Pima County: Don’t Let What Happened in Hawaii Happen Here

by Melissa Diane Smith, author of Going Against GMOs

In both my comments to the Pima County supervisors and the guest opinion piece that I posted here, I explained that Pima County in Arizona should learn from what Hawaiians experienced at the hands of biotech giant Monsanto.

Monsanto’s Invasion of Molokai

To give you a bit of background, Monsanto snuck into Molokai even more than it seems to be doing in Avra Valley near Tucson. In a statement given to us by Hawai’i SEED, Walter Ritte, a member of Hawai’i SEED, explains:

We had a hard time with the first wave of GMO because we didn’t know Monsanto was here for at least 5 years. On Molokai, nobody can get off the plane without everybody knowing.

So, how did Monsanto get to Molokai without anyone knowing for 5 years?

That’s really the story about how they came to Hawaii.

By the time we got involved, these fields that used to belong to the University of Hawaii for research were bought by Monsanto, but the signs never changed. But the activities were changing.

While we were sleeping, they were at our state legislature buying off our politicians. So, by the time we got involved, the doors were all closed at the legislature. So, we ended up on the streets, thousands of us marching in the streets on every single island because we could not get a voice at the legislature.

A Quick Overview of What Happened in Hawaii

The YouTube video by Hawai’i SEED embedded in this post features Mercy Ritte, who is the daughter-in-law of Walter Ritte and is known as Molokai MOM and the founder of The MOM Hui. In the video, we get a firsthand look at what could happen in Pima County if we don’t prevent Monsanto from swooping in and taking hold in our community.

To set the stage for the video, Mercy and her family live downwind from Monsanto’s fields. After a dust storm, her son falls ill. This sets Mercy on a search to understand why these GMO test crops are being planted on her island. Are the chemicals being used safe? Who are these biotech/ag companies, and what are their practices? Mercy travels to Oahu and Kauai where she learns that she is not alone. Others across Hawaii and the world share her concerns and her vision for solutions.

The video explains that the health and environmental damage Monsanto creates is not worth any amount of jobs the company offers! At the end of the video, Mercy asks environmental activist Vandana Shiva about how to answer people who are focused on Monsanto being the largest employer on Molokai. Shiva answers with this explanation:

Be aware of the context beyond the immediate. In the immediate, it looks like Monsanto is giving a paycheck. I wouldn’t call them employers. I would call them destroyers. But in terms of their scope of destruction, it is not just your island. It is not just your homestead….

It’s the same Monsanto that is corrupting government with its influence and destroying the kind of systems that would give sustainable, safe, healthy livelihoods to people…

So, I think the campaign for a Monsanto-free island needs to be how your island could be food sovereign. What are the models? Start doing it on the scale at which it’s doable today. The whole island could be like this. Everyone could have food and everyone could have work.

Because work in the Monsanto model, work in the corporate model, is destroying work. It’s destroying the worker. It is destroying the land which feeds us. It is destroying our future generations.

You’ve got to talk about what will be the future of the island. What will be the future of the island when Monsanto’s gone? Raise that question. Monsanto will be here, then they’ll find a cheaper place to produce their seed. They’ll move on, you’ll have nothing. They’re not here for good. They’re not here forever. They’re here for a short, opportunistic time until all the soil is ruined. No seed can grow anymore.

So, build that larger perspective, and celebrate the alternative. You need to start having these discussions – that money isn’t the measure. Health and well-being is.

The good people of Hawaii who learned the hard way about the tricks Monsanto does to gain control of the land and food are graciously sharing their firsthand knowledge with us in Arizona. Let’s share this knowledge widely and pull together to do everything possible to mount a community-wide campaign to let Monsanto know we do not want it here ruining our land, food, and environment in Pima County like it did in Hawaii.

The first step of that starts with calling the Pima County supervisors at (520) 724-8126. Ask for the supervisor you want, and tell their aide that the supervisor needs to think about the long-term health and well-being of Pima County and do the right thing and vote against giving a tax break to Monsanto.

Copyright 2016 Melissa Diane Smith

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