by Joni Kamiya, Hawaii Farmers Daughter, October 17, 2016
The other day, I was given an opportunity to speak via Skype at the Voice of Farmers event held concurrently during the Monsanto Tribunal at The Hague. Having been a first hand witness as to what biotechnology has done for our family is a story that needs to be heard by the world. Farming families who have adopted technology are the best sources for the potentials of this feared technology called GMO.
As I was preparing myself for this event, I was struck by the realization of how my life was changed by the papaya ringspot virus. In just a matter of two years, a beautiful and productive field was going through a very slow death. If this disease didn’t hit my dad’s farm at the time, I may be have different career path determined. My dad wouldn’t have told me to forget about farming and I might have stuck with agricultural sciences. My life has taken a completely different path because of one plant disease.
Just 2 years before the ringspot virus decimated this field.
What looks like a healthy tree is infected with PRSV and produces fruit that is not saleable and has decreased taste and texture.
This story may seem very insignificant in a country where very few farm, however when disaster hits countries where over 70% depend on a crop’s success, this can have huge consequences. Families are affected by what happens on the farm. Children may have nothing to eat and parents can’t send them to school. Chronic malnutrition can set in with children being unable to reach their fullest potential. With no income, there is no money to buy food also.
When I read an article by the Environmental Working Group attempting to debunk the need to feed the world, it angers me that well fed people can have the gall to share it on the internet. People in the West have never suffered from starvation or malnutrition but are the first ones to deny others of food. Food is what will improve human performance and capacity to do better things in the world. The well fed are denying children and families this ability when they block technology. It’s simply cruel to stand in the way without another option.
Biotechnology can be a life changer for all farming families worldwide if we stop and really see the consequences of not allowing access to it. It’s utterly disheartening to me to realize that the people of Hawaii was used to send the world the wrong message about GMOs, when we know that papaya farms were saved by it. The fact that the anti-GMO/organic proponents are focusing only on Monsanto shows that their bottom line isn’t about sole quality of organic food, but relies on fear and misinformation to maintain profitability. If organic, non-GMO foods were so much better, why not fund studies to show its merits and sell it based on facts?
As I’m having more interactions with environmentalists, the sad truth comes shining through. Marjorie Ziegler, a long time conservationist, made a comment to me on a fishing article today about how it was only okay for pono fishermen to fish the oceans. According to her, if one was a commercial fisherman, that wasn’t pono.
If you look closer at what is being said, those launching the attacks against farmers and fishermen, the very ones who feed people, are the self decided judges of this concept of righteousness. They’ve proudly taken on the role of being the decider or who is allowed to fish and farm because they have decided for themselves that’s their role. Since when has an environmentalist been put at the top of the chain to make unilateral decisions about what happens? It’s as if they think they are God in many ways. This way of thinking shows why communities are divided when they are not capable or working with many parties being affected by policies they back.
It’s very important to save the environment but not to the point where an environmentalists makes decisions about who lives and who dies. There is something very wrong when a person thinks that is their role in life. Shouldn’t we adopt the attitude of how we can improve the lives of people so that they can live the best life they can? Why is it okay for someone who loves to protect nature to discount the lives of those fully intertwined in the environment? There’s a very narcissistic quality about the need to save earth and save themselves first before all others. That’s a selfish way of thinking that one would not want the tables turned on them.
I have to chuckle when a few years back, the community group funded by Pierre Omidyar, Kanu Hawaii, would tout how it was about creating a compassionate Hawaii. Recently, I picked up a Hawaii Center for Food Safety brochure stating Kanu was a supporter. Being anti-GMO and aligning with CFS will not make for a compassionate Hawaii as we have seen and nor is it creating a peaceful world with the stances they support with going organic. The organic industry is leading the charge to block the very tools that would make the world a better, less hungry place. If one is so focused on what you’re eating, that mindset will never allow you to have an ability to be considerate of others who aren’t as privileged. Much of the environmental movement is funded by the wealthy and upper elite using the common man to fight corporations, which is really a hypocrisy.
Changing a life means not only changing yours, but realizing how you can impact others around the world who aren’t as lucky. It’s our responsibility as people who have food in our stomachs and a roof over our heads to give back to others and stop taking away human potential. You wouldn’t want someone denying you to becoming your best, so stop doing it to others.