This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of Maui Vision Magazine.
Even as the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact creeps forward and Monsanto supporter Hillary Clinton takes center stage, the GMO/chemical conspiracy is losing ground around the world.
April was a turning point, starting with the release of a World Health Organization (WHO) report confirming that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is a ‘probable carcinogen.’ Evidence soon surfaced that Monsanto and the Environmental Protection Agency knew about the carcinogenicity 35 years ago. Both the company and the agency buried that fact.
Then television celebrity Dr. Oz took the spotlight when he came out for labeling GMO products. The industry countered with a letter from ten industry-supported physicians who demanded Columbia University fire him. Dr. Oz responded with a spirited defense of his right to free speech.
This was followed by a report from 30,000 members of Argentina’s union of medical professionals calling for a ban on Monsanto’s farm operations in the province of Cordoba. The group claims, “Glyphosate not only causes cancer. It is also associated with increased spontaneous abortions, birth defects, skin diseases, and respiratory and neurological disease.” In addition, Colombia recently halted the aerial spraying of coca plants.
In late April, Kauai residents were in the belly of the beast – at Syngenta headquarters in Switzerland to address a meeting of shareholders. Gary Hooser, president of Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action, asked the company to respect Kauai’s health concerns by discontinuing use of atrazine, paraquat, and four other active ingredients banned throughout the European Union. As a side note, most of the 80,000 pounds of atrazine imported into Hawaii each year is used on Maui during sugar planting.
On May 6, the Hawaii Center for Food Safety (HCFS) published Pesticides in Paradise, a 40-page look at the seed industry’s footprint in our state and its extensive use of pesticides. The report stated that since 1987, Hawaii has conducted more cumulative field trials (3,243) than any other state. The report also stated that last year there were 178 genetic engineering field tests at 1,381 sites, while California had only 175 sites for the same period.
DuPont, one of five companies conducting experiments on Kauai, applied 90 pesticide formulations containing 63 active ingredients; and they sprayed between 8 and 16 applications at a time for more than 238 days a year! The third most popular chemical used was chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate insecticide and known endocrine disrupter. In early May, a Kauai jury found DuPont Pioneer guilty of dust pollution and trespassing in Waimea.
Among the health concerns the HCFS report raised are those cited by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which summarized 175 medical studies linking pesticide exposure to “childhood cancers, neurobehavioral and cognitive deficits, adverse birth outcomes and asthma.” See the report on SHAKA’s website, MauiGMOMoratoriumNews.org, or at its Makawao office.
This year HCFS led an effort to get a bill passed in the Hawaii legislature that would create buffer zones around schools, parks and hospitals. Nine other states have these laws; Hawaii could have been the tenth. However, the bill was defeated because of the seed industry’s deep support at the capitol; but it will be brought back next year.
On another front, a preemption bill that would have prevented counties from passing protective measures like the Maui ordinance, was defeated.
With authoritative claims of neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption and carcinogenicity, the ordinance passed on Maui seems perfectly reasonable. So why, six months after the election, hasn’t the Maui ordinance been implemented? The short answer is that local federal judges have been swayed more by issues related to seed industry profits than Maui voters’ rights.
To date, SHAKA’s five citizens have been denied an evidentiary hearing on their motion to dismiss the industry case. Because SHAKA’s legal efforts to implement the law have been thwarted in Hawaii, our attorneys have appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Legal filings are available on SHAKA’s website.
Meanwhile, the SHAKA board has received support from national groups. Feed The World has launched a glyphosate testing drive; visit SHAKA’s website for a test kit. Another national organization has offered research expertise to support the SHAKA Health Network countywide test of air, water and soil.
Mark Sheehan is a SHAKA board member and one of the five citizens to initiate the petition drive. He has an active real estate license and an organic farm. Contact him at Mark@MarkSheehan.com.