The tropical paradise of Hawaii is on the bucket list of many. Peaceful images of white sandy beaches, warm tropical waters and the welcoming spirit of Aloha is what draws tourists from around the globe. In 2012, Hawaiian tourism hit an all-time high. Visitors spent a record of $14.3 billion dollars and more tourists than ever before (close to 8 million people) visited the Hawaiian Islands last year.
Simultaneously, the vibrant ecosystems and biodiversity of the Hawaiian Islands are under serious attack by the unrestrained growth of the biotech industry. The average tourist coming to Hawaii to enjoy a vacation, get married or possibly invest in a time share isn’t aware of the chemical contamination taking place due to unregulated GMO experiments and heavy pesticide use on the islands.
My intention with this article is to raise awareness and help shine a light on the environmental crisis that is happening right now, under our noses, in Hawaii. If action isn’t taken quickly and soon, I am fearful of what the long term, unrestrained use of pesticides will do to the ecology of Hawaii. What the general public needs to know, is that GMO research in Hawaii requires the use of powerful restricted use pesticides.
A little over a month ago I was shocked to learn from a friend that Kauai and the rest of the Hawaiian Islands have become Ground Zero for open air testing of experimental pesticides and GMOs. After hearing this information I made my first visit to Kauai and researched what was happening on the island, and learned about the grassroots movement fighting back to stop the chemical trespass and assault on the environment.
This video, Molokai Mom, tells the story of one mother taking on Monsanto after her young son got sick from breathing in pesticide drift allegedly from Monsanto’s fields near her home.
How did this happen? How the GMO industry snuck onto Kauai… and the rest of Hawaii
In the mid-1990s, the sugarcane industry collapsed and vacated much of the agricultural land on Kauai. That agricultural land is now either owned by the State of Hawaii or several private landholders. All of which lease the land out to the biotech industry. Specifically, the Big Six; Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, BASF, Pioneer and Bayer.
What is taking place generally in GMO testing activities is research that involves the transferring of DNA from one species to another. This may include human genes introduced to crops such as corn, soy, rice and sugarcane and genetically engineered crops for use in the pharmaceutical industry. The end result is an organism (plant or animal) that would never occur in nature. For the farmers on Kauai that practice organic and sustainable agricultural practices, their crops are at risk for contamination. For the ecosystem(s) of the Hawaiian Islands, biodiversity is being threatened. For the people that live and work in the communities close to the GMO fields; their health and the health of their children is at risk from long term pesticide exposure.
The Garden Island of Kauai
On the west side of Kauai, in the town of Waimea, GMO test fields border on several communities and a school. In this small town, Atrazine has been detected in the water. Astonishingly, pesticide spraying is done without any buffer zones to public areas, schools or waterways. The spraying of undisclosed pesticides, often in combination with each other, can be done early in the morning, late afternoon or sometimes in the middle of the night. This practice of combining toxic pesticides, a process known as “Stacking,” carries an enormous risk since the impact on the environment and human health is completely untested and unknown. Individually, some of the confirmed pesticides used; Atrazine, 2,4-D (a derivative of Agent Orange) Lorsban and Chlorpyrifos have proven to have serious impacts on health and the environment. One can only imagine the toxic pesticide cocktail that is created by this practice of “pesticide stacking” and other experiments.
Records obtained from the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture indicate that 22 different restricted use pesticides, totaling 3.5 tons, have been imported onto Kauai by five commercial agriculture entities and constitute approximately 99% of the restricted use pesticides utilized by agricultural operations on Kauai. The chemical companies on the Island of Kauai have refused to disclose this information to the public or to the co-sponsor of the pesticide ordinance mentioned later in this article, Kauai County Councilmember,Gary Hooser.