News, updates, finds, and stories from staff and community members at KAHEA.
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News, updates, finds, stories, and tidbits from staff and community members at KAHEA. Got something to share? Email us at:

Live Twitter Feed from Taro Hearings

Posted by Miwa at Mar 04, 2009 05:37 PM |
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Damon Tucker is twittering live from the hearing for HB 1223 and HB1663 on Taro Security Bills.

Mahalo to Damon, as well as Georgette and Thelma!

Joan's Musings on GMO-Taro Bill

Posted by Miwa at Mar 04, 2009 04:19 PM |
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Journalist Joan Conrow “muses” on Kauai Taro Growers Association (KTGA) opposition to a bill banning the genetic modification of taro in Hawaii.

From Joan:

Still, it seems to me that declining taro production is due predominantly to land and labor issues. I know a number of taro farmers who lost their leases, most notably in the prime taro lands owned by Gaylord Wilcox behind the Hanalei shopping center, and although they wanted to continue farming, they had nowhere else to go.

The KTGA was notably silent when these farmers asked for help in retaining their leases. If KTGA is serious about increasing production, it would be well served to put its energy into helping more farmers get on the land and ensuring water is available, instead of putting all its hopes into CTAHR developing some magic disease-resistant, high-yield GMO variety that only the big commercial growers want to grow and can afford to buy.

Inviting in the New Invasive

Posted by Miwa at Mar 02, 2009 01:29 PM |

We’ve been talking for a while about possible impacts of genetically modified organisms on conventional crops and/or wild plants and the implications of “escaped genes” on natural ecosystems.

From article in the New Scientist:

NOW it’s official: genes from genetically modified corn have escaped into wild varieties in rural Mexico. A new study resolves a long-running controversy over the spread of GM genes and suggests that detecting such escapes may be tougher than previously thought.

(Mahalo to Judy and Dave for the tip!)

So not only are these rogue, experimental genes escaping into native ecosystems, they’re also harder to detect than we had thought. Sounds like the makings of a perfect invasive to us!

Hawaii is now coming to grips with its multi-million dollar invasive species problem–a crisis that has pushed many native species to extinction and pushed many others to just a fraction of their original range. At the same time, Hawaii has become a hotbed of activity for testing of genetically modified organisms (GMO)–Hawaii is home to more open field GMO tests than any other place under U.S. jurisdiction.

Efforts are underway to pull out the welcome mat from under this new invasion, including a bill to stop the genetic modification of taro–Hawaii’s traditional and sacred food and the state plant of Hawaii. You can take action to support today!

Biotech Seed Companies Thwarting Good Science

Posted by Miwa at Feb 23, 2009 05:52 PM |
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From Miwa:

We’re getting closer to knowing why we don’t know what we don’t know–in an unusual statement issued earlier this month, 26 leading corn insect scientists expressed their opposition to industry stranglehold on research of genetically modified crops.

“No truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions,” the statement says.

The blurring line between business, government, and academic science appear to have produced a system where all three are unable to fulfill their kuleana to serve (or at least, not to damage) the public good–including local economies, public health, and the environment.

Hawaii has more experimental field trials of genetic engineering than any other state in the nation, and seed corn is now Hawaii’s top crop. Permits granted for field trials include: corn engineered with human genes (Dow), corn engineered with jellyfish genes (Stanford University), and corn engineered with hepatitis virus genes (Prodigene).

Excerpt from Andrew Pollack’s article in the New York Times:

The problem, the scientists say, is that farmers and other buyers of genetically engineered seeds have to sign an agreement meant to ensure that growers honor company patent rights and environmental regulations. But the agreements also prohibit growing the crops for research purposes.

Such agreements have long been a problem, the scientists said, but they are going public now because frustration has been building.

“If a company can control the research that appears in the public domain, they can reduce the potential negatives that can come out of any research,” said Ken Ostlie, an entomologist at the University of Minnesota, who was one of the scientists who had signed the statement.

Dr. Shields of Cornell said financing for agricultural research had gradually shifted from the public sector to the private sector. That makes many scientists at universities dependent on financing or technical cooperation from the big seed companies.

“People are afraid of being blacklisted,” he said. “If your sole job is to work on corn insects and you need the latest corn varieties and the companies decide not to give it to you, you can’t do your job.”

See the full article at:


Posted by bryna at Jan 05, 2009 05:30 PM |

From Bryna, some thoughts on this piece on “Genetically Modified Hawaii” in the Scientific American:

In the pursuit of responsible, meaningful, helpful science for the betterment of the communities and lands of Hawaii, we’ve gotten rather flustered and confused by the dangerous, expensive answers that GMOs offer our local communities.

What do we want for Hawaii? Something we can sink our teeth into.  As the article expounds, we have 3-4 growing seasons. So why are we growing corporate ag-fuel investments & experiments with laughable farm-to-fuel efficiency, short term profitability and long term, irreversible and uncalculable risks? We could be growing increasingly valuable organic seeds for export, and of course nutritious, delicious food to eat here!  GMO-corn & related chemicals make even pineapple seem more meaningful and safe for the nutritional and environmental needs of Hawaii.  Then again, pineapple didn’t make it past 2 generations, but heptachlor contamination will be around for centuries.

Better yet, why not grow alot of different food crops? Why is Hawaii still nurturing the mono-cash-crop plantation paradigm that keeps success and failure in the hands and whims of a few, offshore, high-risk moguls? Will they save us from starvation? Ask the Food Bank.

But seed companies say and some scientists believe the benefits outweigh the risks of damage to the fragile ecosystem.”

Without any independent scientific review how can they make any honest claims of benefits?  By refusing  independent, longterm studies or public information about their projects, biotech corporatoins control the public perception of benefits, while having no factual basis in making such claims.

Isn’t it time we got something good to eat, and isn’t it time we returned the farmscape back to the care of the local people, local culture, local foods? It is a myth that we don’t have enough land. It is a myth that we can’t grow food to feed the local population. The problem is that the land that we have is becoming Iowa and plants they are growing could kill us…..

Read: “Genetically Modified Hawaii: New varieties of genetically engineered crops thrive in the world’s most isolated landmass” by  Robynne Boyd.

Petition for Sustainable USDA

Posted by Miwa at Dec 22, 2008 12:00 PM |

From guys at Roots of Change:

Friends:  Signing this petition is important if we are going to have sustainable and urban health leadership in the Department of Agriculture.  At the end are some of my thoughts why we need this.

Michael Dimock, president of Roots of Change
reports that he was on a conference call with Obama’s transition team last week.
He says that the transition team is aware of the Food Democracy Now petition, and said that 25,000 endorsements would get their attention. Also that 50,000 could really influence Obama’s pick.

As of Monday, December 23, 10am HST the count is 58,862 . While the goal has been reached, more is always a stronger statement.

To reiterate: this petition has the attention of Obama’s team, and they are expected to make their choice public very soon.


From Kathryn Mathewson:

Some of my reasons why we need this: We need a leader in the Dept. of Agriculture who understands the relationship between healthy food and healthy soil.  We cannot continue to kill our soil and food health with pesticides.  Local urban agriculture will also improve health and reduce our oil consumption.   Also, agriculture is the biggest user of water.  Research shows that healthy soil without pesticides will reduce plant water needs by 50 to 75 percent.  This will help address our drought issues.  We need the discussion of soil biology and agriculture on every level of government (agriculture, HUD, EPA, Health, Commerce, International).  It is vital that a leader in the Dept. of Agriculture understands these issues.

Vilsack as Agriculture Secretary = Bad News for Organic

Posted by kahea at Dec 19, 2008 12:35 AM |
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From the Organic Consumer’s Association:

The announcement that former Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack, has been selected as the new Secretary of Agriculture sent a chill through the sustainable food and farming community who have been lobbying for a champion in the new administration.

“Vilsack’s nomination sends the message that dangerous, untested, unlabeled genetically engineered crops will be the norm in the Obama Administration,” said Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director of Organic Consumers Association. “Our nation’s future depends on crafting a forward-thinking strategy to promote organic and sustainable food and farming, and address the related crises of climate change, diminishing energy supplies, deteriorating public health, and economic depression.”

The Department of Agriculture during the Bush Administration failed to promote a sustainable vision for food and farming and did not protect consumers from the chemical-intensive toxic practices inherent to industrial agriculture. While factory farms and junk food have been subsidized with billions of tax dollars, the U.S. industrial farm system has released massive amounts of climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and increased our dependence on foreign oil.

The Secretary of Agriculture is responsible for directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its $97 billion annual budget, including the National Organic Program, food stamp and nutrition programs, agriculture subsidies, and the Forest Service.

While Vilsack has worked to restrain livestock monopolies, his overall record is one of aiding and abetting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs, also known as factory farms). Vilsack’s support for unsustainable industrial ethanol production has already caused global corn and grain prices to skyrocket, literally taking food off the table for a billion people in the developing world.

“We fear that this signals Obama’s intentions to rely upon corporate solutions and biotech “quick fixes,” forcing farmers to continue on the pesticide treadmill, rather than creating food systems that nourish people, support family farmers and regenerate natural resources,” said Kathryn Gilje, Executive Director for the Pesticide Action Network. We oppose the confirmation of Tom Vilsack to this post, especially at a time when so much is at stake for the future of food and farming in America.”

Over the past month, Organic Consumers Association members have sent over 20,000 emails to President-Elect Obama¹s Transition Team, calling for the appointment of a Secretary of Agriculture who would develop and implement a plan that promotes family-scale farming, a safe and nutritious food system, and a sustainable and organic vision for the future.

“Obama’s choice for Secretary of Agriculture points to the continuation of agribusiness as usual, the failed policies of chemical- and energy-intensive, genetically engineered industrial agriculture,” said Cummins. “Americans were promised change, not just another shill for Monsanto and corporate agribusiness. Considering the challenges we collectively face as a nation, from climate change and rising energy costs to food insecurity, we need an administration that moves beyond business as usual to fundamental change before it’s too late,” concluded Cummins.

Vilsack’s business as usual positions have included the following:

· Vilsack has been a strong supporter of genetically engineered pharmaceutical crops, especially pharmaceutical corn.

· The biggest biotechnology industry group, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, named Vilsack Governor of the Year. He is also the founder and former chair of the Governor’s Biotechnology Partnership.

· When Vilsack created the Iowa Values Fund, his first poster child for economic development was Trans Ova and their pursuit of cloning dairy cows.

· The undemocratic 2005 seed pre-emption bill was the Vilsack’s brainchild. The law strips local government¹s right to regulate genetically engineered seed.

· Vilsack is an ardent supporter of corn and soy based biofuels, which use as much or more energy to produce as they generate and drive up world food prices, literally starving the poor.

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