Richard Ha writes:
Though there are 820,000 acres of farmland on our agriculture-based Big Island, our island’s farmers were not consulted when Bill 113, the anti-GMO bill, was drafted.
There is no question: Bill 113 will harm the livelihood of Big Island farmers. It also means they will have to use more pesticides. It will drive up their costs and make them much less competitive. It means our island will be less food-secure.
Is this what we really want? Call or write your councilperson and tell him or her to kill Bill 113.
Ask him or her to create a task force so we can thoughtfully determine our way forward, in the spirit of aloha – so we can provide affordable food for the rubbah slippah folks and move toward food self-sufficiency.
When new biotech seeds are developed, people will be able to buy small packets of them over the Internet. But not here. Bill 113 will make it a crime for Big Island farmers to use those same seeds. Farmers using those seeds, which will make farming less pesticide-oriented and more affordable, would become criminals.
Such seeds are being developed right now by the University of Hawai‘i and other universities and will help our crops become virus- and disease-resistant. This will result in less pesticide usage and lower cost. With Bill 113, only Big Island farmers will be banned from using them. This will force Big Island farmers to use more pesticides than farmers off-island. Farmers are responsible stewards of the land, and this is a depressing and discouraging thought for Big Island farmers.
More than 90 percent of the food grown on the Big Island is grown by conventional farmers. Bill 113 will drive their farming costs up, not down, and this is going to discourage farmers from farming. When farmers’ costs go up, they are less able to pass those increased costs on. Farmers are “price takers,” rather than “price makers.”
As costs go up, farming becomes less attractive and fewer farmers continue to farm. Bill 113 makes the Big Island less food-secure.
Organic farmers elsewhere will benefit from new biotech animal feed crops, because these will increase the source of manure for composting. Nitrogen is important for protein and this is a crucial weak link for organic farmers. Bill 113 means organic farmers on the Big Island won’t have these benefits that other farmers will.
There are people that want to believe GMO crops are not safe, but they are ignoring the evidence. The science. All the world’s major health organizations endorse the use of GMO crops as safe.
More than two trillion meals made of foods containing GMOs have been served over the last 20 years. In spite of all those meals, here in Hawai‘i we have the longest life expectancy in the nation for those 65 years and older.
Since ancient times, farmers in Hawai‘i have been respected in the Hawaiian culture. Bill 113 will forever change that relationship and will, instead, criminalize farmers. Some folks may even feel justified in taking matters into their own hands. Is this really what we want?
Please contact your councilperson and tell them you want them to kill Bill 113 and form a task force to carefully, intelligently study how we move forward.
It's not a matter of who is right. It is a matter of what is right.