Victory…by 1,077 Votes

Aloha!

If you ever think your vote doesn’t matter, think again. Maui County is a shining example of what happens when concerned people get behind the vote.

A Maui County ballot initiative to temporarily ban genetically engineered crops passed Tuesday by a mere 1,077 votes. This followed one of the most heavily financed political campaigns in state history.

Even with the lowest voter turnout in Hawaii state history, the controversial measure pulled ahead late Tuesday, passing 50 percent to 48 percent — a difference of just 1,077 votes. It was an awesome turnaround, after the measure was initially losing by 19 percent when the first results rolled in, and opponents were already bragging on TV.

The county’s first-ever ballot initiative targeting global agriculture companies Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences attracted nearly $8 million from opponents, making it the most expensive campaign in Hawaii’s history.

Kaniela Ing, State Representative, Wailea and Makena, interviewed after the returns said, “It’s a rinky-dink Island….and the big corporations spent $8 million to defeat this. They said, “How dare you think you can run your own island? ”

But the people have spoken and won (for now) in what is essentially a David and Goliath story. When asked why he thought the initiative passed, Mark Sheehan, PhD, one of the proponent group SHAKA founders, said he thought it was the issue of the pesticides in the water and the keiki (children’s) futures.

Both the drinking water and our water playground. Think about it….all those votes from surfers, paddlers, snorkelers, and divers.

Ashley Lukens, who directs the Hawaii chapter of the Center for Food Safety, a national nonprofit that has been lobbying for more regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), said Maui County residents deserve all the credit for the turnaround.

“I think that this is a really strong message to the entire agrochemical industry in the state of Hawaii that we are no longer going to sit idly by and watch them expand their operations without the kinds of regulations that ensure the health and safety of people across Hawaii,” Lukens said.

Opponents outspent advocates more than 87 to 1, according to the latest campaign spending reports available Tuesday. That amounts to more than $300 for every “no” vote.

But it still wasn’t enough to beat scores of Maui County residents who spent weeks canvassing, sign-waving and calling friends to share their concerns about seed companies’ farming practices.

Hawaii is a key location for the seed industry because the state’s weather allows for year-long farming. But residents on all islands have become increasingly concerned about how GMO farming and its pesticide use may be impacting both health and the environment.

Monsanto owns or leases 3,100 acres on Maui and Molokai, and employs about 540 people, including part-time or seasonal workers. Dow AgroSciences’ affiliate Mycogen Seeds farms about 400 acres on Molokai and employs around 100 people.

But the measure isn’t out of the woods yet.
A Federal judge ruled that Kauai’s law meant to restrict the use of GMO’s and pesticides is invalid. “If the big corporations spent $8 million on this, you can imagine what they’re prepared to spend to fight it,” said State Representative Kaniela Ing.

But there is hope. The people have spoken.

(Facts sourced from civilbeat.com Nov. 4th, 2014. Article by Anita Hofschneider)

A hui hou! If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the Follow button to the right or on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

Divisiveness to the Max

Aloha!
There’s an elephant in the room in Maui. It’s been here for months, everyone is sick of it, and it’s not leaving until Tuesday. Even then, there will probably be great piles of elephant dung left flung about.

I’m referring to the Maui County GMO Initiative (genetically engineered organisms),calling for a moritorium on the growing of GMO seeds in Maui County, until further studies can be carried out. Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout in the ENTIRE country, and Maui County has the lowest voter turnout in the state. You do the math. But this initiative has driven more residents than ever to get involved. And it’s getting
uuu-gggly.

In a nutshell, Monsanto and Dow Chemical corporations are planting four crops per year on Maui, and spraying over 80 chemicals in their open-air laboratories and chemical test sites. These chemicals mix in the fields and spread into the neighborhoods, ocean, reefs, groundwater and our bodies. The Environmental Protection Agency admitted that they do not test to regulate any of the billions of possible chemical combinations occurring in and around the GMO fields. In July, 2014 the State Department of Health stated that ALL surface waters tested in Maui County are contaminated with pesticides.

And birth defects are on the rise. According to doctors on Kaua’i, babies born next to GMO fields are born with 10 times the national average of a rare heart disease. On Kaua’i, Moloka’i, as well as Maui there are cases of babies being born with their intestines on the outside of their bodies. The Big Island now bans any new GMO crops because the GMO Rainbow Papaya has contaminated the island.

Monsanto and Dow Chemical are the only two chemical corporations growing commercial GMO seed and test crops on Maui. They are not growing any food for Hawaii.

According to the SHAKA movement (proponents of the Initiative), the “Citizens Against the Farming Band” is a front group that was created by a project manager of Mycogen (Dow Chemical) on Moloka’i to trick the voters into voting against their own best interests. Monsanto and Dow have spent millions (8 million…they have outspent opponents of GMO’s 100 to 1) on propaganda to confuse and scare uninformed citizens, all in order to avoid safety studies and maintain its seed-testing operations on Maui. With Monsanto contributing $5.1 million to the fund, it’s the most money ever raised for a single campaign in state history, according to Tony Baldomero, Associate Director of the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission. By comparison, “Former Governor Linda Lingle spent about 6.5 million…but that was over a four-year period. This is over a two – month period,” he said.

So that’s one side of the coin. On the flip side, small farmers believe they will be fined or jailed and that the Initiative’s moratorium on GMO’s will not allow crops to finish their lifecycle. They believe there will be job losses. (However, the GMO corporations can switch back to growing non-– GMO seed crops, which they have already begun to do.) The Initiative is not a pesticide law, but farmers have been persuaded that they will not have a right to use pesticides….

The facts are this: Monsanto and Dow Chemical have caused 189 “Superfund Cleanup Sites.” These are sites contaminated with hazardous substances. In each case they claimed everything was safe until the court ordered them to pay. On July 25, 2014 Monsanto was ordered to pay $93 million to the tiny town of Nitro, West Virginia for poisoning citizens with Agent Orange. On August 21, 2003 Monsanto and Solutia, Inc. were ordered to pay $700 million for poisoning Anniston, Alabama with PCBs.

Dr. Lorrin Pang, Maui District Health Officer, and Mark Sheehan, Ph.D., started the SHAKA movement petition to implement a “temporary moratorium” on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops in Maui County “until studies prove they are safe.” The group gathered more than 9,000 valid signatures in support of the measure, becoming the first citizens group in Maui County history to have gathered enough support to put initiative on the ballot. Several states have pushed for GMO – labeling laws but only two, Maine and Connecticut, have managed to successfully pass labeling laws.

Advocates argue that biotechnology helps fill a critical need for food in the world. The (Bill) Gates and Warren Foundations, both private humanitarian organizations, partnered with Monsanto to fund an effort on a seed farm in Kihei (Maui) to develop drought resistant maize that could be grown in the poorest, driest areas of Africa. Pang stated that while those groups may have good intentions it doesn’t change the health affects their GMO practices might have on the environment and the public. When asked why regulatory agencies like the EPA and FDA allow the cultivation of crops, without having completed sufficient studies, Pang likened GMO to cigarettes. “Until the 1950s, big tobacco (companies) said, ‘no harm has been shown.’ That doesn’t mean there is no harm; it just means studies haven’t been done,” he said.

On a lighter note, you can view a SNL-type parody by the SHAKA group here: http://www.voteyesmaui.org (quite funny…wait for it…)

image

Also, my friend who is a Maui attorney read every word of the Initiative. I didn’t have that kind of patience, but as a lawyer, I trust that she wrangled the facts buried in all the legalese. She is voting “YES” for the Initiative, for a GMO moritorium on Maui. Here it is:

image

Yes, these are sad, stressful times on Maui. Dr. Lorrin Pang says he does not eat papayas anymore because of this issue. Mayor Alan Arakawa was quoted in the Maui News (www.mauinews.com) on October 19, 2014. As he heads into what he hopes will be a new four-year term, he reflected on the changes in the community he was reared in and the one today. Watching the ugly bullying, threats, defacing of trees and signs and cursing going on over the GMO Initiative worries him. “It is really sad. That shift is what I think will be the ruination of our community and breaking all the lines of trust that we have built for generations,” he said.

If you are local, PLEASE vote your heart on this coming Tuesday, November 4th. If you love Maui…please vote.

(All facts sourced from The Maui News and the group “Maui Citizens’ Initiative for Temporary Moratorium on GMO Crops”, PO Box 790538 Paia, HI 96779)

A hui hou. Mahalo for reading along. If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the “Follow” button on the Homepage or to the right.

Aloha, Jamaica

Tropical Storm Ana: Maui Shuts Down

Aloha!

A Reader wrote to say they were due for their first trip to Maui and wondered if they should cancel (without penalty.) We said yes. It certainly won’t be any fun to not be able to go to the beach, and to get blown around. There will be no boating activites and helicopter and air activities will most likely be canceled.

Here’s the latest:

Tropical Storm Ana is packing sustained winds of 65 mph and is 375 miles south–southeast of Hilo. A tropical storm watch has been issued for the Big Island and Maui County’s leeward waters, the Alenuihaha Channel and the Big Island’s windward waters.

Before the heaviest winds arrive, south and south-east facing shores could see surf of 10 to 20 feet with storm surge of 1 foot, possibly 2 feet, on south-eastern shores.

Rainfall of 5 to 10 inches with locally heavy rainfall of 20 inches or more will precede the strongest winds. A flash flood watch statewide began at noon today.

Here are the area closings/changes:

Island Air halted flights to Maui and Lanai on Saturday afternoon and Sunday.
Fliers ticketed for travel on Island Air from today to Monday will be permitted to change their flight online without charge at http://www.Islandair.com or by contacting reservations at one 800–652–6541, which will maintain extended hours of 6 AM to 9 PM through Sunday and return to regular hours of 7 AM to 6 PM on Monday. Changes must be made prior to the departure of originally scheduled flights, the commuter airline said.

A host of local events are either postponed or canceled. Check the Maui News for the schedules.

On Molokai, there is gas rationing with purchases limited to $20 per vehicle, because the next shipment of gasoline to the island is not expected until next Thursday, due to Ana. At $5.33 a gallon for regular unleaded that comes to almost 4 gallons of gas. “When people panic, they fill up not only their cars, but gas cans and drums. Everybody wants to be prepared after seeing what happened to Puna, and that’s understandable. However, we need to make sure we have enough for everyone as well,” said Lori-lei Rawlins-Crivello of Rawlings Chevron on Molokai.

County parks and recreational facilities will be closed Saturday with camping grounds closed today, the county Department of Parks and Recreation announced Thursday. Camping permits issued for tonight and Saturday night were canceled.

State parks on Maui and Molokai were closed today, until further notice. Campers in remote coastal areas have been notified to leave.

Forest reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, natural area reserves and Na Ala Hele hiking trails and game management areas are closed until further notice. Haleakala National Park Summit closed at noon today. The park will remain closed until managers can assess the safety conditions of the roads, trails, campgrounds and visitor centers. In anticipation of Ana, the park stopped issuing backcountry camping and cabin permits Wednesday. Existing weekend backcountry permits have been canceled. For the latest closure information, go to the website http://www.nps.gov/hale.

The state’s small–boat harbors will be closed at 4:30 PM today, until further notice, the DLNR said. Those include Maalaea and Lahaina small – boat harbors.

Interisland shipper Young Brothers updated its shipping schedule Thursday, anticipating that Kahului Harbor will not be closed, but that the port of Kaumalapau on Lanai and Kaunakakai will be shut down by the Coast Guard today. For updates, go to http://www.youngbrothershawaii.com.

Visitors are urged to heed warnings from lifeguards and public health and safety officials and warned of rip currents and contaminated shorelines due to run-off.

Fuel your vehicle. Store and secure outdoor objects and loose, lightweight objects. Prepare to cover window and door openings with boards, shutters are other shielding materials.

Stock up on bottled water, toilet paper, rice, and essentials.

Fo those interested in shelters, the county said Thursday that locations, including pet–friendly shelters, will be announced as needed. The MauiBus will Shuttle residents to shelters for free if needed.

Lastly, be safe out there. Hurricane season lasts until November 30!

(All information sources from the Maui News, http://www.mauinews.com, as of Friday, October 17, 2014.)

A hui hou. If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the “Follow” button to the right, or on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica