The Struggle To Reclaim Paradise

Published on ZNet (first on Waging Nonviolence), by Imani Altemus-Williams, April 12, 2013.

… In Hawaiian indigenous culture, the very idea of GMOs is effectively sacrilegious.

“For Hawaii’s indigenous peoples, the concepts underlying genetic manipulation of life forms are offensive and contrary to the cultural values of aloha ‘??ina [love for the land],” wrote Mililani B. Strask, a native Hawaiian attorney.

Deadly practices:  

  • Monsanto has a long history of making chemicals that bring about devastation. The company participated in the Manhattan Project to help produce the atomic bomb during World War II. It developed the herbicide “Agent Orange” used by U.S. military forces during the Vietnam War, which caused an estimated half-million birth deformities. Most recently, Monsanto has driven thousands of farmers in India to take their own lives, often by drinking chemical insecticide, after the high cost of the company’s seeds forced them into unpayable debt.
  • The impacts of chemical testing and GMOs are immediate — and, in the long-term, could prove deadly. In Hawaii, Monsanto and other biotech corporations have sprayed over 70 different chemicals during field tests of genetically engineered crops, more chemical testing than in any other place in the world. Human studies have not been conducted on GMO foods, but animal experiments show that genetically modified foods lead to pre-cancerous cell growth, infertility, and severe damage to the kidneys, liver and large intestines. Additionally, the health risks of chemical herbicides sprayed onto GMO crops cause hormone disruption, cancer, neurological disorders and birth defects. In Hawaii, some open-field testing sites are near homes and schools. Prematurity, adult on-set diabetes and cancer rates have significantly increased in Hawaii in the last ten years. Many residents fear chemical drift is poisoning them.
  • Monsanto’s agricultural procedures also enable the practice of monocropping, which contributes to environmental degradation, especially on an island like Hawaii. Monocropping is an agricultural practice where one crop is repeatedly planted in the same spot, a system that strips the soil of its nutrients and drives farmers to use a herbicide called Roundup, which is linked to infertility. Farmers are also forced to use pesticides and fertilizers that cause climate change and reef damage, and that decrease the biodiversity of Hawaii.

Food sovereignty as resistance:

  • At the first of the series of marches against GMOs, organizers planted coconut trees in Haleiwa, a community on the north shore of Oahu Island. In the movement, protesting and acting as caretakers of the land are no longer viewed as separate actions, particularly in a region where Monsanto is leasing more than 1,000 acres of prime agricultural soil.
  • During the march, people chanted and held signs declaring, “Aloha ‘?ina: De-occupy Hawaii.”
  • The phrase aloha ‘?ina is regularly seen and heard at anti-GMO protests. Today the words are defined as “love of the land,” but the phrase has also signified “love for the country.” Historically, it was commonly used by individuals and groups fighting for the restoration of the independent Hawaiian nation, and it is now frequently deployed at anti-GMO protests when people speak of Hawaiian sovereignty and independence.
  • After the protest, marchers gathered in Haleiwa Beach Park, where they performed speeches, music, spoken-word poetry and dance while sharing free locally grown food. The strategy of connecting with the land was also a feature of the subsequent protest on the Big Island, where people planted taro before the march, and also at the state capitol rally, where hundreds participated in the traditional process of pounding taro to make poi, a Polynesian staple food.
  • The import economy is a new reality for Hawaii, one directly tied to the imposition of modern food practices on the island. Ancient Hawaii operated within the Ahupua’a system, a communal model of distributing land and work, which allowed the islands to be entirely self-sufficient.
  • “Private land ownership was unknown, and public, common use of the ahupua’a resources demanded that boundaries be drawn to include sufficient land for residence and cultivation, freshwater sources, shoreline and open ocean access,” explained Carol Silva, an historian and Hawaiian language professor.
  • Inspired by the Ahupua’a model, the food sovereignty movement is building an organic local system that fosters the connections between communities and their food — a way of resisting GMOs while simultaneously creating alternatives.

Colonial history:

  • The decline of the Ahupua’a system didn’t only set Hawaii on the path away from food sovereignty; it also destroyed the political independence of the now-U.S. state. And indeed, when protesters chant “aloha ‘?ina” at anti-GMO marches, they are alluding to the fact that this fight isn’t only over competing visions of land use and food creation. It’s also a battle for the islands’ political sovereignty.
  • Historically, foreign corporate interests have repeatedly taken control of Hawaii — and have exploited and mistreated the land and its people in the process.
  • “It’s a systemic problem and the GMO issue just happens to be at the forefront of public debate at the moment,” said Keoni Lee of ??iwi TV. “??ina [land] equals that which provides. Provides for who?”
  • The presence of Monsanto and the other chemical corporations is eerily reminiscent of the business interests that led to the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Throughout the 19th century, the Hawaiian Kingdom was recognized as an independent nation. That reality changed in 1893, when a group of American businessmen and sugar planters orchestrated a U.S. Marine’s armed coup d’etat of the Hawaiian Kingdom government.
  • Five years later, the U.S. apprehended the islands for strategic military use during the Spanish-American War despite local resistance. Even then-President Grover Cleveland called the overthrow a “substantial wrong” and vowed to restore the Hawaiian kingdom. But the economic interests overpowered the political will, and Hawaii remained a U.S. colony for the following 60 years.
  • The annexation of Hawaii profited five sugarcane-manufacturing companies commonly referred to as the Big Five: Alexander & Baldwin, Amfac (American Factors), Castle & Cooke, C. Brewer, and Theo H. Davies. Most of the founders of these companies were missionaries who were actively involved in lobbying for the annexation of the Hawaiian islands in 1898. After the takeover, the Big Five manipulated great political power and influence in what was then considered the “Territory of Hawaii,” gaining unparalleled control of banking, shipping and importing on the island chain. The companies only sponsored white republicans in government, creating an oligarchy that threatened the labor force if it voted against their interests. The companies’ environmental practices, meanwhile, caused air and water pollution and altered the biodiversity of the land.
  • The current presence of the five-biotech chemical corporations in Hawaii mirrors the political and economic colonialism of the Big Five in the early 20th century — particularly because Monsanto has become the largest employer on Molokai.
  • “There is no difference between the “Big Five” that actually ruled Hawaii in the past,” said Walter Ritte. “Now it’s another “Big Five,” and they’re all chemical companies. So it’s almost like this is the same thing. It’s like déjàvu.”

Rising up: … //

… (full text).


The Seeds Of Suicide: How Monsanto Destroys Farming, on Global, by Dr. Vandana Shiva, April 05, 2013;

From Afghanistan to Syria: Women’s Rights, War Propaganda and the CIA, on Global, by Julie Lévesque, April 04, 2013;

Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan RAWA.

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