Food is one of the fundamental needs from birth. Less than two centuries ago, production of food in the beautiful islands of Hawaii only consisted of hunting, harvesting and farming. Usually it would take a long time before these foods arrived at the dining tables of families.
Today, science has allowed the mass production of food. Unfortunately, the market has gone after the profits of technology, not letting us recognize how food is made or how to use the resources properly. We have seen the advent of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The Hawaiian Islands are now home to more genetically modified crop experimentation than anywhere else in the world. Cyrus Sutton, the director of “Island Earth,” takes us on a guided tour of what decades of mostly unrestricted agricultural and chemical experimentation has done to Hawaii.
The intended goal in creating such a film is simply to inform and inspire people around the world to go beyond the issues and activism and actually participate in making a change for the better.
One side of the debate is about the safety of the people and the fact that taking control of one’s food supply is a form of personal power. We know that today six companies own 90 percent of the world’s seeds and these companies are shifting to the modern genetic engineering technology.
The problem is that they are dumping these chemicals on thousands of acres of crops in Kauai.
Fortunately, the people of Kauai are making their voices heard. One of them is Malia Chun. She is an activist from Kauai and she fights to preserve the health of her community. Another important figure mentioned in the film is Dustin Barca.
Though his candidacy to become mayor failed, he tried to remove himself from the food industry, while educating others and trying to take back power in local communities from the powerful hands of the big companies who tend to make the rules.
Some believe that using biotech engineering is the solution to feeding the world. One such person is Cliff Kapono, a University of California-San Diego graduate with a dilemma. He hopes to use his chemistry expertise to give back to his community thinking that it would benefit the Hawaiians in a positive way. But he also struggles to understand and reconcile his science training with his ancestral heritage.
Each side of the argument has its own strength and flaws. I’m somewhat in the middle, curious and confused as to where I should stand. What I am really certain about is the potential of local and diversified agriculture. Way back, one in three people were farmers.
Today there’s only one in 60 due to the progression of technology over the years and changes in the way we live and the kinds of work we seek. Sometimes when big corporations get involved, we sacrifice quality of crops for efficiency and convenience. We all should be rational. We need to compare the costs and benefits to make important decisions.
In this case, the negative effects of GMOs in the agriculture system outweigh the benefits. Its damaging effects should lead the government and other regulatory bodies to take action immediately to protect the public and the environment.
The film is uplifting most of the time. I consider it a very important film that addresses a controversial topic in a balanced way. “Island Earth” clearly showed that diversity is vital to a healthy and sustainable community with the proper use of natural resources.
There should always be a balance between the two worlds of farming to prevent huge problems within our communities. The film led me to think and learn more about changing how we grow and consume food, both locally and globally.
In order to look forward to a long and healthy future, we need to focus on local farmers who still choose to grow their crops the natural way. Foods that are grown organically have been shown to be beneficial because they contain vitamins and minerals that are not combined with chemicals. In the article “The land ethic,” Aldo Leopold observes that “the conquering role is eventually self-defeating.”
As we attempt to conquer the food industry by imposing our own rules on how to generate food, we are essentially going to defeat ourselves at our own game. Rather than creating more foods that contain GMOs, we should focus more on the naturally occurring wonders that nature has performed for millions of years.
Nature is a way of life, something that we should be very careful about manipulating. Organic farmers are an excellent example of people who decided to work with nature rather than against it.
The safety of food is still hanging in the balance.
Since the GMOs are so prevalent in the food industry, stopping the production of GM foods is near impossible. However, regulating the number of GMO products produced and chemicals being used every year can help reduce or alleviate the problems that Hawaii is facing right now.
Despite their disagreements over genetic modification, I truly believe that farmers, scientists and politicians in Hawaii must come to an agreement by returning to diversity and local food production with fewer pesticides, which is the key to a safe and stable future.
Cyrus Sutton once said in an interview, “If we want to change the world, we’ve got to change ourselves. Things will only change if we lead the way.” His film is a step in that direction.
Ryan Jake S. Constantino, 18, is a freshman majoring in mathematics (3+2 engineering concentration) at Hawaii Pacific University.