The following letters have been released to the media by the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association....
To Kauai Councilmember Gary Hooser
Dear Economic Development Committee Chair Hooser, August 20, 2013
On behalf of the members of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association (HCIA) with farms on Kauai, I write to strongly protest the manner in which the hearing of your Committee on Economic Development (Sustainability / Agriculture / Food / Energy) & Intergovernmental Relations on Monday, August 5, was noticed, particularly the failure to notify those in opposition to Council Bill 2491 in a timely manner regarding the actual content of the hearing agenda, the experts who would be invited by the chair and the nature of the testimony that was sought.
The late unofficial notification from the chair to a representative of the seed farm delegation, which took place after noon on the Friday prior to the Monday hearing, precluded the seed companies and other opponents of the bill from contacting expert testifiers, identifying which ones could be available, and arranging transportation, lodging and other logistical considerations.
Yet the chair gave his own experts ample time to make all the necessary arrangements to ensure his panel of testifiers from the mainland would include a full complement of handpicked organizations with a track record of opposition to biotech agriculture and opposition to the use of pesticides on which modern commercial farming depends. This lack of notice was clearly discriminatory.
Had the hearing been properly noticed and adequate time provided to all parties to allow a reasonable period to prepare, the ostensible purpose of the August 5 hearing to fully inform the members of the committee could have been achieved in a way that would best serve the members of the committee, the council, the public and the legislative process.
The hearing notice only indicated there would be 18 minutes provided at the outset for public testimony before the committee went into executive session. There was nothing in the notice about subsequent briefing of the committee by experts and no indication that the focus of inquiry would be on the ostensible impacts of pesticides used by Kauai farmers. This type of obfuscation is reprehensible and has no place in the public hearing process.
With regard to the agenda, the specific areas of interest (i.e., medical and scientific considerations of pesticide use) were only disclosed at the eleventh hour to a representative of the farms whose operations stand to be most affected by the provisions of bill and came much too late to allow adequate preparation for the briefing.
Adequate preparation would have included arrangements for attendance by the experts in the topics to be considered to counter the mainland experts invited by the chair. As it was, only one expert testifier was able to attend on behalf of those opposed to the bill, but his expertise and credentials were not primarily in the areas that were the focus of the hearing. He was a geneticist and only able to address the GE portion of the bill, and while he did address questions related to that portion that was not the focus of most of the committee's questions.
It appears the orchestration of the hearing and the invitations sent by the chair to selected mainland-based organizations were designed to provide the committee exclusively with the opinions of only those experts on one side of the issue. This did not give the members of the Kauai Council Committee on Economic Development a 360-degree view of the issues raised by the bill and the benefit of hearing experts representing a variety of viewpoints on the subject matter.
Instead, the manner in which the hearing was noticed and then conducted could only strengthen the position of those who support the ordinance. This, too, is discriminatory and has no place in a democratic process. One would presume that the commitment to a fair and open forum in which all sides receive an equal opportunity to fully participate and provide their views and analysis of the measure at hand would be the norm.
In addition, the chair invited representatives of the seed companies to attend the July 31 hearing to provide their input on questions raised about pesticide use and the related provisions of Bill 2491. However, after clearing their calendars and spending considerable time and effort preparing information for the committee, the chair never called on the company representatives to participate, thus providing another example of the stage-managed nature of the council proceedings, which were apparently designed to exclude factual data and research that ran counter to the intent of the bill.
To add further insult to those opposed to the bill, the video tape of the testimony posted to the county website left out the testimony provided by those in opposition to Bill 2491. It is the responsibility of the council to ensure that the proceedings on the county website accurately reflect what transpired at council meetings.
This incomplete compilation created the misleading impression that the majority of testifiers supported Bill 2491, which was clearly not the case, as those who attended the hearing could see.
This officially sanctioned use of partial public testimony was inaccurate, in addition to being discriminatory.
We are extremely disappointed in the way the hearing process has been manipulated and we hope the chair will refrain from practices such as those described above in future hearings.
Alicia Maluafiti, Executive Director, Hawaii Crop Improvement Association
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To: Mr. J Robertson, Managing Director, Hoike Kauai Community Television, Inc.
Aloha Mr. Robertson, August 20, 2013
As the executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association (HCIA), I write this letter to be sure you are aware of a recent incident which involved Hoike staff. HCIA is a supporter of community television and has been a sponsor of the Youth Xchange program at your sister PEG access network Oleleo on Oahu and participates in Olelo-‐produced events, such as the recent three-part forum on GMOs.
We believe in the mission of community television and have produced programs, such as Views from the Farm, which has aired on your station. We very much appreciate the important role Hoike Community Television plays on Kauai.
Heretofore, in our dealings with public access television, we have found the management to be evenhanded in granting access to all sides of an issue and providing a neutral forum in which issues important to the community can be discussed. The members of HCIA were therefore surprised and disappointed by the manner in which Hoike fulfilled its obligations under the agreement it has with the County of Kauai to televise the Kauai Council's hearings.
At the council hearing on Bill 2491 that took place on July 31, a Hoike crew videotaped the proceedings, including several hours of testimony, which lasted late into the night. The testifiers were more or less grouped into three cohorts: (1) Special guests and those who were not able to testify at a previous hearing; (2) Those who signed up early to testify at the July 31 hearing; and (3) those who came to testify without signing up ahead of time. Groups one and three were predominantly composed of supporters of Bill 2491. Group number two was comprised, almost exclusively, of opponents of the bill.
When the video of the hearing was posted on Hoike's website and on the County's website, we were shocked to see that virtually all of the testimony of group number two in opposition to the bill was missing. When members of our organization questioned Hoike staff, they were told there had been a "mistake" and that the video of group number two had been lost. We were told that if we had concerns, we should take them to the executive director which is the genesis of this letter.
The chances of losing almost all of the testimony given by those on one side of the issue seems highly unlikely. We know from our experience and observations that members of the Hoike staff may be on the anti-‐biotech agriculture side of the issue. On the night of the hearing, for example, members of the pro-Bill 2491 group were seen sitting with some of the Hoike crew members.
It is unconscionable and discriminatory that the video was posted on both the County and Hoike websites with the knowledge that the testimony of at least 50 percent of the testifiers was missing and that the testimony missing was only that of those who opposed Bill 2491. After this was pointed out, the video remained on both sites and as of this writing it is still posted on the Hoike schedule, with only pro-‐Bill 2491 testifiers represented.
To restore the trust of our Kauai members and that of the broader community in the integrity of Hoike and its commitment to fairness and balance, we ask that you take the following steps:
1. Take down video from both the Hoike and County websites
2. Put up the testimony of those opposing the bill, which we will provide, and run that testimony exclusively for the length of time the misleading mix of testimony was on the each site.
3. Conduct a thorough investigation to determine how this happened
4. Put in measures to ensure it is never repeated.
We believe Hoike and community television on Kauai are too important to be subverted by the political agenda of individual staff members bent on providing an unfair advantage to those on one side of an issue, especially considering that if the issues raised in Bill 2491 are not resolved reasonably, the ramifications will affect the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of Kauai families.
We look forward to your response to our request.
Alicia Maluafiti, Executive Director, Hawaii Crop Improvement Association