Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser – “It’s Not About Eating The Corn” (Thoughts on GMO)

Sen. Gary Hooser

It’s not about eating the corn.

Not for me anyway.  The decision to eat or not eat the corn is only a small reason I support the labeling of genetically modified foods and hold deep reservations about the industry as a whole.

People on my island are getting sick. Many believe their sickness is being caused by the secondary and cumulative impacts connected to the growing of genetically modified organisms.

Yet when I’ve asked these companies directly and officially in writing to disclose what chemicals and in what quantities they are spraying, the industrial agrochemical GMO companies on Kauai have refused to do so.

For me, that alone is enough to keep me from buying their products or supporting their industry,  and to support full labeling requirements.
63 countries around the world including all of Europe, Russia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand require mandatory labeling of GMO products. Some countries have banned these products completely.

Many questions exist and many doubts persist. There are valid health concerns ranging from allergen sensitivities to hormonal disruption to cancer, related to the GMO’s and to the pesticide spraying that accompanies them.

There are concerns about the globalization and corporate ownership of the worlds food supply.  There are ethical and moral questions pertaining to the concept of corporations owning patents on living organisms both plant and animal, and to the increased diminishment of bio-diversity.  All valid reasons consumers may not want to buy these products and thus the need to require labeling.

For me, it’s personal.

Kauai is ground zero in the GMO industry.  These industrial agrochemical operations dominate the landscape of Kauai’s west side and are now moving into the southern and eastern land as well.  The fields of mostly genetically modified corn not intended for human consumption grow on approximately 12,000 acres of prime farmland stretching from the base of the mountains down to within just feet of the pristine ocean waters.

These crops are subject to spraying with toxic pesticides up to 6 days a week.

Over 200 residents of WaimeaValley have filed suit claiming negative impacts from pesticide laden dust blowing into their homes and onto their bodies.  Biologists estimate over 50,000 sea urchins died last year in near shore west-side waters.

People in all parts of Kauai County are growing increasingly concerned about the impacts that result from these companies spraying their fields with toxic and experimental chemicals that then flow into streams and near shore waters and cling to the dust which blows daily into neighborhoods and schools.

Yet these agrochemical companies, who are required by law to keep records of their pesticide use, tell me blithely to go elsewhere for the data.

About half the land used for GMO production on Kauai are public lands upon which zero property tax is paid.  But they refuse to disclose to the public what they are growing or what they are spraying on these public lands.  These large transnational corporations transfer their end products to related subsidiaries, benefit from Enterprise Zone and other GET exemptions and consequently pay zero GET tax on the products they produce.

State law and terms of the public lands lease/license require compliance with Hawaii’s environmental review law Chapter 343HRS, yet no documentation demonstrating compliance exists; no exemption declaration, no environmental assessment and no environmental impact statement.

Growing genetically modified organisms, using experimental pesticides and spraying a wide array of restricted and non restricted pesticides on a mass scale have impacts on our island, our health and our environment.  There are direct impacts, secondary impacts and cumulative impacts but we don’t know what those impacts are because they have never been properly evaluated – and the companies in question won’t even give us the information needed to make a proper evaluation.

So yes, I support labeling. Absolutely.

Labeling, mandatory disclosure and a permitting process that requires a comprehensive review of the significant environmental and health impacts to our island and our community caused by this industry – I support them all, because as you can see this is about much more than just eating the corn.

Gary Hooser
Member Kauai County Council – Former Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control for State of Hawaii – Former Hawaii State Senator and Majority Leader

 

One Response

  1. Hooser is on target! We have a Right, at the very least, to have mandatory labeling of GMO products so that we can make informed choices. The legislature is supposed to make laws to protect our rights, and in such a case as GMO’s, maybe labeling laws will help us protect our lives.
    Read more: http://www.MolokaiAdvertiserNews.com weekly

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