San Juan County – Proudly GMO-Free!

View across Kauai farmlands
Photo of gorgeous Kauai by Anna Maria
Photo of gorgeous Kauai’s iconic taro fields by Anna Maria

The term “GMO” – genetically modified organism – has been a trending term for the past couple of years now. Foods containing GMO’s have undergone a certain amount of genetic modification. In addition, the vast majority of processed foods have gone through so much change from their original form that they are barely recognizable. Corn, soy and fructose are some of the biggest offenders, and they are found in almost every processed food, along with a laundry list of unpronounceable ingredients. All of this science going into our food requires a great deal of pesticides and other control measures to meet mass production quotas.

Gross GMO injustice has recently befallen the island of Kauai in Hawaii. In January of this year, three of the “big 5” pro-GMO companies decided to file a suit against Kauai for the “right” to spray toxic restricted- use pesticides, which are banned in most other countries, right up to the property line of schools, hospitals and homes. (See more about that here.) The suit was filed against a bill that creates safe buffer zones of a few hundred feet around these properties to protect residents, especially more vulnerable children, from pesticides.

Why do these biotech companies want to grow their crops (soybean, canola, rice and seed corn mainly) on Kauai so badly? The climate is perfect for plenty of corn production – three harvests a year versus the usual two per season in most climates – which is resulting in a bunch of bad side effects on the residents who live so close to production areas.

The biotech companies have shot themselves in the foot here though, with their insistence on spraying their pesticides despite the heightened presence of noxious odors, hospitalized students, asthma, cancer and birth defects. These have not been directly linked to the pesticides, but common sense leads to that conclusion, as Kauai is otherwise a natural, healthy island paradise.

Anna Maria and Dave have traveled to Kauai many times over the last 26 years. During their latest visit this past January, they

The people of Kauai are not accepting GMOs without a fight!
The people of Kauai are not accepting GMOs without a fight!

immediately noticed conspicuous signs and billboards posted around the island reading “No GMO” and “GMO-free”. Throughout their visit, the environmental disaster playing out on this pristine ecosystem began to reveal itself. Radio stations were inviting citizens to attend public meetings. It was an emotional and heated issue among citizens, politicians, and giant agribusiness. Agribusiness was promoting economic development and jobs at the expense of the environment and its preservation for generations to come. There was concern and fear on other Hawaiian islands as well, including the north side of the Big Island, where “no spray zone” signs could be seen.

At home here in San Juan County, we are proudly GMO-free. Living in a small island community has so many benefits, but the easy access to locally grown, pesticide and hormone-free meat, dairy and produce is one of the biggest. Here on the island, especially in the summer, there are farm stands popping up all over, and the weekend farmer’s market is always overflowing with fresh greens, baked goods, eggs, meat, coffee and more. Of course, you can get local ice cream, jams, spirits, and bread too, even in our grocery stores.

We are fortunate to have a very active co-op that keeps our costs of organic fruits and veggies down, and many of our restaurants serve grass-fed beef and chicken that were raised right on the island. Even our pizzas are made from fresh ingredients that came from just around the corner!

Caprese salad fresh from the local farms, available at Coho
Caprese salad fresh from the local farms, available at Coho

We have no need for GMO’s around here, as supported by the residents of San Juan County in the November 2013 state-wide ballot initiative. San Juan County residents voted overwhelmingly to support a GMO ban by 62%. So many of our residents believe in harvesting what we can from the earth and scoffing at the boxes of preservatives lining the aisles at big-box grocery chains. So much of what people in this country have to buy is forced on them because of the push and tug of the almighty dollar – these biotech companies will leave no corner cut to make money, even if it means lulling their consumers into a false sense of security with misleading labels on their s0-called “healthy foods.” Here in the islands, we know our food is healthy and natural because so much of it was grown by our own neighbors. What a wonderful thing it is to be surrounded by the bounty of nature, both in the form of our breathtaking wildlife and the delicious, GMO-free foods we serve on our table.

(Especially during breakfast at the inns and every night at Coho Restaurant – we’d love to share some with you soon!)

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