“Hawaiians showed up in force today,” exclaimed Molokai’s Walter Ritte, kicking off Dr. Vandana Shiva’s talk in Kapolei Jan. 16 by recapping the day’s march and rally at the Capitol. “Let’s be the leaders,” Ritte urged. “We are going to pass a [genetically modified organism] labeling bill in the state of Hawaii this year.”
Upon each seat at the Salvation Army Ray Kroc Center lay a free copy of Facing Hawaii’s Future: Essential Information About GMOs from Hawaii SEED. Jeri DiPietro, the organization’s president, pointed out that the reason there’s no way to pin disease to GMOs is because there’s no control group for a study. The crowd murmurs reached the microphone: “We are the guinea pigs . . .”
Fatal Harvest author Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, took the crowd on a historical yet humorous journey through seed patenting and biotechnology. His timeline revealed how war chemical companies of the past have become the agricultural conglomerates of today. He reminded us that the USDA used to give away seeds and encourage seed saving, but now corporate profits have “occupied the seed” through genetic engineering and patenting.
It’s time to reoccupy the seed, Kimbrell urged. “There is no feeding the world, there is no drought resistance, there is no less pesticide. This technology is about chemical companies selling chemicals,” he said. By listing all the genetically modified products and patenting of life forms that have been defeated through persistent legal efforts, Kimbrell gave the crowd hope.
“Biotechnology companies are not growing food, they are growing commodities,” said Dr. Vandana Shiva, whose visit was co-sponsored by Hawaii SEED and the CERES Trust. “Eighty percent of the food in the world comes from small farms.”
Due to industrial farming and genetic engineering, Shiva said, water, soil and overall ecological health in communities around the world are degraded. This industry pushes out small farmers, criminalizes diversity and causes food insecurity, which leads to malnutrition on a global scale, she said.
Shiva wrapped up with a slogan India’s women farmers have used to defend their rice from foreign profiteering: “Quit India.” She added, to rising applause and cheers from the crowd, “Tell Monsanto, Quit Hawaii!”
The event can be viewed on FOCUS 49 on Jan. 31 at 10 p.m.