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Big Island Farmer Takes Monsanto to Task

Alex Constantine - January 22, 2008

Letter to the Molokai Times

Nancy Redfeather

I'm afraid that your intellectual assessment of the plight of the taro, and the Hawaiian people (“Monsanto Molokai: No research on taro plant,” Jan. 16), seems to totally contradict the actions and message of the Hawaiians that I heard this past week at the Capitol.

They are asking for a fair hearing from the Hawaii State Legislature, in particular the House of Representatives, to voice their concerns and objections to the genetic engineering of their ancestor the Kalo. This is a truly unique cultural situation in which the "rights" of a people to determine the future of their food and their native plants, should not be determined by Monsanto.

Monsanto says it is not involved with the GE of taro, but feels justified in telling the Hawaiians what they can and cannot do, with this very special unique food crop.

If they truly respected the "cultural significance" of the taro "to the Hawaiian community," they would stay out of the discussions and allow the Hawaiians to make these decisions and pursue the best course for the long-term future of this crop.

They fear disease coming into Hawaii. HDOA has not been able to monitor and protect our borders. They allow all taro to flow in from around the world "uninspected." No wonder they feel concern.

Monsanto is asking for co-existence, and accusing the Hawaiians of being "used" as a steppingstone to eliminate all biotech crops. The statement to NOT genetically engineer taro, comes directly from the Hawaiians. Your information in paragraph 7 is incorrect.

All crops benefit from healthy soil and water management practices, not ownership and loss of biodiversity that accompanies patenting by either the corporation or university.

If the state, university or HDOA truly wanted to help the farmers, they would have kept the apple snail out, along with other invasives, done trials on Hawaiian taro varieties to check for various kinds of resistances, and experimented with a variety of farm management systems, looking for one that increases the health of the field or lo'i. These best management practices, which increase health, are well known to combat disease.

Again, the old, stale argument saying that not a single documented case of any health issue has been caused by biotech foods. Research on the health effects of these foods suffers from lack of funding, as do human and animal trials and whole food studies and toxicological tests on either. This is commonly known.

Disease in America, in our adult population and especially among our children is rising at alarming rates. GE corn and soy used in ALL processed and packaged foods is being pointed to as the main culprit. The high fructose corn syrup overriding the bodies ability to self regulate food intake, has been proven. Allergic reactions are also rising at alarming rates.

Biotech food causing not even a sniffle? The effects of these foods will only be known after actual study, observation, and honest scientific analysis is undertaken, not by Monsanto, but by independent analysis.

Herbicide use, as shown by Monsanto's surge of profit last quarter, is "increased," not decreased due to the use of its primary Round-up Ready herbicide/seed package. To say that GE seed reduces the Earth's herbicide load is "double=speak."

This industry piece of inaccurate opinions, posted in The Molokai Times, on the same day that hundreds of farmers, concerned Hawaiians and youth marched, discussed, gave gifts, respected elder farmers who had passed on, gave scientific reports, met with the Hawaiian Caucus, shared information with lawmakers, celebrated and created ceremony, is slanted and obviously inaccurate and does no honor to the week's activities at the capitol. I question the printing of this piece without the true counter reality also being presented.

But plenty folks from Molokai were there as was I to bear witness to a people who are drawing the line in the sand, no genetic engineering of our ancestor the taro.

Mr. Foster, there are many, many studies emerging on the difficulties that genetically engineered crops pose for the environment, farmers, nutrition, civil society, freedom and self-determination, increasing local food self-reliance, thwarting farmers ability to save seed and improve quality through selection and increasing soil and plant health, and so on. In your spare time, perhaps evenings and weekends you should study up on the downside of your company’s technology and raise your eyes to see above the corporate mantra.

The Hawaiians deserve a fair hearing and a decision by the university to invest the dollars they are not throwing at taro GE research into another research path, one that respects life, the future of food, and the unique character of this traditional food family member. Take some time this week, to visit with community members present last week at the capitol and listen to their concerns.


Nancy Redfeather, Farmer


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