950 jobs – impacted.
“Why do we need to shut down an industry to study it, when you can just go STUDY IT?” Dr. Paul Brewbaker posed this question today to the Maui County Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Brewbaker is the Principal of TZ Economics and former Chief Economist for Bank of Hawaii. He gave a presentation about the impact that the Maui voter initiative on Genetically Engineered Organisms would have on the County and State’s economy.
As business owners, the attendees of this event could readily understand the following statement from Dr. Brewbaker. “There’s no such thing as a temporary shut down. You’re either in business, or you’re out of business. You’re either the Sheraton Kaluakoi, or a weed patch.” You can’t expect a business to stop following their business model for an unknown amount of time (according to the initiative, a minimum of two years will be needed) and still survive. “Their intent is to shut down. It’s just a shut down. They meant to do that. You get that part of it, right? That’s the intent!”
Dr. Brewbaker spent time going over the science and safety of transgenic modification. “It’s been studied over and over in the peer reviewed literature.” The consensus of the scientific community is that, “there’s no credible evidence of human or environmental harm”. He also champions the latest life saving technology coming from the biotech industry. “If you make biotechnology illegal so you can’t produce the ebola antiviral medicine, hello, you’re dead!…Not to mention, I want the ebola drug. I want that vaccination.”
Speaking of pests, he has an opinion on the use of pesticides in the state of Hawaii as well. “The evidence I have from the Census of Agriculture, is that the use of agricultural chemicals in the seed industry, is no different than that of any other agriculture industry in the state, including organic farming.” Dr Brewbaker continues, “Urban uses are the problem, not agricultural uses, and certainly not the seed industry. Indeed, genetic modification has reduced global pesticide use. You do it the smart way, you don’t need pesticides.”
The evidence is clear that the seed industry in this county contributes heavily to an improved quality of life on our islands. It is responsible for over 3,500 volunteer hours each year, thousands of dollars in scholarships, and large donations for STEM education and other community efforts. On Molokai, this industry is responsible for 10% of all private sector employment. The seed industry provides excellent jobs that pay 40-50% more than the average wage in Maui County. How important are these companies and the jobs they provide? Extremely. Dr. Brewbaker joked with Mayor Arakawa, “If I came to town and told the Mayor I was going to create 1,000 jobs and an 85 million dollar industry, I’m pretty sure I’d get a parade.”
Dr. Brewbaker’s family has been deeply rooted in the seed industry of Hawaii for several generations. He pointed out that these seed companies have been around in Maui County for over 50 years and the industry has been marked by rapid economic growth and responsible stewardship of the land.
Responsible stewardship also means not damaging other people’s property. Pamela Tumpap, Chamber of Commerce President, presented a slide show highlighting some of the activity on Maui by anti-GMO activists. It included “Wanted” posters of pro-GMO individuals, graffiti near the historic Lahaina banyan tree, graffiti on the Lahaina Burger King, and a big sign that was held up outside of a hotel hosting visiting farmers that read, “Monsanto Employees Make Great Shark Bait”, right during the peak of the shark attacks this past winter.
Pamela noted that the SHAKA Movement is dividing our island into what they consider good and evil, with corporations and businesses painted as “evil”. She pointed out that non-profits are also corporations and the anti-GMO groups are well funded by large organizations. They seem to foster an ugly environment here in Hawaii, and she finds their behavior unacceptable.
The overwhelming message of the day was VOTE NO on this harmful and poorly written initiative.