Diary

Facing the future

Hawaii SEED releases anti-GMO primer

Bruddah Iz brought the phrase ‘facing future’ into public awareness with his landmark CD by that name.

Now that concept of looking ahead in a conscious way is surfacing in another art form, a small, independently published book entitled Facing Hawaii’s Future: Harvesting Essential Information About GMOs.

Literally a grassroots effort, the 72-page soft-bound book was compiled and largely written by local residents who have been monitoring –and generally opposing–Hawai’i’s growing popularity as a place to cultivate genetically modified crops, most of them experimental.

In the 18 years since Hawai’i’s volcanic soil nurtured test crops of the first GMO plant to hit the market–the Flavr-Savr tomato, which had a fish gene inserted to promote longer shelf life–the state has become the world leader in open field experiments.

Thousands of tests have been conducted throughout the Islands, and some have grown biopharmaceuticals–plants genetically engineered to produce drugs and other industrial compounds. Nearly always, transgenic crops are cultivated in locations kept secret from the public.

State agencies and the University of Hawai’i have embraced the big bucks-backed biotechnology industry in general and GMO ag in particular, successfully creating a papaya resistant–at least, for a time–to the deadly ringspot virus and subjecting numerous local crops, including coffee and taro, to transgenic tinkering.

This tightly woven web of big money and power has been rent on several occasions by local activists who see GMO crops, according to literature that accompanies the book, as ‘a radical agricultural technology’ posing grave risks to human health, nature and sustainable farming. They’ve testified before state and county lawmakers and bureaucrats, staged protests, mounted legal challenges and–perhaps most importantly–pushed to make Hawai’i’s complacent citizenry a little more akamai.

Facing Hawaii’s Future is offered as a primer, instructing the reader in the overall issue and local ramifications. Short, readable essays touch on such topics as the science of genetic engineering, public health, owning life forms, Hawaiian perspectives, unintended consequences and moral implications.

Those familiar with Hawai’i’s GMO movement will recognize Mililani Trask, Nancy Redfeather, Dr. Lorrin Pang, Melanie Bondera, Bill Freese, Paul Achitoff and Walter Ritte among the book’s contributors.

Although Facing Hawaii’s Future is a project of Hawaii SEED, a statewide consortium of GMO-free groups, it isn’t propaganda. The writing generally avoids rhetoric and six pages are devoted to references, by chapter. Best of all, it includes a list of resource groups, books, videos and websites so readers can educate themselves.

The book costs $5.95 and can be purchased now at dozens of outlets on O’ahu and Neighbor Islands. It soon will be available at public libraries around the state and at [www.hawaiiseed.org].