January 31, 2014
Ask your grandparents if respiratory ailments were common when they were growing up. Ask how often they heard about cancer, autism, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies. Did they ever hear of ADD or ADHD?
Chemicals came into our lives 100 years ago and showed up on farms about 60 years ago.
Then, 50 years ago, Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring,” which revealed how DDT was an endocrine disrupter that interferes with hormonal function of estrogen and testosterone. Persistent in the environment, it magnifies in intensity as it bioaccumulates, ending up in humans.
It is just such effects that the manufacturers do their best to hide from farmworkers and the public, often covering up the risks and harm for decades.
This has been true for DDT, glyphosate (Roundup), atrazine, 2, 4-D and DBCP. Organochlorines like aldrin and dieldrin are extremely persistent and accumulate in fatty tissue. Workers chronically exposed to pesticides show deficits in cognitive function. Recent evidence suggests that some pesticides cause developmental neurotoxicity at very lower doses.
In 2009, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. reported using 16 different pesticides including atrazine, Roundup and several other glyphosate strains. Only a few homeowners know that people can request the Department of Health to wipe down a home after HC&S sprays. The few who did got back reports showing the same pesticides sprayed in the fields wound up on their kitchen counters.
Maui Pineapple Co. was permitted to use DBCP long after all other counties in the U.S. had been forced to discontinue its use. While Maui Pine is long gone, the DBCP remains in our aquifers. How many other pesticides are in our aquifers? Who will test those waters?
The newest corporate farm operator is Monsanto, which has more than 1,000 acres on Molokai and hundreds on Maui. Famous as the company that manufactured PCBs and Agent Orange and covered up their human and environmental harm, Monsanto now bills itself as a life science company deploying patented seeds to save the world. It could begin by saving field workers from contamination when using the wide range of restricted-use pesticides it employs and telling the rest of us what, where, when and how much of these pesticides are applied.
What about oversight and protection by the state? Kauai County Council Member Gary Hooser explained: “The DOH has shown no regular, consistent, systematic testing of soil, water or air in the vicinity of these industrial operations . . . and the Department of Agriculture has shown by its past action and inaction that it’s not equipped or interested in accepting the responsibility. The DOA does not even know what pesticides are used, how much is used, nor where they are being used. On Kauai, companies that apply pesticides 250 times per year might be inspected by the DOA seven.”
Meanwhile, people on Kauai’s west side are reporting serious illnesses. Physicians testify that their patients have 10 times the national rate of certain rare birth defects. See stoppoisoningparadise.org. And now mothers on Molokai are reporting a wide variety of health problems amid fears for the health of the sustainable economy there as clouds of pesticides drift into their homes and down over the fishponds. South Maui residents complain of headaches, nausea and respiratory problems. Some report smelling bubble gum, the scent used to mask the pesticides’ smell.
The governor may think Hawaii’s future is in seeds and our mayor might support agriculture until it’s proved unsafe, but we need to stop risking our health for corporate profits. We must be aggressively proactive now to protect our families and the environment. This is a county responsibility.
Thanks to the foresight of Council Member Elle Cochran, there is a bill that is now being heard in Council Chambers. It is a reasonable first step based on the bill that Kauai passed in December. Maui deserves the same level of protection.
Take time to study the bill and learn more about the health risks of Monsanto’s pesticides. Then talk to your neighbors and lawmakers.
* Mark Sheehan, Ph.D., is an educator and health advocate. He manages an organic farm in Haiku.
Many mahalos for passing bill 113 and especially for you remarks about protecting your precious island and supporting community-based farming.
I hope our mayor will wise up to the danger of GMOs and the callous disregard Monsanto has for our people and the aina; and we all hope that he can see the future of Maui and Hawaii is not in “seeds” as the Governor believes (i.e. GMO seeds), but in soil–rebuilding a regenerative and sustainable future growing food for our people instead of worthless crops that export profits and contaminate the islands.
Aloha nui loa,
We agree that in order to protect the health and safety of the citizens and visitors of Maui County, it is imperative to know what chemicals and poisons are being used by Monsanto.
Yet, this memorandum of understanding in no way addresses the potential damaging health effects to humans or animals caused by the various exposures to these chemicals or chemical combination cocktails.
In addition, being given a list of chemicals doesn’t address the very real issue of the probability of irreversible damage being caused to our ground water, aquifers, soils, microbiology, wildlife, environment and all the public trust resources and cultural heritage.
When long term human and animal studies have been completed, and an Environmental Impact Statement has been provided, then and only then will the citizens know what it means to have these chemicals in their lives and be able to make an informed decision as to whether or not they want these chemicals in Maui County anymore.
“Democracy is not a spectator sport.” ~ Tom Hartman
I’ve been asked to explain what the SHAKA Movement is. “Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the Aina”. The bottom line: It’s about preserving paradise for future generation by reclaiming, restoring and revitalizing depleted soil, and growing healthy foods without a dependence on chemicals.
The current pressing issue is the revolt of the masses against the continuous poisoning of our soil, waters and air and all the creatures that depend on them for life. Seems the field workers have been reading the warning labels of chemicals they spray on the HC&S fields and the Monsanto workers are doing the same.
There are growing health concerns in the Filipino community who comprise many of the field workers. While the corporations feel that what they spray is none of our business, consider these pesticides used on sugar: atrazine, triazine, 2,4-D (relative of agent orange), asulam, diuron, ametryn, triclopyr, oxyflurofen, metribuzin, dicamba, propiconazol, hexazinone and these glyphosate brands: Aqua Master aka Rodeo, Polado and Roundup Weather Max.
There are Hawaiian environmental and cultural activists incensed that the precious lands they love and feel called to preserve have been degraded and contaminated by decades of unconscionable AG. (“They get the profits, we get the pollution–for ever!”) They have demonstrated against Kamehameha School leasing lands to Monsanto. Learn more at: HawaiiGMOJustice.org
Then there is “Molokai Moms on a Mission”. Mothers from Kauai to Molokai are both terrified and livid that their children are subject to the ill winds of Monsanto experiments. Prenatal exposure to pesticides account for reduced birth weight, allergies, asthma and lower IQ. The Biotech companies on Kauai plant crops right up to the schoolyard fence! Mom’s in Kihei claim they can smell the pesticides blowing from the Monsanto fields just mauka. There’s a short, useful guide entitled: “A Generation in Jeopardy: How pesticides are undermining our children’s health and intelligence”. www.facebook.com/MolokaiMOM
Maui county’s organic farmers are justifiably concerned that drift from Monsanto’s field will contaminate their crops. While the Maui Farmers Union United prefers to work on positive outcomes, the intense use of chemicals by Monsanto poses an increasing risk to these farmers’ health and livelihood. www.MauiFarmersUnionUnited.org
While corporations don’t disclose their secret sauce, organic growers in Maui county suspect what is used by the biotechs on Kauai is used here. Check out StopPoinsoningParadise.org. Under “Facts” there is a list of restricted use pesticides.
Our County Council members have been hearing from the public who are asking that the county take more responsibility for our health. It is well known that one Council member is very concerned, Elle Cochran. Will Maui County follow the lead of Kauai and Hawaii counties in asking for a ban on GMOs? Hawaii Island Council passed (on first reading as pf this writing) a ban on new GMOs. Kauai County asked for buffer zones around schools and parks, signs of fields and disclosure of pesticides used. With Monsanto buying more land in central Maui, it is the
Maui Council’s responsibility to implement restrictions on where these dangerous pesticides can be used? (What about all the fugitive dust blowing down to Kihei and Wailea!)
Our tourist industry is taking notice as news of the ‘rumble in the jungle’ out here in the subtropics garners more attention in national publications: New York Times, Huffington Post, etc. Might continued publicity be bad for business? It’s great that we’re so popular with tourists, but will they still come when word gets out?
Maui’s health professionals have been meeting to share information regarding patients’ problems. They haven’t reported many antidotes; instead they maintain that prevention is the best policy. One doctor raised the ‘precautionary principle’ which basically says: “if in doubt, don’t use.” Comes now a report showing that Monsanto GM crops damage red blood cells responsible for delivering oxygen to the body. The red blood cells suffer due to a bacterium commonly used as a pesticide on Monsanto crops (Bt). This doctor wants to know if Monsanto is using Bt in their seed corn operations here.
In early October three dozen activists met to discuss tactics to use to defend and protect the aina. A few weeks later, about 150 Mauians attended a SHAKA Movement meeting to learn organizing strategies for fighting back against reckless corporate practices that endanger the public health. Many of them took part in the recent online GMO Mini-Summit that featured speakers like Vandana Shiva and Jeffrey Smith.
What chance do we have from the state legislature when we have representatives who are biotech boosters? Even the Governor is a big fan saying Hawaii’s future is in seeds (as in biotech seeds!). Auwe!
The sugar industry exported molasses and profits, and left us with contaminated soil and aquifers. The biotechs are following suit and they have the cash and the clout to dominate the debate. But the people are rising up, knowing their children’s future requires action.
Are you part of this uprising? Need to know more? Knowledge is critical.
First, get informed, then go to the SHAKA website on your smart phone
or tablet right now and find out where you can plug in. The revolution is
underway and gaining momentum daily. Learn more at: ShakaMovement.org
Mark Sheehan is a real estate broker with a lifelong interest in personal and public health. He can be reached through the http://www.SHAKAMovement.org website.
Thank you for taking a look at my biography. I have a simple slogan that sums up who I am, “Maui’s preservation is my PASSION, real estate is my Profession.”
In addition to my 25-year practice of Real Estate on Maui, I am past president of the Maui Tomorrow foundation, a non-profit corporation dedicated to responsible planning and sound management of Maui’s Natural and cultural resources.