Sunday, December 7, 2008

For a Sustainable Future: Say No to GMOs



It is important for our future to say no to GMOs, genetically modified organisms. Genetically modified organisms are produced by splicing and inserting the genetic material from one species into the DNA of another. Large biotech corporations are changing the nature of nature, patenting and owning life forms, and changing the world as we know it. Biotechnology is a vital issue that impacts all of us, the environment, the plants, the animals, and our planet.
Largely between 1997 and 1999, gene-modified ingredients suddenly appeared in two-thirds of all US processed foods. This food alteration was fueled by a single Supreme Court ruling. It allowed, for the first time, the patenting of life forms for commercialization (Batalion 3). I am unsure that mainstream Americans are ready to face the truth or handle the reality of a GMO future.
Never in a million years would nature cross a papaya with a rat; we should not be eating this, nor breathing the pollens from this. Evidence on studies that have been done lead us to believe that contact with pollens emitted from genetically modified fields can harm our lungs, cause vomiting, disorientation, and learning disabilities—especially in children. These are just a few health risks and hazards that we are learning about. The truth is that GM foods have been released into production without any sound research or studies on effects to humans, animals and most importantly, the bees regarding pollination. Richard Lacey at Leeds University says, “The fact is, it is virtually impossible to even conceive of a testing procedure to assess the health effects of genetically engineered foods when introduced into the food chain, nor is there any valid nutritional or public interest reason for their introduction” (Batalion 57).
There should be enormous public interest, and I think that there would be if the general public was aware of GMOs and how they work. This quote by Nathan Batalion really sums up the enormity of GMOs on the world scale, “We are confronted with what is undoubtedly the single most potent technology the world has ever known – more powerful even than atomic energy. Yet it is being released throughout our environment and deployed with superficial or no risk assessments – as if no one needs to worry an iota about its unparalleled powers to harm life as we know it – and for all future generations” (Batalion 2).

Some important information to be aware of regarding GMOs is that the seeds that have been modified do not continue on. Basically, they are like a mutant and they cannot sustain themselves; they do not produce a seed that will reproduce correctly. The seeds are also made to be “roundup ready”, meaning that you can spray roundup directly on genetically modified plants and they will not die. Because of this, we are facing new super-strain weeds that have built up a resistance to roundup; therefore, farmers would need to use stronger and potentially more dangerous pesticides on these new super-strain weeds. Who knows what the future holds? The sad truth is that no one really knows. We need more studies done, and we need them right away. A lot of the GM food plants, such as corn, have toxins that kill the bugs and insects that eat them. Because of this, we are facing new threats and dangers to our bee population nation-wide.
Now, all of our honey bees in our nation are mysteriously dying. Some say that it could be related to the Bt corn pollen (Bt is a toxin that kills the insects that eat it) found in GMO corn plants that are now produced across the U.S. by the thousands of acres (Teitel and Wilson 26). Einstein once said: “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more animals, no more man” (Qtd. By Noonan in the Haleakala Times). Our nation needs to wake up, take notice and take a stand. Our life, health and planet depend on it.
Long time Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte became involved with spreading awareness on genetically modified organisms in 2005 by leading protest demonstrations against Monsanto Corporation (our nations largest GMO seed producer) Hawaiian Research located on Moloka’i, according to The Maui News article “GMO Activists March at Meeting Site.” In the spring of 2006, Ritte and hundreds of fellow demonstrators got into a confrontation with the University of Hawai’i; they were protesting work on the genetic modification and patenting of taro. Hawaiians won, and the University of Hawai’i dropped their patent. Taro or Haloa is the first ancestor of all Hawaiian people in the Hawaiian cosmogony. “Basically, we contributed to the global debate about owning life forms,” Ritte says. “We just gave the argument an understandable Hawaiian vision, to make it clearer. The kaona (secondary or hidden meaning) of the taro fight is that you can’t own life forms because you’re not God. If you understand the Hawaiian point of view, then maybe you understand why life forms can’t be owned” (Sanburn). Now, three years later, farmers, students, and native Hawaiian activists are still protesting at the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to hold a hearing on a Senate bill that would ban research and cultivation of genetically engineered taro. “In a heated discussion in the Capitol courtyard, activist Walter Ritte yelled ‘This is not about research. This is about changing the genes of our ancestors. That’s what this is about’” (Bernardo). “In order for the activists to come to a split,” Ritte told a Maui newspaper, “people have to be tired of fighting. I’m tired of fighting, too, but you cannot give up your heart and soul because you are tired” (Sanburn). What’s next for Walter Ritte? “I’m going to build our nation,” he says firmly. “We have to build it one person at a time” (Sanburn). Walter Ritte is one of our many inspirational activists that has and still does impact Hawai’i continually by taking a stand.
Ono Organic Fruit Farm, located in Kipahulu, has also impacted Hawai’i and Maui County in particular, in a very positive way. They are one of only two (Kumu Farms on Moloka’i is the other) completely certified organic farm left in Hawaii, meaning that they are GMO free. To be “certified” organic you must be GMO and pesticide free. Ono Farms is currently one of the leaders as far as educating Maui County and the general public of Hawaii on the ill effects of GMOs. Chuck Boerner, owner of Ono Organic Fruit Farm, has made it his goal to designate Maui County as a GMO-free place. He says, “You can have Big Island and Oahu. It’s pretty much too late for them, but not Maui County. You can’t have it. I will fight to the end, until I have my way.” He also told me that if anyone is interested in acquiring “GMO free” papaya seeds “Come and purchase seeds from me. I am bagging my flowers to help insure that our seeds remain GMO free from cross pollination from the bees.” There is plenty evidence, now becoming available, to back up his claims on the ill effects and harmful impacts of GMOs. Ono Farms has also taken action to ensure that Kipahulu is a completely GMO free zone, and this is currently the only GMO free zone in the entire state of Hawaii.
Chuck and his wife Lilly both agree and state that we need more studies done on the impacts of GMOs, “We do not have enough information and our health is being compromised. In fact, we as a nation are being used as guinea pigs” and that is certainly scary. Countries like New Zealand, Japan, Europe, Australia, Argentina, and Venezuela all refuse any GMO foods and products and have strict regulations against them. Only here in the United States, the government keeps us in the dark. We are being fed GMO products every day, and most of us are unaware of it. Right now, the US is feeding GMO foods to our people without proper studies on harmful effects and impacts related to GMOs. I think that most of us would want to know that the papayas we are eating are crossed with the DNA genes of a rat and that corn and soy are crossed with a scorpion. All non-organic dairy products contain the growth hormone rbGH (bovine growth hormone), which is genetically modified by Monsanto Corporation. Most of all commercially produced food products contain GM food. For example, all corn and soy products, cereal, oil, corn syrup and sweeteners, corn flour, soy milk, tofu, mayonnaise and many others are made from GM food products. All of these products, for the most part, are genetically modified unless they are “certified organic”, and even then, it is becoming harder to ensure that organic farms remain organic due to cross pollination with GMO modified fields.
One way to reduce our intake of GM foods is to buy and grow organic food. Also, we must insist that our labels on products containing GM foods be made public. We have a right to know what we are eating. It should be mandatory for the producers of GM foods to put labeling on their product.
I feel a deep sense of pride in myself, and my family, Chuck and Lilly Boerner, for taking a stand and guarding our island way of life. If we are to prosper and be healthy, we need a sustainable future for ourselves today, and for the children and the future generations to come. Organic farming and living is the key to our future. It is sustainable, clean, renewable, and it benefits our islands and our world. We as individuals, families, communities, islands and nations must become as one and unite. We must take a stand; our life, our species and our earth depends on it.

Here is a clip from youtube that is from when Walter and company locked the UH board of regents last year to get the message accross for hearings on GMOs. I am having trouble to post youtube clips but go visit.

Works Cited

Batalion, Nathan. 50 Harmful Effects of Genetically Modified Foods. Americans for Safe Food: 2000.

18 Apr. 2007

Bernardo, Rosemary. “Critics raise voices for bill to be heard.” 31 Mar. 2007. 5 Apr.
Boerner, Chuck & Lilly. Personal interview. 10 Apr.2007
“GMO activists march at meeting site.” The Maui News 4 Nov. 2005. 3 Apr. 2007
Sanburn, Curt. “A Road Less Taken.” Hana Hou! The Magazine of Hawaiian Airlines
Feb/Mar. 2007: 64-73.
Teitel, Martin., and Kimberly A. Wilson. Genetically Engineered Food, Changing the Nature of Nature,
What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself, Your family, and our Planet. Vermont: Park Street
Press, 1999, 2001.

This was a research and take a stand paper that I did last year. I wanted to post it because it affects all of us and I believe that spreading awareness is important. Mahalo Annjulie


kalamahina said...

It's good to see more anti-GMO information out there. However, some good news for you: there are at least 150 certified organic producers in Hawai'i - a far higher number than the 2 you say in your blog post above. Keep up the good work. Aloha!

annjulie said...

I was only refering to CERTIFIED ORGANIC PAPAYA growers in the state!! I am aware that there are other certified organic produce growers in the state. Chuck Boerner is my uncle and I grew up on Ono Farms, this info he told me last year so that may have changed, but I do not see any other organic papayas in the stores. Mahalo for your comment.

kalamahina said...

Oh, sorry, i misunderstood. There are very few certified organic papaya growers left, that is sadly true. Kumu farms distributes papayas from other growers, though; there are still a number of certified organic papaya farms on Molokai.

How lucky for you to have grown up in such a wonderful place!