Braving heavy rains, roughly one thousand Hawaiians traveled to the town of Hale‘iwa on the North Shore of Oahu Sunday to take part in a march against Monsanto, adding their support to the growing "tsunami" against genetically modified (GM) crops.
The Aloha Aina (or "Love of the Land") March, organized by a number of environmental and community groups, was called to celebrate some regional successes against the biotech industry and to raise awareness of the fight, calling on Hawaiian landowners to join the movement and "evict Monsanto."
"For over 20 years, Hawaii has been the global center for the open-field testing of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)," writes the group Hawaii GMO Justice.
Oahu's North Shore, more commonly recognized for its international surfing competitions, is also where biotech companies farm thousands of acres of crop land. World-renowned surfers Kelly Slater and John John Florence joined the Sunday protest along with notable actress and environmental activist Daryl Hannah.
"A huge wave has been built up about GMOs statewide," said Molokai activist Walter Ritte. "You can hear it, you can hear the enthusiasm going on. We want this message that's coming from the people to get to the Legislature this year."
"The potential for a tsunami of change is real and at our door step. Business as usual is over, done, pau."
—Gary Hooser, anti-GMO activist and former State Senate Majority Leader
The Earth Island Journal reports:
The goal of the event was to march a mile down the Kamehamehea Highway to the Hale’iwa Beach Park for a rally and non-GMO potluck party with some live music and dancing thrown in. [...]
After a round of prayers and a resounding blow of the conch, off they set down the wet highway, chanting, “A’ole, a‘lole, a‘ole GMO! Monsanto has got to go!” (“A‘ole” means “no” in Hawaiian)
The march specifically called out Hawaii's largest landowner, Kamehameha Schools, a private college-preparatory school and land trust that owns roughly half of Hawaii's farmland, which currently leases thousands of acres of land to biotech firms. GMO Justice continues:
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Despite Kamehameha's public statements about sustainability and conservation, they lease substantial amounts of land to multi-national biotech firms, including Monsanto, Dow, Dupont/Pioneer and Syngenta for GMO open field tests and seed corn production.
Kamehameha is the only institution with the land, capital and resources to reduce our food imports, that are now over 90%, and ensure that Hawai'i does not run out of food in case of natural disasters or rising oil prices.
A video of the march can be seen here.
The protest follows minor legislative victories against GMOs including the recent passage on the Big Island of Bill 113, which prohibits any new GM crops from being grown, and Bill 2491 on Kauai, which requires the disclosure of GM crops and pesticide use.
Calling these new rules "a floor [for] new regulations, not a ceiling," Gary Hooser, former State Senate Majority Leader who has championed anti-GMO legislation and took part in the protest Sunday, writes:
On Kauai we have learned to speak truth to power, with aloha – and we won. We as a community challenged the power of the largest chemical companies in the world, and we won. Our request was minimal: Disclose to us what chemicals you are spraying in our community and don’t use them next to schools, hospitals and homes, yet they fought us every step of the way.
In Hawaii County, the same companies were challenged and again the people won. On Maui the tide also is beginning to turn.
On Oahu the battle in the coming months will no doubt be waged at the state legislature.
Legislators in support of putting the protection of people and the environment first will attempt to implement statewide regulation of pesticides and genetically modified organisms’ while preserving the rights of local communities to pass even more stringent standards – creating a floor of new regulations and not a ceiling.
"The potential for a tsunami of change is real and at our door step," he concludes. "Business as usual is over, done, pau [finished]."