Circling back to GMO ban

With the election and the Made In Maui County Festival happening in the same week, last week’s article focused on the festival occurring that day. We wanted to feature a positive, feel-good event that benefited so many small businesses throughout Maui County.

Despite the rain, the first-ever Made In Maui County Festival was a glorious success.

Some 6,000 to 8,000 attendees (in good weather) were expected and 9,101 came, shopping in the rain in high spirits. It was a sight to behold.

We could not be more pleased with how it went and thank the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development for the giving the chamber the opportunity to co-present this extraordinary event. It was the perfect ending to a week with a tough loss – the GMO ban winning by a slim margin. However, it is time to circle back, talk about that vote, and where our community goes from here.

The chamber has a number of concerns with a GMO ban, but felt the ballot initiative should not pass primarily because it was poorly written (creating huge potential for harmful unintended consequences for individuals and farmers) and would have negative impacts Maui County’s economy and jobs. We worked to educate people on these points in the hope that they would see that the ballot initiative was not the right vehicle for desired conversations.

We found that numerous people said they did not know about and had not read the full ballot initiative, and they honestly did not care.

They believed the messaging they heard and were proud to vote “yes” to the point that understanding the full ballot initiative was not important in their decision-making process. It shows how effective the SHAKA Movement was in rallying people together, even if we do not agree with its tactics.

Throughout its campaign, the SHAKA Movement and related groups mobilized people, fine-tuned messaging to appeal to different concerns, inspired passion, held large rallies and got out the vote. Because of this, it won.

Many people were disgusted by the negative and threatening messaging, false and racial statements spread throughout various media, paying for signatures, stealing of signs, vandalism, etc., and it made them turn away from the polls instead of drawing them in. They believed “there was no way the initiative would pass.” They were wrong and those supporting a “no” vote did not do enough to explain how important and needed each vote was.

So, where do we go from here? We shared that a lawsuit would be forthcoming if the initiative passed. That is true and happening. It will cost us all more as previously stated. We simply have to take that nasty pill and wait to see what the courts decide.

In the meantime, our community is changing. This issue went far beyond passion to ugly and illegal acts.

Those involved in fervent debates over the years (such as the airport runway extension, H’poko wells and the Hawaii Superferry) saw this escalate to a whole new level that is not reflective of Maui Nui and the spirit of aloha we are known for.

The environmental moment afoot is very different from a sustainable movement (where balanced and sustainable solutions are sought), with some willing to take their beliefs to fanatical levels, regardless of whom they hurt. Is this our new reality? If not, did the election provide a significant wake-up call to mobilize those who were silent? Are residents ready to stand up and take action or will they allow this behavior to continue unchecked? Time will tell, but one thing is certain, silence is not golden or helpful.

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