Monday, November 28, 2011


CHOKE ON IT: If those who treat terminal illnesses with humor really want to get some belly laughs, they might do well to bring in tapes of the last two Kaua`i County Council sessions.

No, this time it wasn't the council itself that provided the guffaws but some of the Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) industry lobbyists and their poor, confused sycophants who traipsed up to testify.

One of our favorite bit of professed balderdash is that we don't need labeling because "no one has gotten sick from GMOs," which would be a neat trick since it might just make it difficult to know of something made you sick if you didn't know you were eating it.

Actually there have been very few studies of heath effects- zero independently conducted ones that we can find- with the oft quoted numbers of studies of GMOs being primarily on the growing of them and far less than 10% on any health effects.

But perhaps the most side-splitting of all absurdities is from those who tried to intimidate the council into rejecting support for a measure to ask the state legislature to initiate labeling of GMO products, as we mentioned a week or so back.

You could see the actual fear on Kauai and Hawai`i state Farm Bureau stalwart Jerry Ornellas's face as he described the scenario that he had been convinced was the future under a Hawai`i law requiring labeling. He described how soon, farmers would be sitting around, first presumably with test tubes and centrifuges to determine if their food contained GMOs and then whipping out the stickers and laundry marking pen and writing out their own labels.

People such as Scott MacFarlaine of the Chamber of Commerce and others had convinced poor "Farmer Jerry" that it would be up to him and perhaps retailers to do this, turning the issue into not one of health but one of "get the government off the backs of small business."

Even though recently states like California have started petition efforts to get their legislature to pass labeling laws and others have begun to consider introducing such legislation, the local produce defilers are apparently going to rely on a divide and conquer strategy that presumes the internet was never invented.

The council didn’t help much with this with every one of them questioning whether the state could really do this in the first place. Doesn't the FDA have jurisdiction and haven't they banned states and local jurisdictions from passing labeling laws?

Well the bad news used to be yes. Until this past July, the FDA has said they were solely responsible for any move toward labeling and when the chief lobbyist from Monsanto was appointed head of the FDA it didn't look good.

But the recent good news is that, according to Consumers International, the world federation of consumer groups,

In a striking reversal of their previous position, on Tuesday, during the annual Codex (Alimentarius) summit in Geneva, the US delegation dropped its opposition to the GM labeling guidance document, allowing it to move forward and become an official Codex text.

The new Codex agreement means that any country wishing to adopt GM food labeling will no longer face the threat of a legal challenge from the World Trade Organization (WTO). This is because national measures based on Codex guidance or standards cannot be challenged as a barrier to trade.

What that means in the US is that, as a signatory of the Codex and member of the World Trade Organization, the federal FDA can no longer ban labeling.

The article cites examples like Peru where

recent introduction of GM food labeling faced the threat of a legal challenge from the WTO. This new Codex agreement now means that this threat has gone and the consumer right to be informed has been secured.

...and in Africa where

Samuel Ochieng, President Emeritus of Consumers International and CEO of the Consumer Information Network of Kenya said:

"While the agreement falls short of the consumer movement's long-held demand for endorsement of mandatory GM food labeling, this is still a significant milestone for consumer rights. We congratulate Codex on agreeing on this guidance, which has been sought by consumers and regulators in African countries for nearly twenty years. This guidance is extremely good news for the worlds' consumers who want to know what is in the foods on their plates". (sic)

Now we don't expect all the conspiracy nutcases- who have tried to turn the Codex Alimentarius into a satanic field manual instead of an international standard for safety and efficacy of drugs and things like vitamins- to give up. You'll recognize them by their "don't take away our vitamins" mantra having been duped into not realizing that their little movement is funded and directed by the evil "Big Pharma" itself so they don't have to test their now unregulated vitamins and supplements.

But this does "solve" the mystery of what exactly happened this summer to allow the states to pass their own legislation regarding GMO labeling.

As to the Hawai`i effort, even though apparently the Kaua`i County Council will join Maui in their support for a state-wide labeling bill, since the measure is part of the Hawai`i State Association of Counties' (HSAC) legislative package, all county councils must sign off on it and, if the Honolulu committee vote is any indication, it's not going to pass there.

That means that the Hawai`i GMO labeling movement will most likely be moving on to the next phase- finding support in the legislature.

The first thing is to find two legislators- one in the house and one in the senate- to introduce the bills. And then the fun begins.

It is never too early to start soliciting support for the measure among legislators. The earlier the support the more likely the bill will get a kind ear from the leadership of the two bodies and get referrals to committees that have supportive chairs and, conversely, not get referred to those committees that have chairs who are close to the industry.

For those on Kaua`i who might have the attention of our four legislators- Senator Ron Kouchi, Representatives Derek Kawaikami, Jimmy Tokioka or Dee Morikawa- it can't hurt to try to pin them down on their public positions on GMO labeling now.

The council will be taking a final vote on Wednesday and the stronger the showing of support the more likely it is to get noticed by state legislators... in an election year. If people can't sit around all day and wait for it to come up on the agenda the council now allows people to speak right at 9 a.m. on any agenda topic. And written testimony can be submitted via email at .

The Codex Alimentarius Commission decision means nothing if those who have thrown up their hands in frustrated despair for the past decade or so don't act, whether here in Hawai`i or in other states.

We'll miss the non-sequiturs and ridiculously convoluted scare tactics of the GMO industry but we'll always have Marx Brothers movies.

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