Ballot question: Listen to the facts, not the propaganda

The Maui Chamber of Commerce has been actively researching the genetically modified organisms issue and asks the public to do the same. We believe education is key to understanding and extremely important as we head toward a November ballot vote.

While the anti-GMO movement is making a variety of claims about potential harm, we have not seen the scientific basis for those claims. Experts note that the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the British Royal Society have repeatedly reviewed and affirmed the safety of GE crops and food. (See position paper by Harold H. Keyser, Ph.D., soil microbiologist and Maui County administrator, retired College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa; and letter by Michael Shintaku, Ph.D., professor of plant pathology, UH-Hilo College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Management.)

Yet, statements are being made and spread by leaders of the anti-GMO movement that are just false, and anti-GMO groups are defacing the environment and property, posting racial comments in social media, encouraging illegal acts, targeting individuals and their families because they don’t share the same view, and promoting ugly behaviors that are not reflective of this community.

To get this ban on the ballot to begin with, they paid people for signatures. While that is not illegal, residents must decide for themselves whether or not it is right and ethical. The same could be said of their attempted use of the name “Maui United,” which they have since changed.

Many of these same people attempt to make the seed industry out as a large, well-funded industry that is more concerned about profit and its position than the environment and people. While they are correct that the seed industry is large (a major part of Maui’s and the state’s agricultural industry) and well-funded, the work the industry does is critical to our state, county, nation and world. It makes a positive difference on many levels, including nearly 1,000 jobs (with multiplier effects) in Maui County alone. In addition to its investment in science and technology, land, facilities, employment, taxes, donations and more here, it produces a product that is desired worldwide and is a big part of global food security.

Can the same be said about the anti-GMO groups supporting the ban? We would welcome them to submit a study showing how they will:

* Grow enough food to support our community.

* Ensure that food prices are kept at the same levels so those with lesser incomes are not hurt.

* Address pest issues.

* Make an equivalent contribution to our economy.

* Replace the donations made to charitable institutions.

* Employ all those who will lose their jobs if this ban is enacted.

And, let us not overlook the fact that the anti-GMO groups are also well-funded by large corporations. They may be nonprofit corporations, foundations, etc., but they are getting money from big businesses and Mainland groups who want to further a specific agenda. Therefore, finger-pointing is pointless as both sides are well-funded and sharing their views.

So, we are back to where we began, encouraging people to read the facts and not the propaganda and to realize the impact on our local community.

Please read the full ban to understand concerns with the document itself. You can find it at www.mauichamber.com. There, you can also obtain Harold Keyser’s position statement on the bill, Paul Brewbaker’s findings on the “Economic Aspects of Maui County’s Seed Industry,” answers to the frequently asked questions we hear, and more.

Be informed about the realities and vote “No” on the initiative to ban genetically engineered organisms.

* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.