By Wendy Osher
Members of the SHAKA Movement rallied in front of the county building in Wailuku today before delivering a final list of signatures to the County Clerk’s office in support of a moratorium on the cultivation of genetically-engineered organisms or GMOs in Maui County.
The group had initially submitted 9,768 signatures, but after review, the County Clerk deemed more than half invalid , saying an additional 3,745 valid signatures were needed in order for the petition to move forward in the Charter-mandated process.
According to County Clerk Danny Mateo, a total of 5,048 signatures from the original list were deemed invalid due to a variety of issues including duplicate signatures, insufficient or incorrect information provided, or illegible handwriting.
Today, SHAKA supporters said nearly 20,000 citizens have expressed support for the initiative and are hopeful that the additional names will be enough to get the item on the ballot.
“We’re saying nuff already,” said Joe Marshalla PhD and SHAKA Movement supporter at today’s rally. “What’s happening right here; what’s happening with our soil; what’s happening with our water; what’s happening with our air; what’s happening in our dust; what’s happening to our keiki; what’s happening in the blood of the citizens who are living here? When we have that information, then we have something to talk about. Until then, we don’t care what research you have. Until we know what is happening right here, right now, on our land, in our air, in our children, everything must stop,” he said.
The initial petition was submitted by five Maui County citizens including: Mark Sheehan PhD, Lorrin Pang MD, Leiʻohu Ryder, Alika Atay, and Dr. Bonnie Marsh ND.
Atay said he was asked to participate with the SHAKA Movement to represent the children. “If you were born and raised here, you were born with the kuleana — the responsibility — to follow the creed, to follow the motto Ua mau ke ea o ka ʻāina i ka pono, (the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness).”
“I stand here to represent not just my children, not my grandchildren, but also — you know the Hawaiians we say seven generations. Every decision that a politician makes, every decision that a CEO makes, must also come to what is the best decision on the effect and affect seven generations deep,” said Atay.
“All of you who take responsibility about the future of our island, mahalo for living here. The rest of the folks, wake up. Nuff already,” he said.
Atay said he’s “very confident” that the item will get onto the ballot and said that once that happens, the focus will be shifted to educating others.
Council Member Elle Cochran also stood in support of the petition drive saying she too is very confident. “Just seeing the energy and feeling the movement that’s occurring has been very inspirational to myself to continue to do the work I have.”
“At this council level,” she said, “unfortunately, the whole pesticide, GMO subject matter is not well-received as much as I’d like it to be; but in the end, I believe there’s been a lot of awareness and education brought to the surface, and from there, more and more people are gathering more knowledge and understanding of what this is about.”
Jeffrey Smith, GMO expert and head of the Institute for Responsible Technology was also among those who rallied in support of the SHAKA Movement Petition calling the issue a “sovereignty movement.”
“This is historic. This is enormous. This is a model for the world … This is the time to find that power in the constitution, to find that power in citizen leaders, and to come together and say, ‘not on our watch, not on our land, not for our children, we are the leaders here, and we will determine what we accept in our air, water and bodies,'” said Smith.
“The entire GMO issue is based on narrow thinking, blinders; look just at the gene and forget about biology; look just at the active ingredient and forget about the entire pesticide; just constantly narrow thinking. The anecdote to that is found in Hawaiian culture which says no — narrow thinking is not how nature operates, and is not how humans operate,” said Smith.
Smith is scheduled to deliver a free lecture at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, to further discuss GMO concerns in Maui County.
Last week, Carol Reimann, community & government affairs manager for Monsanto Hawaiʻi issued a statement saying, “This petition is being circulated in support of a misguided initiative that would severely damage our local economy, jeopardize hundreds of jobs on Maui and Molokaʻi, and create a painful ripple effect on other businesses and families in our county. Together with local agricultural businesses, employees and supporters of farming in Maui County, Monsanto Hawaiʻi stands in strong opposition to this harmful initiative.”