Letters — A Tone Different From The Anti-GMO Crowd

Aloha Tiffany

I went to a Western Region Association of Public Land Grant Universities a few weeks ago. In attendance were the deans of western ag schools as well as the heads of each institutions, research, extension and teaching functions. Also invited were the western region representatives of the Council on Ag Research, Extension and Teaching (CARET) . There are 50 CARET reps nationwide. I was appointed by Dean Gallo to be Hawaii’s representative.

At the meeting I took the opportunity to ask some of the attendees their opinion about GMO issues. In the link above I asked Dean Burgess of the Univ of Az, College of Ag and Life Sciences, several questions about GMO’s. I think you may find the answers interesting. The tone is so different from the anti GMO crowd.
As a real farmer, who has produced more than 100 million pounds of fruits and vegetables during the last 35 years, Dean Burgess makes common sense to me.

Richard Ha

27 replies
  1. Jen
    Jen says:

    How convient it must be for you to listen to industry Koch Bros sponsered politicians, universities, and professors who assure us of them utmost safety of pesticides, herbicides, and gmo food technology, while continuing to ignore the independent science and concerns from people who do not directly benefit $$$ from these technologies. Hope it makes you sleep better at night Richard Ha ha ha…

  2. Jen
    Jen says:

    Also, can you please define how much $ you need to make in order to be considered a “real farmer”? I would like to submit this definition to wikipedia.

  3. Richard Ha
    Richard Ha says:

    I think you need to make most of your income from farming to be considered a real farmer.

  4. sada anand kaur
    sada anand kaur says:

    Big Agro/Food industry’s positioning will always be there to protect their investors profits.

    It it up to us, their consumers, to make better choices in the marketplace. Buy locally grown, organic, in season foods. Whenever
    possible grown your own or participate in community gardening efforts.

    The only thing Big Agro/Food industry understands is market share.
    Walmart is beginning to understand the power we, their consumers, wield. Walmart’s projected earnings has faltered for 5th Quarter now.
    Ask MacDonald’s corporate if they are feeling the pain of employee strikes yet.

    We have enormous power to effect change for the better.
    Vote in candidates that represent people over profiteering corps.

  5. Richard Ha
    Richard Ha says:

    Sada Anand Kaur. The Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United, (HFRU) who represent 90% of the farm value grown on the Big Island agree with you about supporting all forms of local food growing.

    And, we suggest too that people elect candidates who support local farmers and local people.

  6. James Weatherford
    James Weatherford says:

    As I follow discussions about GMO, the so-called “anti-GMO” people do sometime react based on fear and hype. As though they were afraid of a distant corporation hurting them by putting something unhealthy in their food — isn’t that an absurd idea? No, in the year 2014, it is a very realistic concern.
    Still, the hype does get to be a bit shrill.

    It is the so-called “pro-GMO” crowd that really provide convincing arguments — verifying that the average person better be very cautious. For the people making their fortune with the technology, it truly is all about the dollars. Nothing else.

    Example: As for a “dean of a public school” being a trusted source. This is exactly at the heart of the problem — not even considering what the technology is or is not. Over past 2 decades, the public higher education institutions have been co-opted and corrupted by the money of agri-chemical/pharma/seed companies. They should not be trusted.

  7. Richard Ha
    Richard Ha says:

    Its all about what risk you are willing to live with.
    Most don’t want to depend on large corporations. But, how are we going to utilize the best science available if not through our public universities? If not either, then it will be the blind leading the blind. Who do we rely on to lead us forward James?

  8. Richard Ha
    Richard Ha says:

    Hi James, take a look at the link where I answered Jen. That link is to an article about Mike Adams– the Health Ranger. It is more than business as usual. Adams is accused of condoning the murder of pro GMO
    Folks. But, Jon Entine and others point out a symbiotic relationship between, Mike Adams, Vandana Shiva and The Center for Food Safety. I don’t think you read the link otherwise I don’t think you would have said public institutions had been co opted and corrupted by the money of agri chemical, pharma, seed companies and should not be trusted if you knew that was Mike Adams common talking points. Check it out, there is more developing on this story. Mike Adams stock in trade is to scare people and sell them stuff. He has made himself quite a lot of money this way. I am curious how your thoughts were affected by this new development.

  9. Obie
    Obie says:


    When you went to school did you listen to your professors or the class clowns ?

    If you believe Jeffery Smith and Mike Adams you are learning from the class clowns.

    You want to follow the money,check out where these 2 make their money.I find it hard to believe that you and your kind can think that every politician in Washington and every scientist or teacher in the US is on Monsanto’s payroll.

  10. James Weatherford
    James Weatherford says:

    Mr Smith and Mr Adams are not where I form my opinion.

    “every scientist or teacher”? No.
    Dr. Hector Valenzuela, for example, is not on the corporate payroll.
    The system in general corrupted? Positively, yes.
    What to do? Fight back.

  11. Richard Ha
    Richard Ha says:

    James. Its easy to criticize from the sidelines. Finite fossil fuel resources is the real problem. Agriculture is the use of fossil fuel to make food.
    Fossil fuel is finite. We have a serious problem. Yet, you say we cannot trust our public sector scientists.
    You also seem to be saying, the more reasonable they sound, the more you need to distrust them. We are getting stuck on words. What we need is action.

  12. snorkle
    snorkle says:

    Until our public sector scientists get off the corporate payroll, you are right that we cannot trust them. When a large chemical company sponsors research projects; expect the results to be biased.

  13. Richard Ha
    Richard Ha says:

    James. CTAHR receives around 2% of its funds from the large seed companies. All of it goes to scholarships. Your assertion that it is co opted and corrupted and should not be trusted is parroting the talking points of the Mike Adams, Jeffrey Smith, Center for Food Safety gang. Finite fossil fuel resources is our problem. that is what we should be focusing on. You could be a leader in that effort.

  14. Richard Ha
    Richard Ha says:

    Mahalo Joni for pointing out the non aloha of some anti folks. The most important thing we must take with us into the uncertain future is the spirit of aloha. The rubbah slippah folks all know this. This not about winning arguments, it is about focusing on solutions and everybody doing what each person can to get it done. This is not about a few of us. Its about all of us. We need lawmakers who have strength of character to step up.

  15. James Weatherford
    James Weatherford says:


    You need not concern yourself that I am “parroting” anyone. Seriously, those two names are only barely familiar to me through noticing them mentioned on other posts here.

    My own view point is derived first and foremost from my own experience and observation.

    In the 1960’s I lived and worked on my family’s tobacco, hay, cattle, and hog farm. I took 4 years of Vocational Agriculture in High School and learned about NPK.

    In the 1970’s I studied Agriculture at university, again learning about NPK and the growing glowing adoration for all things agribusiness. It was really quite interesting. I was also an agriculture Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines, where I first recognized the fallacy of conventional wisdom that something to help farmers must be bought from a corporation and come in a bag or a bottle and kill something.

    In the 1980’s I was an Extension Agent in Tennessee, when the Federal and State governments were beginning the long and continuing public disinvestment in the ‘Land Grant’ System of which my then-employer, University of Tennessee, and later-employer, University of Hawaii-Manoa, are a part. The agri-chemical and veterinary pharmaceutical corporations were eager to help out and “invest” in access to the legitimacy of the at-that-time-well-respected Land Grant System.

    In the 1990’s I worked in the agriculture industry in Australia, a major player in world food trade. First in Western Australia, where I was teaching; and my informal mentor, John, was the former state manager for Monsanto. In his work at the University where I knew him, John was an exceptional professional, creating award winning commercial pesticide applicator training as well as producer marketing training for the wool and grain industry. More than once, John told me flatly and coldly that Monsanto was unethical. Period. It did not mean much to me at the time, but I did not dismiss it or forget it. John did not gossip. Then, in South Australia, among other policy issues, I worked on intellectual property rights for commercial plant varieties, including represented the State government in in discussions across state and national jurisdictions.

    In 2001 I went to work doing projects for CTAHR Associate Dean for Research. It was clear that the scramble for money from whatever source for whatever purpose that I had seen more than a decade before in Tennessee was now a way of life – or death – for an institution in the Land Grant System.

    The concentration of wealth and political control in the U.S. is a seriously deleterious trend. Fewer and fewer have more of the wealth and buy more influence. In Land Grant Universities as in National, State, and County Legislatures, the influence of the few with wealth is corrupting the system.

  16. James Weatherford
    James Weatherford says:

    As for genetic engineering technology, I find interesting this testimony in favor of the Maui GMO moratorium from bioengineer Juanita Mathews. The full testimony is public record; this is the introductory statement: “My name is Juanita Mathews and I have a PhD in molecular biosciences and bioengineering from the University of Hawaii Manoa. My graduate work was the genetic modification of bacteria for biofuel production. My postdoc work was the genetic modification of mouse and human cells for stem cell therapies. I am very familiar with how genetic modification is done and what kind of risks the technology has. I find it very disturbing that this relatively new technology has been, in my expert opinion, irresponsibly applied to our food supply.”

  17. fruit farmer
    fruit farmer says:

    often the obvious is overlooked. does it seem true that the original rip off of nitrogen from the food growing cycle was when for health reasons humans began flushing their bodily waste into the oceans and water table instead of into the soil? we take but we don’t give it back. I believe we have the ability do return our nitrogen and urea safely back to the crops.

  18. Richard Ha
    Richard Ha says:

    Thanks James. I’ll look for the testimony. A few days ago, Neil deGrasse Tyson strongly supported GMO’s. http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/08/04/neil-degrasse-tyson-defends-pro-stance-on-gmos-following-video/. Its essentially the same position as Dean Shane Burgess answer to my question about 99.9% of all species that ever lived are now extinct. I asked; “..do we have a chance”? His answer … we have a better chance because we have brains.

  19. Richard Ha
    Richard Ha says:

    Aloha fruit farmer
    I agree that nitrogen is a limiting factor. I grew up on a chicken farm and when I started growing bananas and there were only 2 workers. I would shovel the chicken manure into a wheel barrow and fill up a trailer which I shoveled several scoops to each clump.
    When, we expanded from 2 acres to four the cost of the “free” chicken manure was just too much. It held back our ability to expand production–I could only shovel so fast. It turned out that bagged fertilizer tailored to the needs of the banana plants was more cost effective. That was when nitrogen fertilizer was very inexpensive. Nitrogen fertilizer is made from petroleum by products, we need to figure out how we can get nitrogen to the plants and by pass the petroleum dependent cycle. One way is by GMO techniques where the plants work in a symbiotic relationship with bacteria and generates nitrogen from the air. That work is going on right now. Another way is by using the “unused” electricity generated at night to make ammonia fertilizer. Lightning is electricity, its natural. We can use the excess electricity from geothermal, wind, anything that generates excess electricity.

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