ABUNDANT LAND is a documentary about a Hawaiian community on Moloka’i resisting the biotech industry’s use of the island to test genetically engineered seeds. Biotech corporations including Monsanto and Mycogen are depleting Moloka’i’s topsoil and fresh water while contributing to dust storms that spread pesticides into the surrounding communities and ocean. ABUNDANT LAND also offers a historical look into the political underpinnings of chemical intensive farming in Hawaii while portraying the rich legacy of traditional Hawaiian land management. The documentary follows a group of dedicated residents as they seek transparency about the testing being done on their island and promote permaculture—an ecological design system rooted in ancient Hawaiian farming practices—as an alternative to chemically dependent agriculture.
The state of Hawaii has hosted more cumulative field trials for experimental GE crops than any other state in the US. The majority of genetically engineered testing fields are on the islands of Moloka’i and on Kauai. These fields are outdoor experiments where genetically engineered corn and soybean seeds are tested for various traits in real world conditions. Consistent pesticide application is part of this process as most GE seeds are created to resist the use of herbicides. Some of the pesticides being used are on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s restricted use list due to their level of toxicity. This is creating an undue level of exposure throughout these Hawaiian communities, as some of the pesticides being used such as 2,4-D (there is evidence that this is a carcinogen) is highly prone to volatilization; a process by which pesticides applied to crops transform into a gaseous state and travel in the air over long distances through wind and rain. According to a 2001 report by the U.S. Geological Survey based on pesticide use in the San Joaquin River Basin, California, “After they are applied, many pesticides volatilize into the lower atmosphere, a process that can continue for days, weeks, or months after the application, depending on the compound. In addition, pesticides can become airborne attached to wind-blown dust.”
According to Emily Marquez, a staff scientist at the Pesticide Action Network, “the EPA has to evaluate over 80,000 chemicals before they go to market, their evaluation process if far from perfect. It is not possible for them to do proper risk assessment”. The fact of the matter is the federal and regulatory agencies that should be scrutinizing and restricting harmful chemicals from entering the atmosphere aren’t doing so due to industry interest and because they lack adequate personnel to carry out the necessary tasks. The film will touch upon these issues.