***Commentary*** — New York Times Covers GMO Ban

Did you see the New York Times article about this county’s GMO ban? I found it both interesting and amusing that Greggor Ilagan was cast as the hero on his journey to ultimately vote against the ban. As sensational as the story was, it did highlight the fact that the GMO ban was one of the greatest shit shows we have seen from the Hawaii County Council, more so than geothermal or even marijuana. And Puna really has been marked as anti-eatablishment, for better or worse.  Although your eyes may have rolled once or twice or throughout this article, you really have to admit, the coverage is great for our island!

38 replies
  1. Obie
    Obie says:

    This article wasn’t about a gmo ban or the county,it was about Greggor.
    He showed great integrity and courage with his vote !

  2. Hawaiino
    Hawaiino says:

    Aloha Tiffany
    I read the article as well, before I reply to your comments could you please elaborate on the term “shitshow”? Its a bit ambiguous…

  3. Hawaiino
    Hawaiino says:


    This article was about the GMO ban. Greggor was a literary device used to develop the story. He was opposed to the bill from the beginning. The Pulitzer Prize winning author of the article uses Greggors “novice monk” experiences to describe all the weaknesses in the supporting arguments provided by the bills proponents. The reporter questions the rationality but stops short of questioning the motives of the author/proponents. One wonders why? That’s the “meat” of this story.

    It was interesting to learn where Wylie comes from, and is coming from. It’s a long way from here.

    If you recall Greggor was opposed long before Seralini was exposed as a fraud and the Yogic flying master/ expert witness testified.

  4. sada anand kaur
    sada anand kaur says:

    While I respect Greggor Ilagan for his vote to ban fracking on our island, I think he got overwhelmed by volume of GMO testimony & overly influenced by special interests, losing sight of representing his entire constituency.
    Am proud of our County council’s perseverance in the months of focused attention in this most issue.
    We have garnered world attention & grand opportunity to maximize our local organic agro/sustainability modeling/eco tourism.

  5. Hugh Clark
    Hugh Clark says:

    Ms. Harman identifies Councilwoman Wille as “passionate” but also outlines her unreliability and almost fraudulent arguments.

    The “attorney” needs a full reassessment by Kohala voters.Her assertion that GMO cotton led to Indian suicides was pretty far out there. Other council folks probably need to assess following her as well.

    I learned more in the 16 pages of NYT story I printed out than I did in all other coverage combined over months of red-hot headlines and repeated claims that turned out to be invalid or dubious.

    Makes our Big Island appear more like a Salem witch hunt society than a clear thinking, deliberative one.

  6. punated
    punated says:

    Greggor deserves credit for standing up against this Punatic Paranoid bullying. He seemed kind of weak and timid in the beginning, and it wasn’t hard to see the Punatic Bozo Alliance thought they had another politician in their back pocket. The bill was just a bad bill, just introducing more bureaucracy and most bizarre, only holds small local farmers culpable.

    This anti-science movement that is growing on Hawaii island is not a characteristic of the Democratic party. Anti-science is fundamental to the Teapublican party. While the Teapublican party is unraveling on the mainland, Hawaii is behind as usual and the right wing is trying to get traction, mainly because a lot of the retirees making up the population growth are right wingers. (The only growth in Puna population is from failed developments becoming mainlander retirement communities).

    This anti-GMO movement is going to fade like the Fake Moon Landing movement, the anti-vaccine movement, and several other anti-science movements. The Luddites have been around for over a century and their ilk have been around since before the taming of fire (they thought that was not a natural thing to be doing). Puna would be much better served by not catering to the fringe as if they were some kind of majority, they aren’t. However, the fringe is becoming more and more the norm, so we will find out what it is like when the asylum is being run by the inmates.

  7. Geoff Shaw
    Geoff Shaw says:

    This article is media manipulation plain and simple and I think the big question is why the New York Times cares so much about this fairly benign legislation from Hawaii County. The facts are that the farmers that are presently using this technology are exempt and contrary to what Richard Ha says there is an amendment that would make it possible for another exemption if some problem arises in commercial agriculture on this island that has a GMO remedy. In the meantime if the GMO squash starts to dominate the market share on the mainland I can ask the local grocer if the Zucchini on their shelf is locally grown and if he says yes then I can feel confident that it isn’t GMO. I know you pro-science folks think I shouldn’t give a rat’s ass what I eat but I feel that if I do care then I have a right to make an informed choice. Right now that informed choice does not exist and this legislation is a reaction to that reality and I respect the people who stood up and tried to find some common ground. If the science behind genetic modification is so solid then they have no need to send in the hounds from the NYT to question our motives, that solid science will vindicate itself. That being said this issue is far from being merely a scientific issue, it is really an economic one and if you scratch the surface you will realize that their intentions are not noble. If it was really about the science the products they would market would be items you eat by themselves and they would have them distributed to certain locations, they would analyze data from those locations and compare it to what is happening elsewhere. It is not about science, folks, it is about dominating markets and Bill 113 is nothing but a speed bump in their paths but we need as many speed bumps as we can put out there because people who want to dominate food markets do not have good intentions.

  8. John
    John says:

    I actually Googled “hijoiner ney” to make sure it was, as I thought, an auto-complete flubbing of “his journey”, and not some new jargon those kids today are using.

  9. Richard Ha
    Richard Ha says:

    The problem with the anti GMO bill is that it makes the Big Island less food secure than more food secure.
    Only Big Island farmers are prohibited from using new bio tech developments. This will make Big Island farmers less competitive in the future. When plants are developed that can make its own nitrogen fertilizer, Big Island farmers won’t be able to use it. Because of the threat of pollen drift, open air testing is prohibited in this bill. Bananas and other don’t have seeds. Why no open air testing for those? It is true that there is an emergency exemption if the farmer can show economic harm. But, it takes time that
    Farmers may not have. If the Big farmer wanted to grow a plant that everyone in the nation could grow the Big Island farmer will be criminalized. The president of the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association asks why they are singled out and required to register their location and pesticide usage? He says, the farmers are treated like sex offenders. It’s not what they say its what they do!

  10. Geoff Shaw
    Geoff Shaw says:

    First of all biotech solutions are not something that happens in the blink of an eye so there will be plenty of time for the farmers to make their case if this situation arises. Second of all registration is a fairly common thing, all legal motorized vehicles are registered, every viable business is registered with the tax dept., every establishment that deals with liquor is registered with the liquor board so there are plenty of situations comparable to registering your farm to grow a GMO crop that is exempt that make way more sense than comparing yourself to a sex-offender. If the Papaya farmers want to succeed in business they have to get off the persecution train and start to stand behind their product. If they truly believe it is safe just come out and say it and be proud of your product, that is what works, not sulking because now you were given an exemption but you have to pay an extra $100 for registration. There is probably more reason to believe that Bill 113 will make us more food secure than less food secure, to start off if you want to have an organic farm or even a so-called conventional farm that tries to minimize chemical usage you have less of a concern that your neighbor will have a GMO crop that can contaminate yours. The farmers of Hawaii island can establish a brand that none of the other islands in the chain can at this time. When it comes to food security the big issues are things like irrigation and soil conservation and if we ever want to be serious about this issue we have to find a way to encourage farmers to grow food for local consumption because while we may import 90% of our food we also export 85% of what we grow here.

  11. Hugh Clark
    Hugh Clark says:

    But you are Ms Frankenstein, complete with the inability to discern, watch, listen or read, per your own repeated admissions.

    A human being proud of being fully misinformed and “home schooled”, as you have confessed. I have been to Romania. That could be your niche…

  12. Richard Ha
    Richard Ha says:

    Geoff, what is your expertise in growing food. I am told you are into ceramic bowls, etc. I would not try to be an expert in your field. Why should we listen to you!

  13. Obie
    Obie says:

    ” Second of all registration is a fairly common thing, all legal motorized vehicles are registered, every viable business is registered with the tax dept., every establishment that deals with liquor is registered with the liquor board so there are plenty of situations comparable to registering your farm to grow a GMO ”

    Why not register anyone that plants any crop ????

    Why discriminate ????

  14. tia
    tia says:

    Good thing you are no longer a journalist because you can’t seem to leave personal biases out of a conversation. CNN and Fox could use shotty “reporting” though so you may be useful after all.

  15. JT
    JT says:

    Register for GMO? You’ve got to be kidding! Any vehicle, alcohol, or crop I choose to grow on my little piece of the island is my business. I feel pretty secure about that position because there isn’t really any budget or meat to enforce the stupid regulation. Law? Not on my land!

  16. punated
    punated says:

    It has been no secret the anti-GMO movement is heavily funded by several large groups on the mainland. The question would be what is the motivation to invest so much money into demonizing GMO, especially when the corporate farming industry knows GMO is almost totally responsible for being able to feed a human population that is now approaching geometric growth?

    And yesterday’s news shows the why. General Mills has announced they will be selling a GMO-free version of Cheerios. Notice, it will be another product line, not a replacement of the Cheerios line. What is the bet it will be at least 30% more than the now-identified-by-default GMO Cheerios? Large groups of people act more like cow herds than anything remarkably human, so easily manipulated and directed.

    You saw it here first, GMO-Free will be the new label, so there will be no need for GMO labeling. If it doesn’t have an authorized GMO-Free ™ label, then it will by default be GMO. It’s such a grand plan, it’s almost like some marketing and advertising came up with it, just like sub prime loans.

  17. tia
    tia says:

    any “crop I choose to grow on my little piece of the island is my business.” JT, have you not seen the vultures buzzing above? Anything you do now requires blood and they can smell you just fine.

  18. tia
    tia says:

    any “crop I choose to grow on my little piece of the island is my business.” JT, have you not seen the vultures buzzing above? Anything you do now requires blood and they can smell you just fine. Actually, these vultures can now buzz for GMO’s at gun point. I’d rather that my extorted tax go towards this.

  19. tia
    tia says:

    Frankly, you don’t need to be a farmer to know that GMO’s, chemicals, poisons, are bad news. The “farmers” who refute this are not really farmers at all.

  20. NeighborWatch
    NeighborWatch says:

    for the 3 pro GMO people,
    “Business Insider blows the lid off Hawaiian sovereignty AND GMOs continuing the agricultural monopoly and Hawaiian Kingdom takeover by foreign business interests! Read “King Dayne Aipoalani’s Story May Convince You That Hawaii Belongs To The Hawaiians” http://www.businessinsider.com/hawaiian-sovereignty-movement-atooi-kingdom-2014-1?op=1 Did you know the Hawaiian kapu dictated that if a chief had starving people in his district he would be exiled or put to death? And here we are importing 94% of our food, our increasing cost of living, this fake government is gifting our land to foreign developers and corporations, using Hawaii’s agricultural land for chemical companies to genetically experiment on and continue to dump toxic pesticides and chemicals on Hawaii for faster agricultural profit and turnover at any cost to the health of the land and the people? To do what the sugar cane and the pineapple foreign interests have done even further and moreso while tampering with our water, genetics, food security and endangered species? No. Hawaiians have become an endangered species and something has got to give. Hawaii will rise again, and when it does, GMOs are HISTORY over here. Mahalo ke Akua. It’s time.”

  21. tia
    tia says:

    Go, Brenda Ford! Complete ban of GMO’s! Restore the aina

    Tribune-Herald staff writer
    A month has passed since Mayor Billy Kenoi signed Bill 113, limiting the use of genetically engineered crops on the Big Island, but the Hawaii County Council may still get a second helping of the contentious issue.

    Ka‘u/South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford is bringing her own bill that would ban all modified crops back for discussion after the council’s Public Safety and Mass Transit Committee voted it down last September.

    Ford, who chairs the committee, had placed it on today’s committee agenda but said Monday she was postponing the meeting because she is “severely under the weather.” She plans to bring it back in about a month.

    Ford’s bill would go further than Bill 113 by banning all genetically altered crops within 30 days. The legislation the council adopted bans open-air use of modified plants with exemptions for those already growing them.

    Ford was the only vote in favor of her bill when it was defeated.

    Due to a council rule, the bill had to be sent to the Environmental Management Commission for review since it involved the county’s Environmental Management Department. That move kept the bill alive after the vote.

    The commission gave it a negative recommendation Oct. 30.

    Ford said she doesn’t expect it to pass and defended bringing her bill back while the county is already starting to implement Bill 113.

    “I don’t think it’s a waste of time,” she said, adding the council needs to have a discussion about “where we go from here.”

    Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, who introduced Bill 113, said she supports having Ford’s bill being discussed again but she also isn’t confident it would pass.

    “I just see it as an opportunity to look ahead,” Wille said.

    Several council members have voiced support for letting the county implement Wille’s bill before taking any other action.

    A proposed ad hoc committee, which would have further studied the issue, failed to get support partially for that reason.

    “I think we’re done,” said Council Chair J Yoshimoto. “We spent a lot of time on testimony.

    “The council decided as far as the issue itself.”

    Wille’s bill puts the county Research and Development Department in charge of registering exempted growers.

    Those include papaya farmers, who use a variety resistant to the ringspot virus, and the Big Island Dairy. The dairy grows transgenic corn for feed.

    Donn Mende, Research and Development Department deputy director, said he expects the registry to be in place soon but couldn’t say when.

    Exempted growers have 90 days to register after the bill was signed. The University of Hawaii and other research institutions are also required to register.

    The fee is $100 a year.

    “We’re trying to make sure we follow the right steps,” Mende said.

    While exempted growers will be asked to register, catching those who don’t may be challenging.

    Mende said the department wasn’t given authority to enforce the law.

    “We’re responsible for the registry,” he said. “We’re not responsible for enforcement.”

    Violators could face fines of $1,000 per day for each violation.

    Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.


  22. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    “Sooner or later,
    it’s now or never.
    Don’t you think it’s just about time?”
    – A message from –
    “Farmers Who Care About The Soil, Air, Water,
    And Seven Generations, Lamenting The Collapse Of The
    Biosphere”, ‘FWCATSAWASGLTCOTB’.
    Tell your children we betrayed them.

  23. Richard Ha
    Richard Ha says:


    The Rural Redevelopment Council, the folks who did 29 showings of the documentary Seeds of hope all around the state, had the audience fill out a questionnaire. http://hahaha.hamakuasprings.com/2014/01/how-things-work-a-disconnect.html The result was that most of the people felt that Food Security was number one. Of all the questions GMO’s was number six. It was last on the most important list. Us farmers have been saying over and over that we must have a discussion about food security.

  24. punated
    punated says:

    More local political corruption behind anti-GMO movement financing. The anti-GMO movement is unraveling as it is being found out it is a scheme from several mainland organic farming groups to undermine GMO produce in favor of more expensive organic produce. It also appears to be motivated by taking away options from small farmers, causing them to fail. It might be time to investigate Ford, Wille and Ruderman for their political ties.


    GLP Investigation: Anti-GMO money flooding into Molokai, funding Hawai’i “grassroots” protests

    The Genetic Literacy Project previously uncovered how Molokai anti-GMO activist Walter Ritte violated Hawai’i election financing and disclosure regulations. Now there is growing evidence that Ritte and activist organizations have collected more than a million dollars from anti-GMO advocacy groups on the mainland to fund their campaigns.

    The GLP’s investigation focused in part on Hawai’i Seed, which appears to be funded substantially by an activist Minnesota foundation known as Ceres Trust, which calls itself an “organic research” organization, but is actually a huge endowment fund that mostly funnels money to anti-GMO campaigns. The trust fund recipients—well-known anti-GMO activists on the mainland—paid out campaign contributions directly, and based on Ritte’s filing, illegally, to his failed race for a vacant seat on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

    Ritte also listed a contribution from Susan and John Scarlett (CEO of Geron, a biotechnology company based in Menlo Park, CA). Ritte is Scarlett’s first cousin. Apparently to hide the fact that the money was coming from the mainland, the Ritte campaign listed their address as a bed and breakfast establishment—a misrepresentation and a direct violation of campaign law. More than 80% of Ritte’s campaign money came from out-of-state contributors—an additional violation of the spending law.

    Astroturfing with mainland money

    In 1985, then Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen suddenly found his office besieged by letters and calls that appeared to have been sent spontaneously by concerned citizens. These were actually generated by a well-financed behind-the-scenes campaign by the insurance industry. “A fellow from Texas can tell the difference between grassroots and astroturf,” Bentsen said.

    That’s the derivation of the term “astroturfing”— the difference between the synthetic and the real, between manipulated and hyped support for a position by a vocal minority and the genuine expression of reason and majority opinion.

    Is astroturfing what’s going on in Hawaii? As Derrick DePledge noted in a meticulously documented exposé of the mainland cash cows in Sunday’s Hawaii Star Advertiser, Councilman Gary Hooser, who has led the GMO demonization campaign in Kauai County, often describes the anti-GMO movement as the ‘greatest show of grass-roots democracy in the island’s history’.

    But research by the GLP and the Star-Advertiser suggests that Ritte and other activist groups have been engaging in astroturfing in its effort to exaggerate the alleged dangers of genetically modified crops and foods, and the out of state bankroll for almost all of the efforts.

    The GLP briefly addressed the role of CERES in its early September article. Besides funding Ritte directly, over 2010-2011, the last two years for which records are available, CERES pumped more than $1.5 million dollars into national and Hawaii anti-GMO coffers, with a sizable percentage of the national money targeted on Hawai’i.

    CERES Anti-GMO Contributions


    E Kupaku ka ‘Aina —Hawai‘i Land Restoration Institute $340,307

    Hawai‘i SEED. $145,490

    Kohala Center $40,000

    Bishop Museum $31,027

    Center for Food Safety, Washington, D.C. $550,000


    Center for Food Safety, Washington, D.C $650,000

    The case of E Kupaku ka ‘Aina (aka Hawai‘i Land Restoration Institute), illustrates how astroturfing can work. In 2010, it received more than $11,000 in grants. But in 2011, that shot up to more than $313,00 with the injection of CERES funds, and as of 2011, it was sitting on more than $200,000 in cash.

    It’s listed with the IRS as a charitable 5013c, claiming its mission is “environmental beautification” and to “restore degraded landscapes.” But it’s acted in part as an anti-GMO front. Penny Levin, the institute’s executive director has spoken out against using genetic modification to address a viral blight that could threaten the taro crop. Levin has also spearheaded anti-GMO talks, co-sponsored by CERES, as recently as last month on Molokai.

    The Center for Food Safety (CFS), the Washington, DC based advocacy group known for its opposition to conventional agriculture, including crop biotechnology, has been acting as a financial funnel to Hawai’i groups for years. CERES provided $1.2 million to CFS in 2010 and 2011 alone, a sizable chunk of it earmarked for “grassroots” efforts in Hawai’i, including support of Ritte. Ritte, who has served as a past board director of Hawai’i Seed, and CFS director Andrew Kimbel appeared together at a Hawai’i SEED event in January, when Ritte accused elected officials on the island of corruption and supported “driving these criminals off this island.”

    The Sacharuna Foundation, a Virginia-based private foundation started by Lavinia Currier, an heiress and former filmmaker who has ranch property on Molokai, donated $257,400 to CFS from 2005 to 2010. Currier also gave $68,750 to Hawai‘i SEED from 2005 to 2011.

    The Sacharuna Foundation also donated to two anti-GMO groups with ties to activist Nancy Redfeather, founder of GMO Free Hawai’i, who regularly organizes anti-GMO events and acts as a coordinator to fly in anti-GMO speakers. Ka Ohana o na Pua received $53,000 from 2005-2011 and the Kohala Center in Waimea accepted $40,000 in 2011. Both groups claim to promote “agricultural education,” but they are known for presenting scientifically questionable views about crop biotechnology.

    Figures are not yet available on Guidestar on Sacharuna for 2012 and 2013, but based on the escalating activism and the almost daily visits by mainland and international anti-GMO activists, the dollar contributions are almost certainly considerably higher.

    Ritte acknowledged to the Star-Advertiser that he has been a recipient of this mainland largesse and that it’s helped fund organizing efforts and activist travel. Hooser, who and Council members in Hawaii, have also benefitted from the mainland money funnel, working closely with the Center for Food Safety and Earth Justice in coordinating their legal efforts.

    Molokai connection

    The money has been also been used to sponsor local “educational” activities that often end up being fronts for many anti-GMO activities. One of the more active groups is the Molokai Community Service Council (MCSC), which is an umbrella group for many small organizations, some of which are uncontroversial. But it has developed a decidedly activist edge in recent years, spurred on by director Karen Holt, who many consider a silent partner of Ritte and the Molokai activists.

    According to their most recent tax returns for fiscal year 20110, it received $1.47 Million in income and had net assets of $2.3 Million. Where did that money come from? The pages of their tax returns that should list the source of that income is mysteriously missing from the Guidestar databank or in statewide documents.

    MCSC runs the Ho`omana Hou High School, which has been engaged in anti-seed industry activities for years. In March 2012, Hoomanu Hou staff members and Ritte, acting as their ‘adult supervisor’, went so far as to bring students to a Molokai Irrigation System Users Advisory Board to lobby government official Russell Kokubun, Hawai’i Department of Agriculture Director, who was participating in the meeting.

    MCSC also paid Hui o Kuapa, which Walter Ritte is listed as Agent and is a Director, more than $200,000 in 2010 for what many residents believe was a make-work project, a fishpond restoration. More than half of those funds are not accounted for according to both organizations federal 990 tax returns.

    MCSC was also listed as one of the event sponsors of the September 2012 anti-GMO Molokai event, titled “Occupy Monsanto: Global Action Against Genetic Biohazard,” which brought in anti-GMO speakers, organic activist Hector Valenzuela, and Paul Achitof from Earth Justice Hawaii. That event was organized by Molokai MOM, an anti-GMO group that is not legally registered as a charity and is run by the wife of Walter Ritte’s son, Mercy Ritte.

    Molokai MOM also sponsored what organizers characterized as a “grassroots” benefit concert on July 5th of this year. Approximately 80% of the funding came from Hawai’i Seed Director Jeri DiPietro and 4% from her father in law, Ritte. Other notable contributors were Maui County Council member and prominent anti-GMO activists Eleanora Cochran, filmmaker Natasha Florentino and Nancy Redfeather.

    Using non-profit funds to lobby public officials and influence legislation is a violation of the federal government’s charitable guidelines for MCSC and Hawai’i Seed and could put their tax-free status in jeopardy—and certainly confirms their role as astroturfing organizations, funneling mainland anti-GMO money.

  25. greg owen
    greg owen says:

    Just because one is against gmos ,to my mind does not necessarily mean anti science.There are often extremely destructive results from applied technology.I believe most people would have a short,or perhaps a very long list of destructive technologies,and even places where such things are not apprropriate,such as automatic weapons.Gmos and their handmaidens-heavy pesticide use- do not belong in hawaii.All the whining,sniping gmo propnents are on the wrong side of history.Hawaii’s anti gmo movement is truly a democratic phenomona,and the pro types can neither stomach or fathom this.And to say this movement is a fad is ludicrous.Just wait to see what happens next…..and if any of you want a real life,non theoretical experience go to Kapoho Crater and breathe deeply the toxic ag fumes from the poisons being sprayed right next to homes on catchment systems…..wait till the Japaneses hear that malathion is sprayed on papayas!many japanese were poisoned this past week from malsathion in their foods!

  26. Obie
    Obie says:

    Ah Tia

    You posted a link to about 5 people who disagreed with the article.There are many thousands who think it’s a good article and they wonder if all of the people living in Hawaii are as whacked out as you !!!

  27. Richard Ha
    Richard Ha says:

    Greg Owens. Have you reported the toxic fumes and sprays next to catchment systems? Please let us know
    On the rest, you have a right to your opinion. http://hahaha.hamakuasprings.com/2014/01/how-things-work-a-disconnect.html. This survey that was taken at 30 or so showings of the film seeds of hope all over the state indicate that Food Security was the top concern. And, GMO’s was number 5 on the list of concern. We have not had a serious discussion about food security. We need to do this

  28. greg owen
    greg owen says:

    Yes i reported these abuses to both the Dept of Health and the Dept of Ag-30 years ago!No kidding…I asked Sharon Murphy ,an atty. from Keaaau to set up a meeting which she attende and also the director of the Dept. of Health….among others Aaron Anderson was there.We aired our grieviences and absolutely nothing was done!Also of note was Richard Ha’s spraying of banana fields with an airplane…i think it was around 1980…Remember this Richard?

  29. greg owen
    greg owen says:

    And richard i called you up on the phone oe to compain…the airplane was from Murray Air…what were you spraying?

  30. tia
    tia says:

    OMG, forgive me O & H. I’ve sunken down to your level. It’s an ugly place. Please retract my previous statement.

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