GMO demonstration draws crowds, politicians
What started on Molokai may set precedent for nation
By Kate Gardiner
The Molokai Times (Hawaii,), 16 January 2008 http://www.molokaitimes.com/articles/811612216.asp
HONOLULU - Speaker of the House Calvin Say said that he cannot promise that the legislature will hear a bill that would ban the genetic engineering of taro. Speaking for himself and Representative Clift Tsuji, Say said 'Your presence is a reflection of your love of [taro]. It's an [attribute] of Hawaiian culture that I share with you. I cannot commit but I've never said that I would not have a hearing. If the House wants a hearing, the chairman and I are open to it. [It will be] sometime this session if there is a consensus.'
The morning consisted of a march from the Hawaii SEED campsite near the Iolani Palace gazebo to the foyer of the state legislature.
Speaking to the demonstrators before the march, organizer Walter Ritte said, 'We are not being treated fairly in [this] building... Today is a learning experience. Sometimes we have to raise our voices.'
It attracted politicians from all over Hawaii. Speakers in favor of the proposed ban of GE taro included state representative Mina Morita, who told the crowd that taro 'Is the symbol of sustainability. It carries us on from generation to generation.'
As the representative for the largest taro-producing district in Hawaii, Morita said, 'People need to understand that Hawaiians are our consumers. And they don't want to consume GMO taro.'
Winona LaDuke, visiting from her White Earth Native American reservation in northern Minnesota, said that the movement to ban GE taro is gaining strength, and helping those on the mainland who are fighting similar battles, as she is for her people's wild rice. 'I stand here, with the corn people, with the indigenous people of the Big Island. We fight for no GMO for the relatives. [We must] protect the relatives.'
Tesuqui Indian Louie Hena spoke to assorted keiki after the event, 'We're fighting this battle for you.' Hena is one of the 'corn people.' His tribe is fighting genetically engineered corn.
Lanai resident, woodcarver and taro grower Vince Kauali said the driving force behind his participation was the historical significance of taro, 'When the ocean was fat, and the land was so rich that there was food there all the time, [times were good. We have to remember the time before] the fatness of the land has squeezed into the wallets of a few.'
The demonstration kicked off Tuesday night with a video session outside the Iolani Palace. In addition to LaDuke, representatives from a visiting Maori tribe and state senator Clayton Hee spoke to their fellows and interested members of the public. More than 100 people camped at the Palace overnight. They are expected to remain for the presentations tomorrow.
The event was pushed forward by Molokai residents and activists Walter and Loretta Ritte. Hanohano Naehu, also from Molokai, said that he was excited to see Molokai at the forefront of the fight against GMO. Naehu's video series, including an anti-GMO rap he composed, was part of Tuesday night's festivities. Supporting other Molokai interests, visitors wearing 'Aole La'au shirts were visible throughout the crowd. Ritte said that he thought that the event was successful and the fight against GE taro was just beginning.