, is not through the 2,4-D and the Dicamba and the RoundUp that is in the dust on Moloka‘i and hurting and killing children on this island. We know it’s the toxic herbicides. That is not progress. That can never be progress,” Kimbrell said, adding the companies are destroying the Earth and making “zillions of dollars” in the process, all in the name of progress. “We’ll occupy progress,” he said.

He said biotech companies would like for people to remain passive consumers, but noted that Ritte said everyone is a creator capable of making decisions, “in the food we grow, the food we buy, the food we feed out children, the food we allow in our schools and in our communities is either going to progress this terrible mechanistic nightmare that’s now reached it’s endpoint in the actual engineering of the seed to be intolerant to these horrifying toxins and poisons or be organic and beyond, which is the fastest growing sector in American agriculture that is organic, local, appropriate scale, humane, socially just and biodiverse.”

Kimbrell encouraged the audience to be creators by getting involved to no longer be part of the desecration as described by Wendell Berry.

“Don’t just read a poem, write a poem. Don’t just listen to music, write music. Don’t just eat food, grow food. That’s the way to do it. Don’t just watch romantic movies, make love,” he said.

In the end, he encouraged the crowd to come together in the food movement.

“As you fight every battle here, I hope you all together, in cooperation, in love, can knowingly, skillfully, lovingly and most important reverentially, come together to create a new food future.”


Source: The Garden Island


Click here to watch Videos of Dr. Shiva, Walter Ritte, Andrew Kimbrell, and Makana

The Garden Island: Shiva brings anti-GMO message to Kaua‘i

Posted: January 19th, 2013 | Filed under: Press | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |
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Shiva brings anti-GMO message to Kaua‘i

By Laurie Cicotello, The Garden Island

LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall was standing room only as more than 1,100 people showed up Thursday night to hear a presentation by environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva.

“Your island is truth speaking to the world,” Shiva told the crowd to thunderous applause.

Joining Shiva as part of a three-day Hawai‘i SEED Tour was environmental attorney Andrew Kimbrell and Hawaiian rights activist Walter Ritte of Moloka‘i.

“Dr. Shiva is like the Dalai Lama of Agriculture,” Ritte said of the Indian philosopher, physicist, environmental activist and eco-feminist who has authored more than 20 books. As a leader in the International Forum of Globalization, Shiva fights for changes in the practices and paradigms of food, according to her biography.

Shiva met with residents of the Westside for dinner ahead of time to discuss a pending class action lawsuit over the continued experimental use of pesticides by biotech companies in the area.

Because of the experiments taking place with pesticides and genetically engineered seeds on the Westside of the island, Kaua‘i is considered ground zero internationally in the fight to stop biotech companies such as Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Bayer and Syngenta from creating more products and patenting more seeds.

Organizers are also working to have Hawai‘i become the first state to label foods containing genetically modified organisms.

In assisting grassroots organizations in the green movement worldwide, Shiva has been featured in several documentaries and received the Right Livelihood Award and the Global 500 Award of the United Nations Environmental Program. She has been called one of the five most powerful women in Asia.

Along with Shiva was Andrew Kimbrell, who became the executive director of the International Center for Technology Assessment in 1994 and the executive director of the Center for Food Safety in 1997. As one of the leading environmental attorneys in the nation, he has authored several books on the environment, technology in society and food issues. In 1994, Utne Reader named him as one of the world’s leading visionaries.

Sponsored by Hawai‘i SEED, The Center for Food Safety and Navdanya, the evening discussing the elimination of genetically modified organisms, along with the labeling of GMO products, was the culmination of a three-day long Hawai‘i SEED Tour that had Shiva, Kimbrell and Ritte speaking to a sold out audiences at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa and at the Kapolei Salvation Army Ray Kroc Center, along with legislative briefings and presentations in the State Capitol by Kaua‘i County Councilman Gary Hooser, Sen. Laura Thielen and others.

At the outset of the evening, vendors from around the island set up a seed giveaway featuring a local farming resource fair and silent auction to benefit Hawai‘i SEED.

Emceeing the Kaua‘i event was Nancy Redfeather of Kawanui Farm on the Big Island, who in her work as a teacher and gardener has helped create 65 school gardens through her work as program director for the Hawai‘i Island School Garden Network and is the director of the Hawai‘i Public Seed Initiative.

Opening the evening at the Kaua‘i War Memorial were students from Kanu I Ka Pono New Century Public Charter School, who greeted the audience with chant and poetry.

“There’s room for man’s need, but not man’s greed,” said one Kanu I Ka Pono student in her poem, paraphrasing Mahatma Gandhi.

Up next was performer Makana, who played a modified version of his “We Are the Many” anthem advising the crowd to “Occupy GMO.” He also performed a new song titled, “The Story of the GMO,” which addresses the history of the anti-GMO movement and closed the evening with an untitled “Song for Vandana,” that he was inspired to write while listening to Shiva’s presentation.

In introducing Dr. Shiva, Redfeather said Dr. Shiva has trained more than 650,000 farmers in India and is advising Bhutan on how to be come the first wholly organic country in the world.

“I was told you were a very small island with a very small population. It doesn’t look like it when you stand in this hall,” she said.

She said that the myth was that spraying pesticides has lead to the rise of GMOs.

Dr. Shiva said farmers were told they would never have to spray again, “we known through the practice in the rest of the world that in fact the spray increases and you talk about it. The GMOs are not a safe alternative to poisons. They are pushed by the poison industry to increase poison sales and monopolize the seed industry.”

In discussing the 1984 Bhopal disaster, Dr. Shiva said 3,000 people died in a gas leak from a Union Carbide plant and more than 30,000 people have died since then. She said the disaster didn’t stop after the explosion “as generations being born today are being born crippled.”

She said Bhopal isn’t the only poison tragedy in India. She said 1,000 people died in the past couple years in “the endosulfan tragedy,” when thousands of people were sprayed with pesticides that went into water and wells.

Dr. Shiva said India’s Green Revolution started off with chemicals that were designed for killing people in times of war. After World War II, these companies then turned the chemicals into pesticides and now have become a biotech.

“The explosive factories were redesigned to create fertilizer,” Dr. Shiva said, noting that the Oklahoma bombing, the Oslo bombing and every bombing in India were created using fertilizer bombs.

“We delivered sacks and sacks of fertilizer to the Afghans and now they are making bombs,” she said of the Central Intelligence Agency providing fertilizer to the country. “A century of war making and destruction is behind this.”

Her research for the United Nations also uncovered that nerve gas was being modified into modern day pesticides.

She addressed her plans to organize new Nuremberg Trials to go after the companies making nerve gas to kill people during World War II that are still making chemicals today.

“We are going to organize new Nuremberg trials and bring together everyone that has been harmed in the name of agricultural progress,” she said.

Dr. Shiva went on to say she was at a conference where people were talking about making seed saving a crime. She said one of the big fights being faced is to prevent the criminalization of seed saving by farmers.

“How could it be that the death industry can recreate itself as the life sciences industry?” she asked, adding that the companies position themselves as patient and diagnostician for a problem, with the problem being farmers saving seeds.

She said that growing up, her family used the neem tree for pest control, which causes bugs to reproduce slower. She said the neem tree is called the “village farmer,” and has more than 1,000 uses.

After Bhopal, Dr. Shiva delivered neem trees to the area and made posters that read, “No more Bhopals. Plant a Neem.”

She discussed other biopiracy cases such as basmati rice, which RiceTec patented and claimed to have invented along with how worldwide trade impacts the industry.

“Everything comes from China,” Dr. Shiva said of the U.S. being in a negative trade balance. “Patented seeds and GMO crops are the only things leaving. You have become the nerve center for this destruction.”

In the end, though, Dr. Shiva said the biotech companies have left us with bug-resistant super pests and super wheats.

“The GMO emperor has no clothes,” Dr. Shiva said. “We have the clarity to speak truth. We do not recognize patents on life.”

Monopolies and monocultures go together and have reduced to just eight commodities including animal feed, biofuel and human food last. She said it wastes communities by destroying them and imposes uniformity along with shipping them in trucks.

“Food is a waste system. It wastes the Earth, it wastes communities, it wastes potential, they ship it thousands of miles in trucks,” she said.

“Bees usurp pollen, weeds steal sunshine … everyone is a thief in their world because they are the thieves,” Dr. Shiva said of what the biotech companies are telling the world, “This is not about technology. This is about conquest. That’s why every time a religion has conquered, they destroyed sacred shrines and put in churches.”

She said people should live by the tenets of Gandhi, including satyagraha meaning fight for truth; swaraj meaning self-organized freedom; and swadeshi, meaning self-making as a rule of freedom; and the concept of lifting up everyone including the most vulnerable.

In the end, Dr. Shiva called on Kaua‘i’s residents to work on feeding themselves.

“You have so much water and biodivesity here on the Garden Island that it should be a garden and in reality feeding itself.”


Source: The Garden Island


Click here to watch Videos of Dr. Shiva, Walter Ritte, Andrew Kimbrell, and Makana

Big Island Chronicle: Island Dairy Uses GMO Corn

Posted: October 1st, 2012 | Filed under: Press | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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Island Dairy Uses GMO Corn

By Alan D. McNarie, October 1, 2012 – The Big Island Chronicle

There’s a new crop growing in O‘okala and Pepe‘ekeo on the North Hilo/Hamakua coast—well, a new crop for the Big Island, anyway. Big Island Dairy, formerly Island Dairy, has planted field corn in O‘okala and Pepe‘eke‘o to help feed its cows. The corn will be fed as ensilage—“silage” as most farmers call it: green stalks that are cut, chopped and stored in a low-oxygen environment so that they ferment in a process similar to the making of sauerkraut. The silage is one solution to a problem that plagues all livestock farmers in Hawai‘i: the high cost of imported feed. Since the islands grow little grain, farmers are forced to rely on Matson and Young Brothers to bring in feed from outside, often at ruinous prices. The home-grown silage could be a major aid in the survival of one of the state’s only two remaining dairies.

But the new crop has still become a matter of concern for some local residents and farmers, because of one fact: Big Island Dairy is growing genetically modified corn.

The corn was already in the ground when the dairy was recently purchased by Steve Whitesides, who also runs Whitesides Dairy in Rupert, Idaho. But the reason that the GM varieties were planted, Whitesides says, is simple: “The way crops grow there, if you don’t have something planted that can control the weeds, they can overtake it.”

Whitesides didn’t specify what varieties of corn were being grown, but given that weed control is the object, the corn is probably one or more of Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” varieties. Monsanto has long touted both the GM corn and the herbicide Roundup, which is also makes, as safe. But in recent years, some studies have begun to challenge that assumption. And the company has drawn fire for its heavy-handed tactics in dealing with farmers—it’s sued farmers, for instance, for patent infringement when pollen from GM crops drifted into non-GM farmer’s fields. The company has also been accused of tampering with science and with the agencies that regulate it.

GM crops have generated negative publicity in the islands, as well. Pioneer Hi-Bred, for instance, is currently battling lawsuits filed by two groups of plaintiffs—one suit represents over 200 people—who claim that the company has not controlled spray drift and pesticide-contaminated dust from its GM test crop sites on Kauai. Some farmers and residents in Puna are still smarting from the state’s oft-bungled handling of GM papayas, originally developed by Cornell and UH-Manoa to fight papaya ringspot virus; small farmers claimed that the state’s “quarantine zones” set up to create a “sea of GM papayas,” isolating and protecting a few fields of non-GMO papaya for the Japanese market, discriminated against small farmers in favor of a few large export companies; organic farmers complained that their papayas have been contaminated that pollen drift from GM fields, and the GM papayas, though resistant to ringspot, have proved especially vulnerable to a fungal disease, forcing some farmers to periodically abandon their fields anyway. Native Hawaiians have taken offense at attempts to create GM versions of their beloved kalo, and Kona Coffee farmers have resisted attempts to introduce GM coffee.

That resentment boiled to a head in Honoka‘a on September 17, when a group called GMO-Free Hawai‘i sponsored a rally and reggae concert at the Honoka‘a People’s theater. The main target was Monsanto—the event was part of a world-wide “Occupy Monsanto Day”—but Big Island Dairy got some attention, too. Councilman Dominic Yagong introduced Scott Enright, the state Agriculture Department official who said he’d been “Charged by the Governor to assist Big Island Dairy.”

“He [Whitesides] is looking for varieties that will do well here,” said Enright. “He’s going to be doing his best to grow corn conventionally.”

But that clearly wasn’t enough assurance for the crowd. GMO-Free Hawai‘i spokesperson Eden Peart noted that the Hamakua Agricultural Plan “prohibits” GM crops in the district (Actually, it doesn’t prohibit them outright, but it does call for a moratorium on those crops until their possible impacts could be better assessed.)

“If there’s still GMO grown here, blowing pollen in the wind, that is a concern for us,” she said, and announced that protestors would be demonstrating along the Belt Road beside one of the dairy’s O’okala fields on Friday, September 21.

Yagong, in whose district the corn is growing, told Big Island Chronicle he shared some of the community’s concerns about GMOs with Whitesides.

Yagong had already approached Whitesides about the issue. In addition to the kalo and coffee controversies, he told the Chronicle, he had “Shared that in the leasing of [county owned] Hamakua lands, one of the conditions for leasing was no planting of GMO crops on county lands.” Yagong noted that the county’s farm lands and Island Dairy’s O‘okala corn fields were “practically neighbors.” Yagong said Whitesides would “strongly consider the community’s recommendations” but “fell short of saying that they wouldn’t grow GMO corn.”

Whitesides’ response to the Chronicle was similar. He made no commitment to replace the GMO corn with conventional varieties. But he did say his company planned to experiment with conventional varieties to “see if they could be grown at a cost that would still keep the dairy’s output competitive with mainland milk. “

He noted that 80 t0 90 percent of all corn grown in the U.S., now, was genetically modified. Even if his company did continue to grow GM corn, he said, “The product that’s coming over here from the mainland is GMO, so what’s the difference?”

How much of a difference genetically modified corn makes is very much a matter of debate. Dr. James Brubaker, the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s acknowledged authority on corn, maintains that the GM corn is perfectly safe; that the only difference between it an conventional corn was “A little piece of DNA which is very benign and only affects weeds.” He compared GMO opponents to the Creationist movement. “This is the scientific ignorance that we do face in the state of Hawai‘i,” he told BIC. “We don’t come equipped with a realistic appraisal of the achievements of science, so we’re frightened of anything scientific.” He noted that around a thousand scientific papers a year are devoted to GMOs, and that nearly a billion acres of GM corn had been raised: “We know that these are incredibly safe.”

The problem is that not all of science is in agreement with Brubaker’s assessment—and that scientific papers critical of GMOs find an instant and persistent world-wide audience. The Web is awash with stories and blogs citing those articles, but often with no direct documentation or links, and often at Web sites that make no pretense of being unbiased—sites with names like treehugger.com and naturalnews.com. A site called responsibletechnology.org,, for instance, which proclaims itself “the most comprehensive source of GMO health risk information on the Web,” ran an article entitled “65 Health Risks from GMO food,” with factoids such as “More than 20 farmers in North America report that pigs fed GM corn varieties had low conception rates, false pregnancies or gave birth to bags of water.” But the story gives no links or sources for any of its allegations.

Many of those factoids flying around the Web, however, are based on actual scientific articles that do seem to raise some basis for concern. In 2009, for instance, the International Journal of Biological Sciences published an article entitled “A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health “ by Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, François Roullier, Dominique Cellier, Gilles-Eric Séralinis, four well-credentialed scientists from French universities. The study fed three varieties of Monsanto’s genetically modified corn, including one of the Roundup Ready varieties and two containing genes from a bacteria, bacillus thuringiensis (BT), that is used as a natural insecticide. The French scientists found that rats fed the corn suffered from various symptoms, including higher liver and kidney toxicity levels and enlarged spleens and hearts.

“Our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity,” concluded the article, which called for longer term studies of the three varieties.

But Brubaker said that there were already studies out refuting the French study. “[With] almost any report of that sort, you can be assured there will be immediately responding research studies to validate or invalidate it,” he noted.

There have also been scientific studies that questioned the safety of Roundup itself—and scientists who’ve gone public about their concerns. One of them is Dr. Robert Kremer of the University of Missouri—Monsanto’s home state—who has done extensive studies of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, since 1997. Glyphosate doesn’t kill weeds directly; it inhibits their ability to absorb certain nutrients, making them fatally susceptible to naturally occurring bacteria and fungi. As it turns out, Kremer discovered, glyphosate also makes crops more susceptible to diseases such as fusarium and to the toxins they produce, which can also affect animals and humans who consume those crops. And it can be toxic to some beneficial bacteria, including the ones that live in the roots of soybeans and other legumes and “fix” nitrogen in the soil—a vital function for maintaining soil fertility. Glyphosate, Kremer concluded, “is altering the whole soil biology.”

Kremer is not alone. In a 2009 article in the European Journal of Agronomy, Don Huber, emeritus professor of plant pathology at Purdue University, and Purdue botanist G. S. Johal, warned that widespread glyphosate use could “significantly increase the severity of various plant diseases, impair plant defense to pathogens and diseases, and immobilize soil and plant nutrients rendering them unavailable for plant use.” Huber has also approached the USDA with concerns about a previously unknown microorganism that has appeared in GM-based animal feeds and appears to be linked to an epidemic of livestock infertility and miscarriages.

An interviewer at the Web site nongmoreport.com asked Kremer if glyphosate was environmentally benign.

“Absolutely not,” he replied. “Glyphosate is the single most important agronomic factor predisposing some plants to both disease and toxins. These toxins can produce a serious impact on the health of animals and humans…. Toxins produced can infect the roots and head of the plant and be transferred to the rest of the plant. The toxin levels in straw can be high enough to make cattle and pigs infertile.”

Huber was among the many scientists, including agronomists, plant pathologists, veterinarians, nutritionists, pediatricians and medical doctors, featured in the documentary “Genetic Roulette,” which screened at the Honoka‘a rally before the musicians came on. Those researchers raised a host of apparent human and animal health problems, from infertility to cancer. The scientists also brought up problems in humans exposed to the GM crops/and or Roundup.

Some of the scientists also talked about pressure exerted on them, up to and including firing, by Monsanto, public officials and their peers. One Oregon researcher, for instance, talked about releasing a study critical of GMOs, then getting a call from the former president of her university, questioning whether she “belonged” at the school.

Caught in the crossfire of these scientific barrages and counter-barrages are companies like Big Island Dairy, who just want to give their corn a fighting chance against weeds such as elephant grass, which can quickly grow much higher than the corn.

“The weeds that we have are entirely different for the middle of IA, and they grow much more aggressively,” notes Brubaker, who also points out that some of those weeds themselves contain toxins that can harm cattle.

There are, in fact, non-GM varieties of corn bred specifically for Hawaii—Brubaker himself developed some of them—and it is possible to raise non-GM corn on the North Hilo/Hamakua Coast. Brubaker notes that Loeffler Farms, for instance, grows one of his conventional sweet corn varieties on that coast. But according to Brubaker, even the conventional corn may require chemical assistance from pesticides such as Atrazine, which have their own environmental consequences; they may get into groundwater if improperly applied, so they must be applied by a state-certified specialist—an additional cost for the farmer.

How the GM corn could affect those existing sweet corn crops is another issue. Corn for silage is cut green, but after the corn has tasseled—which means that pollen from it could get to other plants.

“That corn can cross with people’s sweet corn, and do people want those genes in their corn? Probably not,” local natural farming advocate Nancy Redfeather told BIC. She noted that bees carrying pollen could travel up to seven miles a day.

But aside from the dairy, GM corn is already on Hawai‘i Island, in thousands of food products imported daily. If you drink non-organic milk, whether it’s from the mainland or it’s from local cows fed with imported feed, you’re probably drinking milk from cows that have eaten GMOs. The only possible change would be if Island Dairy managed to grow conventional corn.

That’s the outcome Yagong hopes for. He notes that the number of dairies in the state has now shrunk from 24 to two, and he thinks it’s important to support the two that remain.

“I think that would make a lot of people very, very happy and may even distinguish his product further if they knew that the milk was GMO free and fed from conventional corn,” he says.


Source: Big Island Chronicle