Author Topic: How the US Stole Hawaii  (Read 286 times)


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Re: How the US Stole Hawaii
« on: June 18, 2022, 03:07:51 am »

Rain clouds cover the peaks of the west Maui mountains, one of the wettest places on the planet, which for centuries sustained biodiverse forests providing abundant food and medicines for Hawaiians who took only what they needed.

Those days of abundance and food sovereignty are long gone.

Rows of limp lemon trees struggle in windswept sandy slopes depleted by decades of sugarcane cultivation. Agricultural runoff choking the ocean reef and water shortages, linked to over-tourism and global heating, threaten the future viability of this paradise island.

Between 85% and 90% of the food eaten in Maui now comes from imports while diet-related diseases are soaring, and the state allocates less than 1% of its budget to agriculture.

Downslope from the rain-soaked summits, there is historic drought and degraded soil.
Indigenous farming practices in Hawaii are guided by the lunar cycle and wind patterns, knowledge which was also passed down orally over generations, and even documented in newspaper articles going back to the 19th century. These oral histories and archives have played a crucial role in how farmers like Kekona, who didn’t grow up speaking the Hawaiian language due to forced assimilation policies, steward the land today.

The whole island was once a giant thriving food forest until colonial settlers in the 18th and 19th century stole the land, water and labor to create industrial monocrop plantations – mostly sugar and pineapples for export. This depleted the soil of its nutrients, carbon and water, and the Maui people of food and climate security.
Access to land, water, credit and housing remains disproportionately controlled by the economic and political elites, namely big ag and tourism.

One firm, Monsanto, now owned by the German pharma giant Bayer, operates on Oahu, Molokai and Maui – where it develops genetically modified corn varieties used in cooking oil, processed foods, alcohol and animal feed, testing new seeds with an unknown combination of potentially toxic agrochemicals.

Bayer is among four agrochemical corporations that control 60% of the global seed market, and more than 80% of pesticide sales.

Dark red dirt from Maui’s research and development fields, which are surrounded by three types of metal fencing, spread across the downwind residential areas, with fine particles coating furniture even when the windows are kept shut.

Last year, the company was fined $22m after pleading guilty to multiple criminal charges for the illegal use, storage and disposal of hazardous and banned chemicals. Monsanto was described as “a serial violator of federal environmental laws” by a Department of Justice attorney.

The Guardian’s request to visit the Maui research facilities was denied.

Over the past decade agrochemical companies like Monsanto have used lawsuits and political lobbying to delay and limit regulations on GMO crops and pesticides in Hawaii, convincing many farmers and lawmakers that without them, agriculture would collapse.

But the pandemic exposed the dangers and fragility of the global industrialized food system, triggering an almost existential crisis for island communities like Maui which depends on imports and tourism for economic and food security.

“Letting a chemical company pollute the island to feed the world while we suffer food insecurity is beyond ironic,” said Autumn Ness, the Hawaii program director of Beyond Pesticides and co-founder of the Maui Hub, the island’s first farm box scheme which connects small farmers and producers to residents.

“What’s stopping Hawaii feeding its own people is not lack of knowledge or skills, it’s the power structure, the ongoing plantation mentality which tips the scales in favour of big ag and developers while rubbishing traditional knowledge. We need to change this narrative because, without radical changes, what will be left of this place in a hundred years?”