Maui Farmers Union United says: Vote YES on the GMO Initiative

Maui Farmers Union United says: Vote YES on the GMO Initiative

Questions about initiative answered

VIEWPOINT

October 21, 2014
By BILL GREENLEAF and SUSAN CAMPBELL , For The Maui News

The Maui Chapter of Hawaii Farmers Union United is an advocate for local agriculture. In the role of advocate for local agriculture, we are hearing questions and concerns about Maui’s citizens initiative for a moratorium on genetically modified organism crops.

The main question we hear is:

Will the initiative hurt farmers?

TV, radio, Facebook and print ads mailed to households claim farmers will be jailed, fined up to $50,000 and lose their jobs. This onslaught of ads from the deep pockets of a political action committee is painful to farmers. This media blitz is designed to scare and confuse hardworking farmers and the public. The language in the citizens initiative is clear – the GMO moratorium will not hurt local farmers.

Will growers have to stop planting if they are currently growing GMOs?

They will not. The moratorium protects anyone growing GMOs by allowing them to harvest all genetically engineered plants and then simply replant with non-GMO seeds. This goes for corporations, farmers and even backyard growers who may be growing GMO papaya. It is not a ban. The plants will finish their life cycle.

The moratorium stops new GMO plantings temporarily for independent scientists to study them. Citizens are concerned about GMOs largely because the corporations creating them also do the safety studies, which is a conflict of interest.

Will growers be fined $50,000 for violating the law?

All laws need an enforcement clause, and this clause is not aimed at backyard growers and local farmers. They have plenty of other crops to grow, which are in much higher demand. If what they are spraying is found to be safe and Maui is not found to be poisoned, GMO seeds will be allowed to be grown again.

What about jobs?

Hybrid seed is grown in countries where GMOs are banned. Corporations that grow GMO seed in Maui County also grow hybrid seed in France, where GMOs are banned. Considering their corporate infrastructure in Maui County, it’s more logical for them to shift to producing a hybrid seed in Maui County than it is likely that they will shut down their operation, causing job loss. The fear of job loss is a tactic that is being used to defeat the initiative.

The real threat that nearly 20,000 citizens who signed the petition feel is the danger is from the secretive, unregulated combinations and excessive amounts of chemicals sprayed during GMO testing. Schools and residential areas are downwind. Groundwater in Maui County has been polluted by agricultural chemicals in the past. The moratorium will require environmental studies to be conducted.

We don’t have enough farmers, but this is changing. There is an agricultural renaissance in Hawaii, and farming is becoming a real option for those who love to work with the soil. People prefer fresh food which hasn’t traveled thousands of miles.

The GMO seed corporations don’t produce food, and the false advertising is driving a wedge of fear between conventional farmers and natural farmers. We ask everyone to respect all farmers who grow food for Maui and Hawaii – those that use conventional chemical assistance, along with the natural and organic growers who are learning the practices that allowed over a million people to thrive in Hawaii for centuries.

Please know that the moratorium on GMOs will not affect the ability of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. or other non-GMO farmers to continue using pesticides or herbicides they use now. The focus is on GMOs and the unique combinations and frequency of chemicals used on them.

This initiative deals with difficult issues which are not being addressed by regulators.

Our opinion is that we must take care of our precious natural resources. We must consider the generations of the future.

We are voting “yes” for the citizens initiative for a GMO moratorium. We urge everyone to vote and please support local farmers. This initiative is not a problem for them, but a solution for all of us.

* Bill Greenleaf and Susan Campbell are the president and vice president, respectively, for the Maui Chapter Board of the Hawaii Farmers Union United.

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