Budgets, Galas & Kachi Kachi: Week of April 12-18

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Aloha everyone!

It has been a very busy week for the ohana and myself.  The County Council is in budget processing cycle and we had department hearings for the Fire Department, the Liquor Department, Civil Defense, Humane Society, Personnel, Police, County Clerk, Auditor, Housing, Elderly Affairs, Transportation, Finance, Planning, Parks and Recreation, and Public Works.  Yes, that’s 15 departments in the span of a week.  Some of the challenges that we face is that our Real Property Tax Certification doesn’t come in until the end of the month so we really don’t know exactly how much money we have in the bank until that date.  We also are watching what the State legislature does to our Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT) monies.  If they go with the proposal from the Senate which caps the Counties take at 50%, we would be short an additional $6 million.

On Wednesday we were fortunate to be visited by preschool aged children from the Kauai Head Start program, program that benefits our local residents and our communities by investing in our most precious resource, the keiki.  They were here to present us with a plaque in appreciation for our past and continued support of their programs.  With the help of my campaign committee we were able to assemble some goodie bags for the children the night before and boy were they happy.  But their happiness at receiving the goodie bags were eclipsed by the happiness and joy that they brought me by visiting.  Made me think of my own little one and I had the sudden desire to get out of work, rush home, and give my family a big hug.

On Friday, I attended the Drug Court graduation and the emotion running through the room was so thick you could feel it weaving itself into your own emotions.  I heard first hand, the challenges and the willpower that these individuals endured to overcome what so many have failed to overcome.  This is truly a program that works and we must preserve it.  Addiction is a disease and it affects everybody.  It is a rare thing in these times to run across someone who hasn’t been personally touched or affected by drug addiction in some way, shape or form.  Maybe you have a loved one or maybe you yourself have been touched by this problem.  The age where addicts were viewed as someone else’s problem are over. These days it takes the entire community to tackle the problem at hand.

On Friday, night we attended the Kauai Community College Spring Gala.  Our family has been attending this event for years now and anyone that knows me personally knows that I have a PASSION for food.  And what a way for our chefs to showcase their masterpieces alongside the future of the culinary arts world.  We had chefs like Mark Oyama and Alan Wong working alongside budding culinary art students.   Everything was delicious but the Hawaiian Mix Plate from Mark’s Place was a personal favorite.  They had a mix of three different traditional Hawaiian dishes but they put a modern spin on it.  Talk about “Honoring the Past, Building the Future” (I had to put that in).  This was a great evening for a great cause and I can’t wait to see what they have lined up for next year.

After the KCC gala we drove over to the Convention Hall for the Visayan Club’s Kachi Kachi Dance.  I was able to pick up some lessons from Mrs. Carvalho (no relation to our Mayor), which would prove to come in handy on Saturday night (more on that later).

Saturday started bright and early at Kukui Grove for the MS Charity Walk.  Hailee and I joined the crew from Kauai Technical Institute Jiu-Jitsu Academy as we walked to raise some money for a good cause.  Thanks go out to Shea Montgomery for getting the crew together and organizing our team.  While we were walking I got to chat with a few people and not one conversation drifted into a political discussion.  It was all laughs and good vibes for a good cause.  And it dawned on me that in light of a very serious cause that has affected so many people; we were able to remain positive and optimistic.  And that is what gets us through the tough times, our ability to be resilient and our ability to find hope and to band together to face challenges as a community.

After a delicious breakfast we headed over to the KCC Garden Fair.  Let me tell you, if you want to find some of the freshest produce and tastiest and unique value added agricultural products this is the place to be.  Hailee spent her time at the 4-H Keiki tent where Jade and Ty Nakamoto helped her plant a seed in a pot that she decorated. She also constructed a bird feeder that looked good enough for me to eat.  It was so good to see Ed Kawamura, Roy Oyama, Louisa Wooten, and many others who are responsible for keeping the ag movement alive on Kauai.  I bought some goat cheese from Kunana Dairy.  I first tasted this cheese many years ago at Kilauea Lighthouse Bistro, years ago. It was then I knew that I had to carry it in our stores.  I finally tracked down Mrs. Wooten and a partnership was forged.  We are currently out of it but she has assured me that as soon as production picks up she will begin restocking us once again.  I can’t wait.  There was also a chocolate cake that I came across that was out of this world!  I need to look for the card of that baker – I am telling you it was that good.  Every bite was so moist and it was like something that came out of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.   Now that I am on this health and wellness fix I have cut out all sugary drinks like the sodas and energy drinks out of my life.  I have however begun to drink and not only drink, but appreciate coffee.  I bought one cup of coffee from Moloaa Bay Coffee and ended up leaving with two bags and a loaf of freshly baked whole wheat bread from Hanalima Bakery.  The Garden Fair is a great example of what our Agriculture sector is doing to overcome the high cost of doing business in Hawaii.  Creative marketing, a quality product and a great venue is a recipe for success.

As I made my way from the Garden Fair to the Boy Scout Makahiki at the Vidinha Stadium Soccer fields my daughter explained how she and Grammy were farmers too.  My mother, Arlene Kawakami, and her ohana grew up as farmers in Huleia Valley.  She is the youngest in a family of two sons and two daughters.  Her father Mutsumi Kashima worked with Shell Oil as a truck driver and her mother Dora worked as a chambermaid at Coco Palms and in the pantry at Kauai Surf.  They ran Halenani Saimin Shop and were farmers who grew papayas, ginger, and Samoan taro tops.  The sold their produce to Yukimura Store, Eagle Produce and Mahelona Hospital.  As a youngster, her upbringing was a mix of Japanese tradition and Hawaiian culture.  She grew up fishing, swimming, singing, and farming.  My mom is the glue of the family.  She was raised to be strong.  As a wife of a businessman and the mother of three boys she had to be strong, there was no choice.  She constantly reminds her boys to never forget where their roots are.  Always work hard.  Always give thanks.  Always remain humble.  Always stand up for what you believe in and the things that you love.  Well, my mother known to my daughter as “Grammy,” has a hand in raising Hailee as she was the primary babysitter for majority her life.  I remember coming to pick her up one day and the two of them were covered in dirt after spending the afternoon planting sugarcane.  I asked,” Why in the world would you plant sugarcane?” To which my mother replied, “When you were young and weren’t listening we would tell you that we were going to drop you off in the cane field and the sabidong man was going to get you.  Well I just realized that this little girl has no idea that our history and our legacy as an island and as a community has its roots in sugarcane so I figured we could grow some and when the time comes we can chop it down and we could chew on the stalk like we did with all of you.”  Honoring the past. Building the future.

Attending the Boy Scout Makahiki was another trip down memory lane as I was a proud member of Troop 148.  It was nice to see “Coach” Lyle Tabata and Ray Paler and the Boy Scouts of Troop 148 and the same bridge that we used for our Makahiki many years ago being used once again.  Hailee had a blast crossing the rope bridge.  Sometimes I wonder if she is part monkey.  I was really impressed with all the displays and the hard work that the Scout leaders have done to perpetuate the game of Scouting.

After a quick nap we made our way to the sunny Westside town of Kekaha to attend Mass and the St. Theresa carnival.  It was nice to see a lot of friends on the Westside that I haven’t seen in awhile.  I was talking to Mrs. Buza and the conversation steered towards my dad who also attended St. Theresa’s back in the day.  He only lasted one year though and he won’t elaborate on whether he was kicked or not.  However, Mrs. Buza did reflect that “Dat class was kolohe.”  The town of Kekaha is a good example of the benefits of small town living even though they are one of the biggest communities on Kauai.  Everybody knows everybody and everybody takes care of everybody.  After hitting up the Country Store and filling up a box of homemade goodies like pickled mango, sweetbread, and some secret sauce that is a mix of shoyu, garlic, vinegar, and chili pepper plus some “secret” ingredients (it is so good I bought three bottles).  They even had homemade peach cobbler that was still warm!  After eating our massive huli chicken plates and visiting the booths and playing the games and getting Hailee’s face painted and visiting McGruff the crime dog and the Police Explorers Keiki I.D. booth, we decided it was time to make our trip back to Kapahi but not before stopping in at Wong’s in Hanapepe for the Kachi Kachi Dance.

I said before that those Kachi Kachi Dance lessons that I got from Mrs. Carvalho were going to come in handy and boy did they ever!  I saw a lot of friends, (some old and some new) and even saw a co-worker who got me on the dance floor for my first dance.  It’s a rare sight to see a Japanese guy dance kachi kachi as I updated my facebook status.  Hailee who is a self-proclaimed dancing queen shared the next four dances with me.  That girl loves to dance; she dances hula, bon dance, and now kachi kachi!  As I danced with her and twirled her around the dance floor she said, “Daddy I am dancing like a princess.”  I cherished that moment, the look in her eyes made me feel like a hero!  I hope there will never be a day that she won’t save one dance for her daddy.   Well it was way after our bedtime and I had to be up early the next day for our Kiwanis Club of Kauai French Breakfast.  We stopped for some coffee and prepared for the long ride home.

Sunday morning and the alarm is going off at 3:30 a.m.  I figure I get in a fast 20-minute workout to burn off some of the peach cobbler, huli chicken, chocolate cakes and all the other culinary delights that I consumed.  After a quick workout and shower I was heading for Wilcox Elementary (my alma mater) for the annual Kiwanis French Breakfast.  It was great to see the youth of today, the leaders of tomorrow gather so early in the morning to help raise money for scholarships.  These young adults are simply amazing.  They visit our seniors in the hospital and at the Regency at Pua Kea, highway and beach cleanups and they help tutor their fellow students in school.  They are definitely an inspiration.  Big mahalos go out to all who attended.  Your contribution plays a huge role in maintaining a program that teaches volunteerism and responsibility.  Thanks go out to all the Kiwanis members and Key Club members who showed up to help out in our annual event.  I had the challenging job of a bus boy.  I never realized how hard their work is not spilling water on the guests and being on your feet the whole day rushing back and forth.  So please, always remember to tip your waiter : )  after a long day I headed back home for a quick nap.

After a quick power nap Monica woke me up and said “Get your shoes on time to pay for all the fun we had.”  Well if there is one thing she has taught me is that we can eat whatever we want just as long as we burn it off after.  She also taught me that the hardest thing to overcome is getting off the couch and putting on your shoes.  Everything after that is gravy.  So we packed up the Jogging Stroller got Hailee in the car and headed for one of our favorite places Ke Ala Hele Makalae or “The Path.”  We have been training with heart rate monitors to gauge the time and intensity of our runs versus distance.  She decided to run from Kealia to Kuna Bay and since I was pushing a stroller I decided to take the easy way and run from Kealia to the Lihi and back.  As I walked with Hailee and warmed up it gave me a chance to reflect as to how much I love doing what I do.  It may seem like a busy schedule but these are the things that we do as a family anyway.  Even if we weren’t running for office.  We always attend the carnivals, the festivals, the fundraisers, and the community events.  It made me realize that the most important thing is to make time for your loved ones and to get your family involved.  It made me realize how lucky we are to live on Kauai.  It is often easy to focus on what is not working but at the end of the day, when the sun is setting and it is just you and your thoughts, ask yourself.  Is there anywhere else in the World that I would rather be?  And as Hailee climbed in the jogger and as I began to pick up the pace to burn off the chocolate cakes and Mark’s Place Hawaiian Plate, and Huli Chicken and Flying Saucers, and as Hailee drifted off to la la land.  My answer was, no.  There is nowhere else in the World that I would rather be than with my Ohana, My people, My Kauai.  Until next time, a hui hou!

Commencement of the Re-Elect Derek Kawakami Campaign

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Aloha Friends,

We have just organized our campaign team for 2010 and we’ve hit the ground running! We have entered into the County Council budget session which is the most important task of our County Council.  The Budget hearings are now recorded live and can been seen live at HawaiiStream.com. Many community members came to our new location near Nawiliwili and I’ve received great comments about the live streaming video.

After a long day at the budget hearings, I decided to dropped into Kauai Technical Institute Jiu Jitsu on Friday night. The KTI members were a great help to us last campaign as they walked house to house with me on the Eastside. They were happy to get me off the street and on to the mat! Sergeant-at-Arms, Chris Takenaka, would be pleased to hear that I’m training with these great guys.

Bright and early on Saturday morning, Monica and I helped the Kiwanis and Key Clubbers clean up Nawiliwili Park during our annual One Day community service project.  It was good to give back to an area that gave me so much as I was growing up.  I literally spent more time at Kalapaki than anywhere else in the World.

Later Saturday afternoon, we headed up the hill for the Kauai Democratic Party County Convention where amongst other things our own Steve Nishimura was handed over the gavel as he takes over as Chairman of the party.  Congratulations Steve!

Saturday night was a fun-filled evening as we entered a Bowling Tournament on behalf of the County Council to benefit the Hawaii Hotel and Lodging Association’s Visitor Industry Charity Walk.  On our team, The Mayor came in first followed by Glen Kawamura, myself, Tim Bynum, Dickie Chang, and last but not least Lani Kawahara.

Spent Sunday morning attending mass at St. Williams in Hanalei followed by a delicious breakfast at Hanalei School to benefit the North Shore Lion’s Club and their charitable efforts.  Ahhhhh…..It feels good to be on the campaign trail once again.  Time to lace up the shoes dust off the cobwebs because we are rolling!


Issues of Information

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Recently, two Council members have brought to our attention a list of concerns that they have. dealing with the posting of minutes online, the distribution of information, and the ability to place any item on the agenda. Some members of the public have written to the newspaper, sent emails, or have stopped me on the street to talk about this issue. My response is what I have always done, listen first. Gather the information. Then, make a decision based on the merits of the case. We are going to be having an open discussion on July 22 at which point, those two Council members will have every opportunity to state their case and we in return will have an opportunity to ask questions, get answers, reassess the situation, and move forward. I have looked at their website and I have questions for all parties involved.

What I can do is tell you where I stand on the issues as a whole. One of the first questions I asked our County Clerk upon getting elected is if we plan on having minutes posted online. For me, it is a matter of convenience and mobile technology. I can read my minutes virtually anywhere that I can bring my laptop. It is important for me to be as mobile as possible given the nature of my schedule. The answer I got is that we are working on it. Boards and Commissions are in the process of posting their minutes and when that is complete we will be working on ours. I was fine with that answer. Why? To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t in my top five priorities.

We were and are currently conducting council business in the open, we are televised on Ho`ike, and anyone who wants minutes can receive them per request within 30 days of the last meeting. So this issue wasn’t an issue of transparency or lack of transparency. It was about how can we provide a better service to our community. If I had perceived it to be an issue of transparency I would have reacted quite differently.

Executive session meetings that I have been in dealt with the consideration of the powers, duties, privileges, immunities and/or liabilities of the Council and the County as they relate to the agenda item. Every Executive Session has fully complied with the requirements of the Sunshine Law. If I am wrong, I challenge my fellow council members to bring any violation to my attention. There are no backroom deals being made, we focus on the item at hand and we stay the course. Once again, If I am wrong, I invite my fellow council members to point it out to me. So everything we do is out in the open, it is televised, it is reported on by our newspaper, and minutes of the meeting are available within 30 days of that meeting. Yet this has turned into a lack of transparency issue. Like I said, this will increase the level of service, but in my opinion, we are very transparent.

Next we are dealing with the distribution of communication. Quite frankly, the amount of information and communication we receive is tremendous. I have no idea what communication or information I am receiving that they are not receiving. If this is true, an explanation is warranted. All I can tell you is that we have cubbyholes assigned to us with stacks of communication and I do not have the time and effort to compare what I have with the next person. We each have a computer and we receive emails from our constituents and from various county departments. So in conclusion, what am I getting that you aren’t?

Issue of accessibility to the agenda. All bills and resolutions must be initialed by the chair or in his or her absence, the vice chair in order to be placed on the agenda. Is this the only mechanism? No. I believe that you can make a motion to add an item to the agenda and if it carries a 2/3 affirmative vote, should be immediately deferred to the following council meeting in order to comply with the Sunshine Law. So there are ways to get on the agenda.

In conclusion, I look forward to July 22nd so that I can listen to the facts behind these allegations. In closing, I would like to say that in a democracy, there is a minority and a majority. It is the democratic process. It is in my opinion that the minority should have an equal voice. They should be heard. But when the day is done and the chips fall on the table it is the votes that count. And whether or not we are on the winning end or the losing end we must respect the process and respect the decision of the body as a whole. Anything less is unbecoming of an elected official.

Mahalo Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau!

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Thank you Kauai and Niihau for your support in the primary elections.

Derek Featured in the Media

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Just a quick round up of recent news articles featuring Derek.

Judge Alfred Laureta on Derek

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

“While serving with Derek as a former Director of KIUC, I sensed in him a dedication and desire to do that which was expected of him as a director.  His willingness to listen and his forward-looking outlook contributed much to solutions and decisions.  He is motivated by a desire to help build a legacy of Kauai which future generations can be thankful for.” – Alfred Laureta

1st Filipino-American to be appointed U.S. district judge (1969)
1st Filipino-American to be appointed judge of Hawaii’s Circuit Court One (1969)
1st Filipino-American director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations in Hawaii (1963)
Former Administrative Assistant to Senator Daniel K. Inouye
Former KIUC Director

GMO Crops

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

GMO –“An organism whose genetic characteristics have been altered using the techniques of genetic engineering” (The American Heritage Science Dictionary 2008).

Genetic engineering –“The development and application of scientific methods, procedures, and technologies that permit direct manipulation of genetic material in order to alter the hereditary traits of a cell, organism, or population.” (Dictionary.com Unabridged v 1.1)

Science –“Systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.” (Dictionary.com Unabridged v 1.1)

Technology — “The branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of technical means and their interrelation with life, society, and the environment, drawing upon such subjects as industrial arts, engineering, applied science, and pure science”. (Dictionary.com Unabridged v 1.1)

Agriculture –“ The science, art, or occupation concerned with cultivating land, raising crops, and feeding, breeding, and raising livestock; farming” (.

Science and technology have allowed our society to advance at a tremendous rate. The way we communicate, travel, learn, produce electricity, as well as scientific advances in medicine have been beneficial to our society. But there is also a flipside to technological and scientific advances that have been detrimental to our society. Weapons of mass destruction, some types of illegal drugs such as crystal methamphetamine and ecstasy, and the pesticide Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane also known as “DDT”. My research into genetically modified organisms led me to two distinct points of view on the subject matter.


The topic of genetic engineering has drawn many concerns and questions from the community. Some of the main concerns are:

1. Regulation — GMO Free Hawaii is concerned that the United States Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency, who are tasked to provide regulation on genetically engineered organisms, have not set established rules to regulate these type of crops (GMO Free Hawaii 2002/2003).

a. The problem is that the rules in place address crops that are of a completely different nature than genetically engineered crops.

b. According to research done by Masashi Tachikawa, “These policy-making processes in US and Europe are in a sense quite the opposite to each other in that the US handled the GMO issue in the expanded framework of existing policy (based on the assumption that GMO would not pose new risks) without introducing new regulations specific to GMOs, whereas Europe considered GMOs as new organisms requiring environmental impact assessment prior to industrial use and established new regulations to control GMOs from the environmental viewpoint (Policy Trends and Regulation Style for Genetically Modified Products in the United States).

2. Crop Contamination — Another concern is the possibility that a GMO crop could cross-pollinate with a traditional crop. One example that comes to mind is that some GMO crops are genetically engineered to resist herbicides and there is a fear that this type of crop could cross pollinate with a weed to create a “super-weed” that is immune to herbicides. Another concern is that:

a. Pharmacrops-Pharmacrops are plants or animals that are genetically engineered to produce medicine. One concern is that if a pharmacrop were to cross-pollinate with a food crop whether it be GMO or not, we could possibly be ingesting something that was not meant to be consumed.

3. Food Safety — Food Safety is a concern that hits close to home. The last thing that any establishment wants is to serve their people something that makes them sick. According to the Center for Food Safety, “Currently, up to 45 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as is 85 percent of soybeans. It has been estimated that 70-75 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves–from soda to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients.” “A number of studies over the past decade have revealed that genetically engineered foods can pose serious risks to humans, domesticated animals, wildlife and the environment. Human health effects can include higher risks of toxicity, allergic reactions, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer. As for environmental impacts, the use of genetic engineering in agriculture will lead to uncontrolled biological pollution, threatening numerous microbial, plant and animal species with extinction, and the potential contamination of all non-genetically engineered life forms with novel and possibly hazardous genetic material” (Center for Food Safety Washington D.C.).

4. Unnatural — As we become cognizant of mankind’s relationship with our environment, there is also a movement towards organic and natural foods. To some, the thought of man tampering with natural selection may seem as if scientists are playing God. The main difference between traditional crop breeding and GMOs is that traditional crop breeding is the practice of taking favorable traits from one species and integrating that trait into the very same species to produce favorable results. Genetic engineering is the practice of taking DNA from one species and integrating that DNA into an entirely different species. For example, we may take the DNA from a cactus and insert it into another crop such as beets with the hope of producing a drought resistant crop.


I contacted one Biotech company to address some of these concerns. Along with my own research I have found the following:

1. Regulation — According to the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association which consists of biotech companies including; Dow AgroScience, Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Syngenta and BASF, “Before biotech plants ever reach a farmer’s field or end up in food and animal feed, they undergo seven to ten years of rigorous testing.” (HCIA) The respective Federal agencies involved in regulation are the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is tasked with assessing the safety of all biotech plant products intended for consumption by humans and animals. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees field-testing of genetic engineering companies to make sure that GMOs cause no harm to agriculture and the environment. In 2002, the Biotechnology Regulatory Services was created under the USDA to specifically address issues and concerns of this relatively new type of crop. Furthermore, the USDA and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, as part of an environmental risk assessment, carefully examines the potential for biotech crops to pass their genes to native plants. This is examined on a case-by-case basis before it is granted non-regulated status. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) examines GMO pesticidal properties for environmental safety. This includes any impact on wildlife and the environment. It also provides approval or disapproval of any herbicide use with herbicide tolerant crops. As mentioned before, the Biotechnology Regulatory Services department was created specifically to regulate field-testing. GMOs are regulated more heavily than any other crop.

2. Crop Contamination — Pollen drift is the primary concern when it comes to the subject of cross-pollination. However, there are no native plants that carry the risk of being cross-pollinated. Regulatory agencies such as the USDA and Hawaii Department of Agriculture examines each GMO crop to ensure that gene flow from one crop to the same or related species does not represent a significant risk.

3. Food Safety — Some of the regulatory agencies that have stated that GMOs are as safe as conventional crops include:

a. American Medical Association (AMA 1999-2002)

b. American College of Nutrition

c. U.S. National Academy of Sciences

d. U.S. Food and Drug Administration

e. Society of Toxicology (Society of Toxicology 2002)

f. World Health Organization

g. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

h. The Royal Academy of Sciences

i. The French Academy of Medicine

“The most telling fact about the safety of biotech crops is that during the 10+ years they have been commercially grown, people have consumed more than a trillion servings of food containing biotech ingredients. During this time there has not been one single documented case of an ecosystem being disrupted or a person made ill by these foods-in Hawaii or anywhere in the world.” (HCIA)

“Genetically modified foods “raise many issues–scientific, technological, environmental, social, ethical, economic, and political.” Controversy over GM food exposes larger issues about public trust in science and the role of science in policymaking. In an increasingly complex world, trust functions as a substitute for knowledge. Interference with our systems of food production has always aroused public concern, occasionally with justification. Attempts to introduce GM foods have stimulated not a reasoned debate, but a potent negative campaign by people with other agendas. Opponents ignore common farming practices and well investigated facts about plants, or inaccurately present general problems as being unique to GM plants.” (American Medical Association)

Unnatural-Scientific and technological advances have often been deemed unnatural and perhaps they are. However, conventional crossbreeding is a technique used by farmers for thousands of years and they are still being used today. The act of introducing a gene from one species to another is relatively new. Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen combined their efforts in biotechnology to invent a method of cloning genetically engineered molecules in foreign cells. By this discovery and its applications Boyer and Cohen initiated what is now the multibillion-dollar biotechnology industry. Their collaboration began at a conference in Hawaii in 1972, when Boyer was a biochemist and genetic engineer at the University of California at San Francisco, and Cohen was an associate professor of medicine at Stanford University. The conference’s topic was bacterial plasmids—circular segments of DNA that endow the cells carrying them with antibiotic resistance and other medical benefits.” (Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1997)

Many opponents of GMOs have concluded that bioengineering has crossed the thresholds of nature. Others have claimed that this is an attack on God. I will not contest these arguments for who am I to judge religious and personal beliefs. The same way that I oppose genetic engineering on native varieties of kalo due to the cultural significance and out of respect to our host culture which I am a part of. There is no doubt in my mind that the genes of a halibut would never have found it’s way into the strawberry to make it frost resistant naturally, I agree that the act of introducing the gene from one species into a completely different organism is indeed unnatural. Yet, it is in humankind’s nature to constantly innovate and to discover. “Man is a conglomerate of many things. His distinctive characteristic, above all others, is his ability to create tools. In this department he is unique. No other animated entity of all creation, so far as we can tell, has this ability, at least to the extent that man has it. Man has learned, because of his remarkable tool making facility, to extend himself into all kinds of worlds and situations which would be beyond him except for his tools. It is the use of tools which gives man mastery over this planet. If man plunges beyond this planet, it will be his tools which take him there.” (Robert LeFevre 1959.)

Economic Diversity

One aspect of economic diversity deals with increasing our export income. Export income deals with exporting goods and in turn, bringing in money and jobs into our economy. PMRF, the film industry as well as tourism and agricultural exports are some examples of export income. Biotech companies such as Syngenta, Pioneer, and Monsanto are also examples of export income. The seed crop industry has contributed $144 million/year to Hawaii’s economy and currently employs 2,000 of our residents. It is an industry that can provide high technology jobs for our kids and will promote careers in science and technology. There is also a need to reduce the amount of imports as we are currently importing over 85% of our food. This leak needs to be addressed and some ways that we are doing it now is by patronizing our sunshine markets and shopping local. Another way we are reducing our imports is by growing our own food.


Our vision for Kauai 2020 states that we are “an agricultural center, producing a wide range of crops, food. And forest products for local consumption and export.” (County of Kauai Planning Department 2000)

We all strive to keep ag land in ag land and there is one thing that is hard to debate, companies in the biotech industry have done just that.

High Technology

Our vision for 2020 also states that, “New high-technology businesses include a computer animation facility for the movie industry, and a solar energy research and development facility, and a bio-engineering company.” (County of Kauai Planning Department 2000)


Some of the benefits that GMOs bring include:

1. Reduced pesticide use

a. 62 million tons less in the U.S. in 2004

b. 380 million tons less globally (1996-2004)

2. Reduced erosion

a. One billion tons/yr of soil preserved due to no-till or low till farming.

3. Water Conservation

a. $3.5 billion saved in water treatment and storage costs per year

4. Increased yields

a. Farmers have realized increased yields on the same amount of land as well as less production costs due to reduced pesticide use and less tilling.

b. In 2004 US growers planted 118 million acres of biotech crops that:

i. Increased yields by 6.61 billion pounds

ii. Increased net returns by $2.3 billion, and

iii. Reduced time and costs associated with the elimination of over 62 million pounds of pesticide

c. In addition to higher-yielding crops, further productivity gains are expected to result from new pest resistant and stress-tolerant crops currently in development. The goal is to reduce the risk of crop failure due to environmental stress as drought and disease. Examples include:

i. Oranges resistant to citrus canker being developed in Florida.

ii. Sweet potatoes resistant to viruses being developed in Kenya

iii. Disease resistant bananas being developed in Australia and Hawaii.

iv. Drought and stress tolerant varieties of corn.

5. Enhanced nutrition

a. Tomatoes enriched with lycopene, an antioxidant believed to help protect against heart disease and cancer

b. Rice enriched with beta-carotene, which stimulate production of vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency causes blindness in 500,000 children and up to two million deaths each year.

c. Cooking oils that contain higher levels of Vitamin E and lower levels of trans fatty acids. Vitamin E is believed to improve the body’s immune system, lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer.

d. Food crops enriched with higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown lowers cholesterol.

6. Third World Countries will benefit

a. Crops that are tolerant of local soil and weather conditions

b. Increased yields without expansive chemical treatments for disease by using virus resistant strains.

c. Provides nutrition from crops enriched with essential vitamins and minerals not present in sufficient quantities in their traditional diets. (Hawaii Crop Improvement Association)

7. World Health Organization

a. The World Health Organization put out a news release in 2005 to release findings of their comprehensive study on GMO crops. GM foods currently available on the international market have undergone risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health any more than their conventional counterparts. The risk-assessment guidelines specified by CAC are thought to be adequate for the safety assessment of GM foods currently on the international market. Guidelines for environmental risk assessment have been developed under the Convention on Biological Diversity.” (World Health Organization 2005)

b. “We can hope to gain the health and nutritional improvements of GM foods when we can help countries to research how they can control and exploit the introduction of GM products for the benefit of their own people,” -Dr. Jorgen Schlundt Director of the World Health Organization’s Food Safety Department. (World Health Organization)


The topic on whether or not GMOs are right for Kauai will be an ongoing debate. There is definitely a movement of sustainable agriculture throughout our state and island which is evident by the hard work of such organizations like Malama Kauai and the Waipa Foundation as well as backyard farmers. There efforts to perpetuate the way of the mahi`ai should not go unnoticed as it is efforts such as these that will cultivate the next generation of farmers. A wise man recently told me at a bon dance, “The day that the children stop coming is the day that bon dance will die.” Our needs as a county to move towards economic diversity are spelled out clearly by the shutdown of Aloha Airlines and ATA. The tourist industry will continue to be the driving force behind our economy but it is vulnerable to economic impacts both nationally and internationally. My findings on GMOs have raised one primary concern for me. The issue of regulation could be improved. This is a function of our President’s administration under the Food and Drug Administration, The United States Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Eco-Roundtable question

Would you support an ordinance to limit or even ban the growing of genetically modified crops on Kaua`i and if not, what do you propose to do to protect crops from GMO contamination and support the public’s right to know where GMOs are being grown?

I would not support an ordinance to ban the growing of genetically modified crops on Kaua`i. I will research the possibility of designating certain prime agricultural lands as “GMO Free Zones.” These “GMO Free Zones” would be areas that are reserved for non-GMO farming. Some items to consider is that these “GMO Free Zones” must be located in areas that are designated as prime agricultural lands, which would mean that there is access to water and necessary infrastructure. These “GMO Free Zones” would also need to be buffered from “pollen drift” and therefore would need to be located at a distance that is safe from possible cross-pollination. These “GMO Free Zones” would also need a buffer crop to further reduce the risk of stray pollen from cross contaminating “GMO Free Zones.” We would also need to take into consideration that we have trade winds and would need to factor this into our decision -making. I think for the most part, people are aware of where GMOs are being grown. However, if it is your desire for the public to know where confined laboratory research is being done, I would not support the release of this information because:

1. There are strict containment conditions that are implemented for a reason when doing laboratory research. One, they cannot afford to allow a crop that is still undergoing testing to be possibly released into the environment prior to USDA approval.

2. There is a risk of vandalism and theft.

3. Locations are released to the USDA so that they can conduct field tests and to ensure that Biotech companies are adhering to USDA guidelines. USDA makes general information publicly available but keeps specific locations confidential.


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