Poor Leadership Hurts Anti-GMO

This is not going to make local anti-GMO’ers jump for joy, but the news is that everything seems to be going against you.

The government has approved genetically modified potatoes to reduce the amount of a chemical in french fries and potato chips suspected of causing cancer. (The GMO potato company supplies McDonald’s.)

And the Department of Agriculture says it has no regulatory authority to stop “genome edited” Roundup-resistant grass, herbicide-resistant canola corn or an ornamental plant that glows in the dark.

Next up for approval is a genetically modified salmon from Aqua Bounty Technologies. It will grow much larger much quicker than standard farmed salmon (see accompanying graphic), and was created by micro-injection of a gene into fertilized eggs of wild Atlantic salmon.

Scared by all this? Don’t be. At least not yet. A team of Italian scientists has analyzed 1,783 studies about the safety and environmental impact of GMO foods and didn’t find anything even hinting that they pose any harm to humans. That analysis was published in Critical Reviews in Biotechnology (March 2014, Vol. 34, No. 1) What’s happened locally on the GMO front is that any legitimate concerns about engineered food and the pesticides used on experimental crops were preempted by the low-on-facts, high-on-emotion rants by such as Kauai politician Gary Hooser and Molokai activist Walter Ritte.

Something likely could have been worked out with the GMO companies had concerned people not let their self-appointed leaders use bad science and tactics like the Facebook posting “MONSANTO IS POISONING OUR CHILDREN!” to fuel a protest.

Weak protest leadership seems to be a mostly-in-Hawaii failing.

Example: Occupy Honolulu. It began as a protest against the richest 1 percent, then morphed to De-Occupy, protesting America’s annexing of Hawaii — and finally, against laws to keep the homeless off the sidewalks. But the leaders moved their own tents, couches, tables,

TVs and generators onto the sidewalks. Most of us felt that was a bad tradeoff and, in short order, De-Occupy lost followership and faded away.

In both cases above, semi-worthy efforts were led down a dead end by leaders more focused on their own ego fulfillment than politically smart strategies.

Civics lesson? Avoid showoff leaders. Don’t overestimate people’s willingness to endorse your protest. Be willing to settle for less than the whole enchilada.

• I suspect the time is nigh to ban those 90-decibel, gasoline-fueled leaf blowers and only allow low-noise, lithium-ion blowers, which also eliminate pollution caused by oil-added, two-stroke gas engines.

We should adopt the municipal code of Davis, Calif., which limits leaf-blowing noise in a residential zone to not more than 55 decibels.

We’d need an ordnance or law requiring blowers to have a manufacturer’s label stating the decibel output. Something a police officer can use to cite offenders without that nonsense of a health department staffer with a noise-reading machine.

BanyanTreeHouse@gmail.com

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