This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Maui Vision Magazine.
I support agriculture until it’s proven unsafe. —Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa
I’ve been asked to explain the SHAKA Movement. It stands for “Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the Aina.” The bottom line: It’s about preserving paradise for future generations by reclaiming, restoring and revitalizing depleted soil, and growing healthy foods without a dependence on chemicals.
The current pressing issue is the revolt of the masses against the continuous poisoning of our soil, waters and air, and all the creatures that depend on them for life. It seems the field workers have been reading the warning labels of chemicals they spray on the HC&S fields, and the Monsanto workers are doing the same.
There are growing health concerns in the Filipino community who comprise many of the field workers. As recently as 2009, HC&S was using these pesticides—some of them known carcinogens—on sugar fields: atrazine, triazine, 2,4-D (relative of agent orange), asulam, diuron, ametryn, triclopyr, oxyflurofen, metribuzin, dicamba, propiconazol, hexazinone, and these glyphosate brands—Aqua Master aka Rodeo, Polado and Roundup Weather Max.
Hawaiian environmental and cultural activists are incensed that the precious lands they love and feel called to preserve have been degraded and contaminated by decades of unconscionable AG. (“They get the profits, we get the pollution–forever!”) They have demonstrated against Kamehameha School leasing lands to Monsanto. Learn more at HawaiiGMOJustice.org.
Then there is “Molokai Moms on a Mission.” Mothers from Kauai to Molokai are both terrified and livid that their children are subject to the ill winds of biotech experiments. Prenatal exposure to pesticides accounts for reduced birth weight, allergies, asthma and lower IQ. The Biotech companies on Kauai plant crops right up to the schoolyard fence!
Moms in Kihei claim they can smell the pesticides blowing from the Monsanto fields just mauka. There’s a short, useful guide entitled “A Generation in Jeopardy: How pesticides are undermining our children’s health and intelligence.” Visit www.facebook.com/MolokaiMOM.
Maui County’s organic farmers are justifiably concerned that drift from Monsanto’s field will contaminate their crops. While the Maui Farmers Union United prefers to work on positive outcomes, the intense use of chemicals by Monsanto poses an increasing risk to these farmers’ health and livelihood. Visit www.MauiFarmersUnionUnited.org.
How would Monsanto react if organic farmers introduced a pest that endangered their GMO experiments? To see what Kauai is up against, visit www.StopPoisoningParadise.org. Under “Facts” there is a list of restricted use pesticides.
Our County Council members have been hearing from members of the public, who are asking that the County take more responsibility for our health. It is well known that one Council member, Elle Cochran, is very concerned.
Now that Hawaii County has approved a ban on introducing GMOs to Big Island, and Kauai has passed a bill requiring buffer zones around schools, parks and residential areas, Mayor Arakawa has negotiated a disclosure agreement with Monsanto. Nice going, Mayor. But, is disclosure enough?
At a state water conference at Makena earlier this month, water experts confirmed that pesticides are getting into wells and aquifers. Then, on November 13th Dr. Lorrin Pang, District Health Officer for Maui County (speaking as a private citizen), told a standing room only crowd about horizontal gene transfer and other very risky conditions created when experiments are conducted in the open air on unsuspecting and unwilling neighbors.
He demolished Monsanto’s argument that they have all the science and the public is unnecessarily alarmed. Dr. Pang cited the ‘precautionary principle’ which requires proof of safety before use on the public. Even though Hawaii has a ‘Public Trust Doctrine’ that supposedly safeguards the environment and public health, rogue corporations have used deadly chemicals for decades with little concern and no consequences for what happens when they are combined, blow in the wind, or get into the drinking water.
Some would consider this dangerous, and even criminal, behavior. Despite Mayor Arakawa’s foresight to head off legislation, the SHAKA Movement energy will move forward to gather public support for a moratorium on the use of RUPs and GMOs until they are proven safe for use outdoors.
We can expect the issue to come up at the state level where our Governor is on record claiming “Hawaii’s future is in seeds.” Monsanto has been tilling the political soil with generous donations—$81,000 so far—to the governors’ campaign and to those of key Hawaii legislators. Don’t be surprised if biotech’s lackeys in the legislature submit bills to overturn the counties’ best efforts.
Can you smell that bubble gum scent Monsanto uses to mask the stink from their poisons? Maybe it’s time for you to learn more. Protect your family. Get informed at: ShakaMovement.org, ResponsibleTechnology.org, GMOAwareness.org, OrganicConsumers.org, and on Facebook at GMOFreeMaui.
Mark Sheehan is an organic farmer and real estate broker with a lifelong interest in personal and public health. He can be reached through www.SHAKAMovement.org.