So, that’s yours truly, above, in the picture with the green shirt and skull mask, sometime circa 2012 at a Babes Against Biotech-organized anti-GMO/Pesticide rally in Kunia. Six years later and I’m still caught in pictures with my sunglasses on my head. My position on pesticides is apparently in opposition. There’s a whole lot to it, so let me break that down a bit.
A pesticide is basically anything that kills pests. People, specifically farmers, often see bugs that eat our crops as pests. Hey, brown-bomber roaches are also pests and you don’t need to farm to know that one. Pesticides can actually be a good thing and organic farmers (like myself) often employ the use of pesticides: chili pepper water with a good squeeze of lemon juice is a nightmare for aphids (not a great bug to farmers). Is chili pepper water and lemon juice bad for human health? Naw, not at all. Well, maybe unless you’re allergic or get it blasted in your eyes (been there, done that).
The pesticides/herbicides/fungicides that are problematic for people are those that are typically synthetic (human-created). These synthetic chemicals, brewed in labs specifically as a deadly cocktail for certain organisms, are often toxic to humans. I’m not a scientist, but the World Health Organization might know a handful that has chimed in on the subject of toxicity. These synthetic chemicals are sprayed on crops and they are left to soak in the soil and when they’re consumed or when subjected to law term exposure (like those families at Kane’ohe Marine Corps Base), they become a significant health risk, or even downright hazard.
So, where does genetically modified organisms (GMOs) come into play here? Well, like pesticides, in general, not all genetic modification is bad. Genetic modification can save an entire species from extinction. However, a great many GMOs were created by companies, like Monsanto, to resist the synthetic chemicals they created. So, farmers can douse an entire field with herbicides (“plant killers”) to kill acres of weeds, and the only plant left remaining is their GMO crop. I’ll admit, as a farmer, clearing acres of weeds is back-breaking work and a snap-of-the-fingers disappearing trick involving weeds is a time-saver. For many farmers, synthetic chemicals help to save time and labor. HOWEVER, those synthetic chemicals are consumed or contaminate the soil, and they are still toxic to human health. And don’t even get me started on neonicotinoids (a synthetic insecticide) and their impact on bee population and how that has and will negatively impact human populations.
Why Is This A Thing For Me?
Why am I talking about this? Three major reasons. One, SB3095 SD1 HD1 CD1 recently passed and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. This measure would ensure mandatory pesticide disclosure, establishes buffer zones for restricted use pesticides (the known toxic kind) near schools during school hours, makes pesticide education a bit more action-oriented utilizing funding through the pesticide revolving fund, and tidies up regulation on pesticide use. The bill is not perfect, but it’s a good first major step in the right direction.
Reason two, people have asked me my position. I built my own candidate website and it’s tedious work – what with everything else going on during campaign season. But, I’ll get to adding my position on various things (as of June 15, 2018 I mainly just have my major platform points). So, here’s my position and I’ll add it to the list of positions I have on a broad spectrum of issues.
Reason three, is that I live in Mililani and its association with synthetic chemical use has impacted me. In the year I was born, 1982, Hawai’i was impacted when it was discovered that heptachlor, a synthetic pesticide used on pineapples that were fed to cows, was found in drinking milk. One year later, Mililani residents were notified that toxic synthetic chemicals were found in their drinking water. The town of Mililani was built on agricultural lands where toxic pesticides were used. My family has been here in this area since time immemorial and we settled in the neighborhoods of Mililani that have sprung up since statehood.
Our long-time residence in this area has had risks. The heart-breaking kind. Eureka was the name of my best friend. My last memory of her is as a child. Eureka died of cancer when she was eight years young (I was five). Her mother, my aunty, would later be told that pesticide exposure during her pregnancy could likely have been the cause. The fight against the use of toxins in our food is a very personal issue for me.
With Koa Ridge soon to be built on agricultural lands where synthetic pesticides have long-been used. My concerns go out for the health and safety of future residents there.
What Have I Done About It?
All sorts of things. I utilized protest. Education: I was invited to and spoke at various community conferences, which included serving as a panelist alongside a former UH Chancellor to address the University of Hawai’i’s involvement with certain GMO corporations. Legislation: In my second year at William S. Richardson School of Law, I drafted legislation that would establish synthetic pesticide prohibitions and a special fund for children suffering from illnesses associated with pesticide use (funded by pesticide purchases) and I presented this measure in 2015 before legislators (Rep. Chris Lee, Rep. Ichiyama, Rep. Cynthia Thielen) and for their consideration. I’ve attached these documents below.
You may not find me always talking about this issue a lot, but this is something that I hold close to me. Mahalo nui for your time.