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Posted: September 24th, 2012 | Filed under: Press | Tags: algae, Bahman Sadeghi, Big Island, Big Island Dairy, biofuel, cake, Cloverleaf Dairy, dairyman, Dominic Yagong, Eden Peart, GE Foods, gmo, GMO Corn, GMO Free Hawaii, Hamakua, Hamakua Agriculture Plan, Hawaii, Hawaii Tribune Herald, HI, Idaho, jatropha, livestock, Marva Joy Bennett, Ookala, Russell Kokubun, Soil |
By John Burnett, Tribune-Herald staff writer
An Idaho dairyman who bought the largest dairy in the state is growing genetically modified corn on state leasehold land in Hamakua, and a number of residents are upset about it, saying it violates the Hamakua Agriculture Plan.
County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong said Saturday that he has spoken to Big Island Dairy LLC owner Steve Whitesides, and that Whitesides “has been upfront” about growing GMO corn as feedstock on about 700 acres of land near Ookala.
“He said that if they were not to grow GMO corn but instead went to the feed store to buy feed that the corn in that bag would be GMO corn,” Yagong said Saturday morning while talking to about 20 protesters who lined both sides of Highway 19 by the cornfield at the 30-mile marker. Yagong, who represents Hamakua, said he was also told by Whitesides that GMO corn was already being grown on the site by the previous owner when he acquired the lease.
Whitesides bought the former Island Dairy Inc. from Bahman Sadeghi for $13 million late last year. The land is part of 2,081 acres Island Dairy signed a 35-year-lease on in 1998 and which Whitesides’ company assumed in November. Reports at the time of the purchase said Island Dairy had a herd of 900 milking cows.
“We’ve talked to each other on a number of occasions,” Yagong said. “He’s been gracious and has shown a willingness to sit down and talk, so I’m gonna facilitate some of the community members and Mr. Whitesides and give them an opportunity to express their concerns with regards to the planting of GMO corn here in Hamakua. … I told him that we have deep soil here in Hamakua and that he has the option to grow conventional corn and, I think, get the kind of yield that you do need.”
The protest was organized by GMO Free Hawaii as part of the “Occupy Monsanto Global Week of Action,” said farmer and anti-GMO activist Eden Peart, who called the cornfield “a genetic crime scene” and said that GMO crops could post health risks.
“Around the world, people are documenting genetic crime scenes, and we’ve got one here in Ookala. Big Island Dairy is growing GMO corn here in defiance of the Hamakua Ag Plan and it has to stop right away,” she said. One stated objective of the county-commissioned plan, which was completed by May 2006 but has not become law, is to “avoid contamination of crops, seed supplies, public lands, and native ecosystems by GMOs.”
Protesters held up signs for passing motorists with slogans such as “no GMO” and “GMO = poison milk (and) poison ‘aina.”
“I agree with everything they say,” said 87-year-old Marva Joy Bennett, who grew up on a small dairy farm in Utah. She held up a sign that stated: “We fed our cows hay not GMO corn.”
State Department of Agriculture Chairman Russell Kokubun, whose department administers the lease on the Ookala land, confirmed Sunday that the corn being grown there is a genetically modified strain for cattle feed.
“Yes, we need to be careful about what’s growing here and all, but I think we also need to be open minded and basing our decisions on science, in terms of what’s good for the land as well as the livestock,” Kokubun said.
He that the state “does not get into specifics” about crops grown on state-leased ag lands.
“Usually, the lessees come in with a farm plan on what they intend to grow, but for us, as long as it’s by a bona fide farmer to grow agricultural crops, we don’t get into what you can or cannot grow.”
“There are only, like, two major dairies left in the state,” Kokubun continued, referring to Big Island Dairy and Cloverleaf Dairy, which is also a Big Island agribusiness. “One of the real issues for them, and for any protein producer, actually, or livestock producer, is the cost of feed. … It’s the high cost of feed is amongst the major causes of livestock producers giving up. So the idea of us being able to produce our livestock feed is one of the keys to insuring that our livestock industry will be able to continue here.”
Asked if he believes the only way that could be accomplished is by genetically modified crops, Kokubun replied: “No, we’re open to all ideas.”
“One of the big things now is a byproduct of biofuel development with algae or jatropha,” he said. “… Once you extract the oil, the residue — it’s called cake — is very high in protein. So we think that’s going to be a boon for our livestock feed in the future.”
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald
Posted: September 18th, 2012 | Filed under: Press | Tags: Agent Orange, Atrizine, BASF, ConAgra Foods, Dupont, Eastside, Fern Holland, gmo, GMO-Free, Ground Zero, Hawaii, Hawaii Board of Agriculture, Hawaii Department of Agriculture, International Food Information Council, Josephine Bonaparte, Kauai, keiki, Kekaha, Lopaka Baptista, Michael Schultz, pesticides, Pioneer Hi-Bred, Research, rice, Russell Kokubun, self-empowerment, Sol Kahn, SPAM, Syngenta, Tiana Laranio, USDA, Vietnam, Wendy Raebeck |
September 18, 2012, 1:00 am, Tom LaVenture – The Garden Island
LIHU‘E — Genetically modified organisms were the focus of a worldwide Occupy movement on Monday, and demonstrators in Lihu‘e said Kaua‘i is Ground Zero with experimental seed testing.
Most of the world was holding an Occupy Monsanto protest, a GMO company that has since departed Kaua‘i, but still has operations in Hawai‘i. The Lihu‘e demonstration focused on all major growers conducting testing, including Kaua‘i companies Syngenta and DuPont/Pioneer, along with ConAgra Foods, Inc. and BASF SE.
The issues were about expansion of testing fields from Kekaha to the Eastside, and the referendum to require labeling of GMO products in foods.
“I just want to know what I am eating,” said Sol Kahn, a demonstrator at the protest. “I don’t want to eat GMOs if I choose not to. It needs to be labeled with more information, and there needs to be more research.”
Kahn fears that poisons in the drinking water and soil is killing microorganisms and bacteria that are beneficial to life. The results of leaching pollution is killing the oceans, reefs and fish, he said.
“I am not necessarily against it (GMOs), but the science of it needs to be inspected,” he added.
Michael Schultz was demonstrating about the wealth of university research on pesticides and herbicides that damage the land and environment.
“I’ve been concerned about this for many years since the end of the cane industry,” Schultz said. “We are not just eating GMO food, but we are the guinea pigs for all these toxins.”
Fern Holland said she began researching the GMO issue five years ago as a student of environmental science, marine biology and wildlife management. She said studies from the Institute of Responsible Technology shows GMOs are not doing the right thing.
“They are chemical companies that are genetically modifying the world’s food supply to need chemicals,” she said.
The GMO issue should unify creationists and evolutionists, who agree that open testing of the world’s food supply is unacceptable. They also believe that breading across species is fundamentally wrong, she said.
“It might be an amazing technology to benefit pharmaceuticals and biotech,” she said, “but it needs to be treated unsafe until proven safe.”
Only numbers will make a difference, and Holland said that monthly community meeting for people on all sides of the issue will follow. She hopes to get 30,000 people to join the cause.
There are currently two lawsuits in state circuit and federal court against seed companies on Kaua‘i. The suits claim that violations of dust suppression orders are poisoning neighboring communities and are preventing organic farms from maintaining its status.
“The Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture supports all forms of legitimate agriculture, which includes conventional farming, biotech farming and organic farming,” said Janelle Saneishi, a public information officer for the department.
Hawai‘i Board of Agriculture Chairman Russell Kokubun was out of state and not available for comment.
Biotech farming is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and once it approves a crop for planting, it is considered like any other plant, she said. Research crops must also follow USDA conditions, but once approved for release they are considered a deregulated crop and not experimental, she added.
As of now, there does not appear to be scientific evidence of harm, she said. Biotech is regulated by USDA permits including inspections quarantine branch facilities.
“We do have some input into how they grow and the inspectors look at how they are following permit conditions and USDA regulations,” she said.
Lopaka Baptista said he grows his own garden and wants his family to have good food on the table. The GMOs ruins everything, he said, referring to his brother who suffers from the effects of Agent Orange during the war in Vietnam.
He said that Atrizine in the water supply is also deadly for humans, pets, animals and birds of Kaua‘i.
“My concern is for my family, my friends and neighbors,” Baptista said. “We have a lot of keiki and we don’t want them growing up in an environment where you cant even drink the water anymore.”
“This issue is important to me and its pretty critical that people of Kaua‘i participate in a meaningful way,” Wendy Raebeck said. “I am really heartened because a demonstration just two years ago people were asking what GMO is, when it’s now a mainstream issue and it needed to happen.”
Corn, soy and canola are taboo items to Raebeck. She buys only organic tofu and soy milk.
“I’m against GMOs and I’m for labeling foods so that we know what is in it,” said Josephine Bonaparte, an organic farmer and grandmother. “I want a life free of pesticides and free from food that is pesticide resistant.”
Tiana Laranio said she was raised a “GMO youth” on microwavable groceries and canned SPAM, sausage and white rice. She suffered from reproductive and gastrointestinal problems at a young age and said she saw a connection with food allergies.
“I started becoming aware, and really once you wake up, there is not turning back,” she said. “I want to help other people to wake up for themselves.”
She said Occupy is about self-empowerment through community outreach and education. She said people can learn to read labels and demand that stores sell GMO-free products.
Once people know and they choose the alternative, then the natural forces of the free market will make the adjustment. As for Hawai‘i, she would like to see remediation of the ceded lands used for sustainable programs that get more people working with community gardens.
As for protesting, this is Laranio’s first time and she was motivated by the sudden growth of GMO fields around the island.
“I don’t agree with what the GMOs do, but if they do it then they should do it in a lab and not in the open air of Kaua‘i,” she said. “We are all being poisoned whether we realize it or not, and I am not a science experiment. I did not agree to this.”
Calls to Syngenta were not returned by press time.
DuPont Pioneer responded with resources that explain the work of GMOs on Kaua‘i at www.hciaonline.org.
More Hawai‘i seed industry surveys and information on biotech food safety is available from the International Food Information Council at www.foodinsight.org.
Source: The Garden Island