Video by David Corrigan
HAWAII ISLAND – Both sides in Hawaii’s ongoing Genetically Modified Organism debate are taking their arguments to different arenas in order to influence a favorable outcome.
Recent news articles have detailed a Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation plan to spend $400,000 on a public relations campaign “to generate support for farmers and persuade voters to support genetic engineering in agriculture.” (CIVIL BEAT: Pro-GMO Hawaii Farm Group Aims to Spend $400,000)
The plan – which will include buying time on TV during football games, radio and print ads, and other “guerrilla marketing techniques” – was announced as far back as July. Big Island Video News recorded Farm Bureau president Chris Manfredi speaking to the ag industry at the Hawaii Coffee Association Conference in Kona (below). Manfredi, who is active in Ka’u coffee farming, talked all about the plan which is now generating controversy between philosophical factions.
“Of late, non-farmers have been trying to impose their will on farmers, and set food and farm policy,” said Manfredi during the conference. “We’re working on funding a fairly comprehensive public relations campaign called Small Farmers, Big Stories… essentially what it is is a virtual farm tour in the media.”
In the video clip, Manfredi also talked about recently enacted local laws currently tied up in court, as well as the possible benefits of GE crops – like a biotech coffee being tested elsewhere that he says could make the island’s coffee berry borer crisis “go away.” Manfredi also talks about the lobbyists working on the farm bureau’s behalf at the capitol.
Opponents of GMO are also organizing. Months before Manfredi’s speech to coffee farmers, Big Island Video News filmed Dr. Ashley Lukens, a Program Director for the Hawaii Center For Food Safety, talking about forming the state’s “first ever food-focus super PAC”.
Describing the state legislature as “not a very friendly environment right now,” Lukens encouraged a crowd to get involved with the effort during a May 2014 talk in Hilo in about the pesticide Altrazine, “so that we can elect leaders to help us demand the kind of transparency that only the state can uniquely require of chemical corporations.”
Lukens left unnamed her example of one of their “biggest opponents at the legislature” who “won her election by 50 votes” and who Lukens said blocked farm to school legislation, food self sufficiency goals for the state, and labeling for GE foods.
Luken’s food-focus super PAC was likely pleased to see Senator Malama Solomon – a known Right-to-Farm advocate who won her 2012 primary by 69 votes – fall in defeat to Lorraine Inouye in the 2014 primary.
On August 1st, the Center for Food Safety joined three Big Island farmers in an attempt to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the Hawaii County ordinance that puts a moratorium on the expansion of genetically engineered crops on the island.
On August 25, a federal court judge ruled that an ordinance enacted on Kauai mandating pesticide and GE crop disclosure is preempted by the state of Hawaii and unenforceable. The companies that brought the lawsuit forward (DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., Syngenta Seeds, Agrigenetics, Inc, and BASF Plant Sciences LP ) successfully argued that the county has no authority to regulate pesticides and GMO crops because that duty belongs to state and federal authorities.