The Real Poison in Paradise
by Joni Kamiya, Hawaii Farmers Daughter, March 11, 2017 (excerpt)
Just when I thought I couldn’t get more bad news, I did today. My brother, Mike, who recently got diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus and lupus nephritis, received the results of his kidney biopsy. He was found to have stage 3 lupus nephritis and may face some grueling treatment to stop his immune system from attacking his kidneys. Our family is just stunned but hopeful that this is the right course for his long term health. Opening up about this condition has also made me more aware of other family and friends who have the same condition and help me to get support.
As I was talking to him today about his test results, he told me a very disturbing story about last week Friday when he was taken away via ambulance for his allergic reaction to his medication. As he was lying in the emergency room at Kahuku Hospital, he heard a phone call at the nurses’ station that was in earshot of him. The caller had reported that she had seen a farmworker taken off of the field via ambulance and quickly assumed he had been poisoned. She wanted the nurse to get her the DOH Clear Air Branch hotline to assure her that she was not being poisoned. Due to privacy laws, the nurse could not give any details of my brother’s condition. But once again, it is faulty assumptions that create hysteria and it isn’t even near the truth. My brother sat there listening in disbelief at what he had heard.
Apparently, this neighbor by our Punaluu fields quickly jumped to conclusions that my brother had been poisoned and never came to talk to us about what happened. If an ambulance came, wouldn’t a normal person be in worry that someone needed serious help and not assume poisoning? What if it was a heavy equipment accident or a fall in the field? Because of the fabricated fear around pesticides have reached the public, there’s no rational thought anymore. The uninformed public assumes all farms use highly toxic pesticides. I’m sure this woman will be telling her fellow neighbors that she saw someone being poisoned even though that is furthest from the truth. That rumor has a high likelihood of spreading in the anti-GMO forums and other social events to bad mouth our family farm. Instead of seeing if anyone needed help, the witch hunt already started.
Even politicians trained in applied sciences get caught up in this fear. Senator Josh Green responded to my post pointing out the declining resources directed to lead testing in Hawaii and the growing numbers of children who aren’t being monitored.
In Hawaii, we have a large number of old homes that are sources of lead but the funding has gone down significantly. Thanks the CFS, millions of dollars will go to testing of pesticides leaving less for lead testing and prevention. Instead of expanding on the issue at hand, Senator Green pulls out the ad hominen attack which remains false. How is he serving the public interest by not funding a real problem in our state? How is his testing going to continue if there’s no funding and an effort put towards it? Generations of children can be affected by this and no one is protesting it.
When people jump to conclusions and refuse to talk to the farmers, poorly crafted legislation and mass hysteria is created. The anti-GMO, anti-agriculture bill disguised as an anti-pesticide one has done just that in our once tight knit communities. Thanks to Ashley Lukens of the Center for Food Safety, there’s no trust in neighbors as we are seeing. If there were to be an emergency at our farm, these people would be so scared that they probably wouldn’t even bother to help because they’d think we’re poisoned or that the field is poison. The fear she has planted in people’s heads are becoming more deeply rooted that it prevents rational discussion and exchanges or the talk story that used to be common at our farm.
While farmers are accused of poisoning people, the real poison is what the Center for Food Safety has brought to Hawaii. Agriculture can’t survive in this toxic environment where distrust and fear are leading the charge. Ashley Lukens and her ilk want no collaboration with the agricultural community and prefer to stand on lies and deception. You’ll never see he set foot on a farm or bother to take a tour. She takes her little slideshow and scares people then runs when her presentation is questioned. If not, she funds movies where people are a captive audience to watch and believe with no ability to question what was presented. The Food Babe event and even the Vandana tour was all set up so people only nod in agreement and allowed no questions. Thinking is dangerous to this movement that’s built upon deception.
No one will want to farm if you’re going to be found guilty without any evidence. When you’re not truly invested in agriculture, it’s easy to say and do things to destroy it and that is what we see is happening. Our communities cannot heal when people are manipulated in fear and our small farmers have to bear the burden of this toxic environment.