"Main Land Activists" and Pesticide Buffer Zones

In a recent hearing in Hawaii on a bill to pilot pesticide buffer zones around 5 schools near a commercial agricultural area, Alicia Maluafiti, a lobbyist for CropLife America, described "Main Land activists" as “21st century missionaries trying to save us from ourselves.”  How could anyone with a basic understanding of Hawaiian history claim that those who are in favor of pesticide buffer zones and growing food sustainably without a heavy reliance on chemicals be similar to the missionaries?  Are we talking about the same missionaries that convinced the Hawaiian royalty to privatize land so they could eventually own it?  Are we talking about the same missionaries who paved the way for the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom?  And who discouraged several Hawaiian traditions including Hula dancing and speaking the Hawaiian language?  Maluafiti’s accusation that people who care deeply about the land and the health of their families is akin to the missionaries who brought about some of the most destructive changes to Hawaiian society is both degrading and divisive. After all, Hawaiian’s have taken a leadership role and participated alongside so called “Main Land activists” in advocating for greater transparency and safety.  On the flip side, all of the six biotech companies (Monsanto, Dow, BASF, Bayer, Syngenta and DuPont) using the islands to test their seeds resistance to pesticides on open-air fields are based out of the state.

Dust devil on Moloka'i.  A common occurrence near the commercial agricultural fields. 

Dust devil on Moloka'i.  A common occurrence near the commercial agricultural fields. 

In order to give some historical context, it’s important to note that the missionaries were part of what created this problem to begin with.  They slowly undermined the ability of Hawaiian’s to govern themselves and manage the land in accordance with the ahupua’a system; an advanced system of farming and living harmoniously with the natural environment.  They encouraged profit over ecologically sound ways of living.  The sons and daughters of these missionaries became some of the wealthiest individuals in America by acquiring land in Hawaii and creating sugar and pineapple plantations; essentially beginning the legacy of toxic mono crop farming and heavy pesticide use.  Has anyone heard of Castle and Cooke?

Ahupua'a - Rendition of the ancient Hawaiian land management system; integrating taro farming and the raising of fish throughout the terraces and into the fishpond.  Drawing by Laurie Sumiye. 

Ahupua'a - Rendition of the ancient Hawaiian land management system; integrating taro farming and the raising of fish throughout the terraces and into the fishpond.  Drawing by Laurie Sumiye. 

It’s time to put this situation into perspective. Hawaii deserves clean air, water and soil.  Its people deserve to know what pesticides are being used on the island they live on.  While Bill HB2564 may cause a slight imposition on the biotech companies benefitting from Hawaii’s ideal environment, the children of Hawaii—along with the rest of the population—are well worth the cost.

By Natasha Florentino

Director of Abundant Land: Soil, Seeds and Sovereignty