Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
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Ka`u News Briefs Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013

The late Sen. Daniel Inouye, shown here at a 2010 election eve rally in Hilo, posthumously received the Presidential
Medal of Freedom today. Photo by Julia Neal
A NON-GMO HAWAI`I ISLAND, WITH SOME EXEMPTIONS, is Hawai`i County Council’s decision, yesterday voting 6 – 3, without discussion, to ban genetically modified organisms from crops grown here. The vote came after a morning when more than 70 testifiers around the island spoke, with almost 60 of them in favor of the ban.
      Ka`u’s Council member Brenda Ford, who had earlier introduced her own anti-GMO bill but withdrew it, showed her support for Bill 113 by seconding bill introducer Margaret Wille’s motion to pass it as well as a motion to immediately send it to Mayor Billy Kenoi. Standard procedure is to wait five days to give Council members a chance to reconsider their votes.
      Voting no on the ban were Council chair J Yoshimoto, Hilo Council member Dennis Onishi and Puna Council member Greggor Ilagan. Puna Council member Zendo Kern voted kanalua, or yes with reservations.
      The bill restricts expansion of GMO crops on the Big Island by limiting outdoor growing. Exemptions include varieties of papaya which growers have been using to combat ringspot virus.
      Testifiers included a few participating via videoconferencing at Ocean View Community Center. Gil Robinson, of Ocean View, talked about problems associated with high fructose corn syrup from genetically modified corn. He expressed skepticism about GMOs, mentioning past claims of safety by companies selling products now proven to be harmful, such as lead paint.
      Another testifier in Ka`u cited the American Academy of Environmental Medicine’s claim that GM foods pose a serious health risk and the organization’s call for a moratorium on GM foods.
      Julie Pena, also testifying from Ocean View, asked council members to “love the `aina” by supporting the bill.
      Those who spoke in opposition to the ban said allegations about GMOs are unproven, with zero evidence. They said the bill is flawed and contradictory, and that it “puts a black cloud over GMO growers.” One farmer said, “Give us respect for putting food on your table.”
Sen. Dan Inouye rallied Democrats at a 2010
election eve rally in Hilo.
Photo by Julia Neal
      Supporters of the ban included a contingent from Kaua`i, where the County Council recently overrode the mayor’s veto of a bill regarding GMOs and pesticides. One Kaua`i resident talked about Atrazine being in the island’s drinking water and people getting sick. A member of the Kanaka Council, which preserves and protects Native Hawaiian rights, culture, traditions, practices and spiritual beliefs, said, “Hawai`i County Council (members), as occupiers, are responsible to protect the health and well being of the people.”
      Chris Manfredi sent a letter from Ka`u Farm Bureau saying members opposed the anti-GMO legislation. “As an organization of local farmers and ranchers, we believe in supporting all forms of agriculture. As modern producers, we understand that we need all available tools to grow resilient and sustainable industries in Hawai`i.”
      Kona Farm Bureau asked members to make up their own minds about the issue, as it has members both pro and con on GMOs. Kona Coffee Farmers Association and Hawa'i Farmers & Ranchers United supported the ban.
      The bill calls for violators to be fined $1,000 a day for each violation and a GMO registry for exempted growers, which would be administered by the county Department of Research and Development.
      Before the vote, Wille said, “I think it’s a very important step, a very modest bill.” She mentioned the “web of life,” and uncertainty surrounding GMOs. She said there are legitimate concerns and that the “feds and state have been lax.” She questioned the lack of testing requirements for GMOs while they can be patented. 
      “We can work out the nuances,” she said. “We can work together as to what is our vision and what is the future of the island.”
      To comment on or “like” this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

THE LATE SEN. DANIEL INOUYE RECEIVED the Presidential Medal of Freedom today. President Barack Obama said Inouye was an inspiration to him growing up in Hawai`i. He said Inouye taught that there is a place for everyone in this country. 
      During presentation of the medal to Inouye’s wife Irene, the senator was described as a true patriot and dedicated public servant.
      Inouye was a member of the revered 442nd Regimental Combat Team that helped free Europe in World War II.
      To comment on or “like” this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Russell Kokubun
RUSSELL KOKUBUN IS RELINQUISHING HIS POST AS DIRECTOR of Hawai`i Department of Agriculture. Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed the Volcano resident and state senator to the position in December 2010. 
      During his tenure as chief of the state Ag Department, Kokubun oversaw expenditures for improvements to Ka`u’s agricultural irrigation systems and an easing of restrictions for the shipping of Sharwil avocados.
      He also called for a nationwide system for monitoring, labeling and enforcing the labeling of all whole and processed genetically engineered foods. Kokubun said that while, in recent years, there has been a push to mandate the labeling of genetically engineered foods at the state level, “the enormity of such a task is beyond the scope and expertise of the various state agencies and would be better served if done at a national level. Furthermore, a national standard for labeling would provide consistent application across the states, making it easier to monitor and enforce and creating a level playing field for all food producers from farmers to processors.”
      Kokubun also showed support for the local coffee industry when it came to light that Safeway stores on the mainland were selling coffee without labels specifying how much Hawaiian coffee was in the blend. He sent a letter to Safeway asking the company to voluntarily comply with the law that is already in place in Hawai`i, requiring the blending percentages to be on the labels.
      To comment on or “like” this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Iwao Yonemitsu, 90 years young, teaches students about the history of the Ka`u sugar industry. None of the students witnessed
the industry, which shut down more than17 years ago, before most of them were born. Photo by Julia Neal
NINETY-YEAR OLD IWAO YONEMITSU taught two back-to-back high school history classes this week at Ka`u High School. He shared the story of Ka`u’s sugar industry with young people, almost all of them unborn when sugar shut down in 1996 with the closing of the mill in Pahala. Yonemitsu used his history lesson to help teach economics. He talked about supply and demand in the sugar industry and how many jobs were created. Students could make money in the summer working in sugar or shipping out to Lana`i or Moloka`i to work in pineapple. He talked about the sugar camps where workers walked from their homes straight out to the fields. Entrepreneurs entered the picture, opening up stores for sugar workers with the Wong Yuens first starting in Na`alehu, the Chong Store in Pahala, and stores run by the sugar companies in Waibada, Honu`apo and Hilea. He talked about the many skills needed from chemist to welder to his job as an agronomist. He talked about the sugar company renting lands from others and paying according to yield. Kapapala land, up Wood Valley, was the best, said Yonemitsu. 
      Why did sugar close down? “Plain economics,” Yonemitsu said. “The cost of producing sugar exceeded the price. In business, you have to have a profit. Why would people put money into a losing business if they could make more money in the bank getting interest?” he asked the students. 
Ka`u High School students look at an old Ka`u sugar company yearbook, finding
 photos of grandparents, parents, uncles and aunties. Photo by Julia Neal
      He talked about other agriculture that exists today, such as ranching. At one time, the old Hutchinson Sugar Co. ran Ka`alu`alu Ranch with 5,000 acres, and Hawaiian Agriculture, which ran the sugar in Pahala, ran Kapapala Ranch with over 5,000 acres, he said.
      Yonemitsu also talked about progress in the lives of sugar workers and noted that houses were moved from the camps next to the sugar fields when centralized water and electricity became available in Pahala and Na`alehu. “What you see today and before is vastly different,” he reminded the students. He passed around sugar company books, some showing photos of the students’ grandparents, parents, aunties and uncles.
      The nonagenarian encouraged students to respect the visitor industry, which has expanded in Ka`u with the expansion of Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. “A lot of people complain about tourists doing this and doing that. You need to treat the tourists right, or we’ll be in dire straits,” he said regarding the jobs provided by the visitor industry. 
      World War II and Yonemitsu’s service in the famed 442nd regiment were also presented as part of his class. See more in tomorrow’s Ka`u News Briefs.
      To comment on or “like” this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Pahala Community Center hosts its annual Rubber Band
Turkey Shoot today.
THE ANNUAL THANKSGIVING RUBBER BAND TURKEY SHOOT takes place today from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Pahala Community Center. All ages are welcome. Call Nona at 928-3102. 

VOCALIST AND MUSICIAN DARLENE AHUNA performs today from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Kilauea Visitor Center Auditorium in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. Free; park entrance fees apply.

KA`U AGRICULTURAL WATER COOPERATIVE DISTRICT meets at Royal Hawaiian Orchards Macadamia Field Office tomorrow at 4 p.m. For more information, call Jeff McCall at 928-6456. 

ST. JUDE’S CHURCH IN OCEAN VIEW hosts events this weekend. Saturday is the church’s annual plant sale fundraiser from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. There will also be baked goods, coffee, books, gourmet mustards and slightly used items for sale.
      An interfaith service of thanksgiving takes place Sunday at 2 p.m. This interfaith service has been held in the Ka`u for many years. There will be speakers from the Christian Science church, the Tibetan Buddhist Mission, Wood Valley and Shepherds from Ka`u. There will be singing, hula and a joint potluck after the service. All are welcome to share in this special non-denominational service and bring some food to share.
      St. Jude’s church is at Paradise Circle and Keaka. 



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