‘Crowd’ can influence community for the better

In respect of the “crowd.” I am referring here to the Allan Parachini commentary (TGI, May 1) “Anti-GE/GMO crowd wants to rewrite history” and I am glad that the writer realized that there is a very visible anti-GE/GMO crowd on Kauai.

The Mana March in 2013 with more than 3,000 people is a living proof of it. I hope that the author also knows that crowds in history were very powerful and they have toppled governments, closed down factories and military installations, drove away tyrants, rebuilt destroyed cities, made lands fertile and with their organized actions made life better for millions of people. So, there is nothing wrong with having a “crowd” of GMO opponents of a business activity that has only dubious benefits for our community.

Forget about bills, ordinances, environmental impact studies which only add to the bureaucratic maze created by the lawmakers and challenged in court by the joint effort of the biotech companies involved. Considering that the biotech companies have lots of money, plus a coordinated strategy, with their paid and volunteer staff they scientifically or semi-scientifically quickly rebut almost any critical statement appearing in the media about them, let me approach this issue from the angle of human dignity and common sense.

The “crowd” is a constantly growing group of concerned citizens who want to mitigate a risk and want healthier life for themselves and for their fellow citizens on this island. They are not anti-agriculture just concerned, because they see and experience the harmful effects of the pesticides used by the biotech companies mostly on the western part of Kauai.

And they also know that there are more than 20 countries with a total ban or high restrictions on growing or importing GMO food. Should they presume that all those countries are dumb, and only the American biotech companies are smart? How did these countries achieve this? They simply had a larger crowd and a smarter government.

If the families, the neighbors or friends of the “crowd” contract an illness or incurable disease from the airborne or water-carried pesticides used for growing GMO crops they stop believing the validity of any scientific proof presented by the GMO creators. And they are right, because there is no absolutely safe pesticide or genetically engineered foodstuff.

It is understandable, because no pesticide or GMO experiments are allowed to be carried out on humans just like no healthy person can be the subject of any clinical trials for pharmaceutical products.

Thus the safety claims on these products regarding healthy humans is derived only from animal tests and statistics, which can be easily manipulated. This year alone, 29 approved and tested human drugs and medical devices were recalled by the FDA, the very same agency that had certified them as safe. Why should we believe that the pesticides used here on Kauai are safer? Do we have to wait for the FDA to recall them?

Part of the equation is that the biotech industry lost its credibility because it is fighting against labeling food products with GMO ingredients. Their fight contradicts common sense: if the GMO ingredients are good for us why object to list them and state their benefits proudly on the food labels?

Another issue is the misleading statements from the biotech industry promoting their GMO developments. For example the one that came from Joshua Uyehara, Syngenta’s Kauai location manager on Feb. 9 on KKCR who said “we will need these genetically engineered seeds to provide the world with enough food.”

No, it is not the United States that has to provide the world with food, especially not with GMO modified seeds. It is our global responsibility to teach the underdeveloped countries to grow their own food with traditional methods which might be harder, but healthier, but it also gives work to many people.

Unfortunately, the compass of the biotech industry is stuck into one direction — to make profit through growing enough food to support the enormous wasting of food practiced in the U.S. where at least half of the food in the restaurant industry and food and vegetable stores is thrown out and wasted.

And finally we can resort to our human dignity.

It is normal and respectable that people act in their own defense. They don’t want trouble, but if something bothers them in their community they have two ways to react: either move away from the suspected problem or remove the source of disturbance from their area.

In this case it would be unfair to expect the “crowd” to move away from the affected areas. And having no money to challenge the source of their concern in court, they may let the sources know that they are no longer wanted here, ask them to cease their operations and pull up stakes.

Of course, if they refuse the “crowd” may use its imagination and resourcefulness to make these biotech companies leave the island for good. If suddenly a disinformation campaign pops up claiming that the “crowd” would cause the loss of jobs for their current employees, we know that it will come from the biotech companies. But such claim makes no sense, because there are dozens of other agricultural research facilities that would guarantee not to use the objected pesticides and not to be involved in genetic engineering of plants and living creatures on our island.

They or other companies with community friendly business would take their place, would provide jobs and make the people of Kauai happier and healthier. And that would be the true victory for the “crowd” and as the rule says — victors write the history.

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János Keoni Samu is a resident of Kalaheo.

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