Label It Hawaii seeks support for GMO food labeling legislation

| April 23, 2012 | 13 Comments

Walter Ritte protesting GMOs on Molokai two years ago at the Lanikeha Center. Ritte will be on Oahu Wednesday to rally for a bill to require the labeling of GMO products in food.


For several years, Hawaiian rights activist Walter Ritte has studied and fought against the development of Genetically Modified Organisms on Molokai.

Ritte has campaigned for legislation to ban the genetic modification of taro and for all other proposed anti-GMO laws. Now he has teamed up with the statewide group Label It Hawaii in an effort to require that all foods containing genetically engineered products be labeled as such.

“Molokai is paying the true cost for this ‘cheap’ GMO food,” explains Ritte in his written statement. “Our best farm lands are being turned into dust bowls. Soil is not only blowing out into the sea but is being washed by rain down onto our reefs. In the dust are powerful chemicals, which are blowing into our cars, schools, kupuna housing, daycare center, county baseball park, Molokai Community College, and hundreds of homes. If this is happening to our island, it must be happening on other islands, we all have na’au to aloha ‘aina, and kuleana, to malama ‘aina.”

With the ultimate goal of getting a state GMO labeling law in front of the 2013 state legislature, Ritte will be on Oahu Wednesday when the City and County Council of Honolulu will hold a hearing in Kapolei regarding resolution 12-57, “urging the State of Hawaii and the FDA to require the labeling of GMOs.”

According to a recent editorial in the Star Advertiser, submitted by Label It Hawaii, “The FDA’s anti-GMO labeling policy rests on the antiquated doctrine that only those changes in food that can be detected by taste, smell or other senses need to be labeled.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration supports this position by stating that the National Research Council Committee has concluded that assessing food safety based solely on how the food was produced is scientifically unjustified.

Label It Hawaii compares this current effort to ban GMOs with the work to ban the use of the pesticide DDT in the 20th Century. While it was recognized that DDT had adverse health and environmental impacts, it took almost 100 years after it was first produced for the EPA to ban DDT in 1972.

Monsanto workers on Molokai place paper bags over the GMO corn pollen to prevent its spread into other fields. Monsanto is the largest private employer on Molokai.


Like the manufacturers of DDT who fought its ban, Monsanto — the worldwide leader in the production of GMO seeds and Molokai’s largest employer — has resisted any type of government regulation. For example, the National Academy of Sciences has called for regulation that would make the process of testing GMO food products more transparent and rigorous. Monsanto has strongly lobbied against this type of regulation.

Label It Hawaii believes consumers have the right to know what is in their food products. “Mandatory labeling would also give akamai consumers the ability to choose whether the foods they consume are produced in a sustainable manner.”

While federal GMO-labeling has been introduced and failed on the federal level, there are currently 55 members of Congress, including Senator Dan Akaka, who have signed a letter of support to label GMO products.

Hawaii is one of 14 states seeking mandatory labeling of GMO foods. This is evidence of the unprecedented groundswell of support for labeling across the nation, according to Label It Hawaii. “Hawaii prides itself on leading the nation in efforts to protect the safety of our food and the health of our environment.”

The group has identified seven members of the City and County Council who are either on the fence or are opposed to the labeling legislation. To get the additional five votes needed to pass the resolution, Label It Hawaii is asking supporters to contact the following members:

Ernie Martin: A supporter of GMOs, 768-5002; Ikaika Anderson: “Kailua and Waimanalo guys need to talk with him,” 768-5003; Stanley Chang: “He is on the fence (voted yes with reservation at committee level),” 768-5004; Ann Kobayashi: “She is budget chair and must be influential on the Council,” 768-5005; Romy Cachola: Kalihi is his district, 768-5007; Breene Harimoto: “He did turn around and vote yes at the committee level,” 768-5008; Nestor Garcia: Kunia and Kapolei is his district, “He also needs a lot of persuasion,” 768-5009.

Label It Hawaii is also asking supporters to submit testimony, online or in person; or to join them at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Kapolei with labeling signs for a “support rally” prior to the public hearing.

Category: Biotechnology and Monsanto, News

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  1. enjoylife6677 says:

    I don’t see the pollution he alleges. Mud flows onto reefs during winter rains from many more sources and causes than just GMO operations. Ditto re. dust. As far as chemical pollutants eminating from GMO sources, I would rely much more on empirical data from a government water quality testing report than on allegations that smack of a witch hunt. I believe there are some issues with GMO companies like Monsanto that verge on trying to create a monopoly in areas like GMO seed production, but I do not believe the kind of pollution Ritte is talking about is even relevant.

    Retired Hazardous Waste/Pollution Investigator

  2. kalaniua ritte says:

    if you were a haz investigator you didnt do a good job…just look at the world its a pollutted dump

  3. mkklolo says:

    Monsanto does a poor job of dust control, as can be seen when the strong trades blow, and rain water is much more effective in removing topsoil from the land. They also are doing a poor job of water conservation with giant sprinklers running huge jets of water into strong trade winds. Molokai has thin topsoil and water is too precious here to be wasting it in wind-blown aerosols. The GMO scare on the other hand is a bunch of junk science with little or no basis in realilty, much like the vaccine paranoia seen in recent years. The real issue with GMO is its corporate sponsors’ abuse of an obsolete and broken patent system that creates monopolies and damages small growers. Ritte, as is standard procedure for demagogues, concentrates on the emotional hot buttons like food safety.

    • kalaniua ritte says:

      what about the pesticides in the dust and air.known side effects{cancer,birthdefects,asthma] of these pesticides{24d,atrazine,roundup}are common on molokai…coincidence,i dont think so.

  4. jo says:

    Apparently Mr. Ritte is all-knowing about every topic, especially topics that relate to science, agriculture, economics and human relations.

    Anyone with a comment or belief different from Mr. Ritte is clearly an ignoramus. Nevermind the years of real world professional experience and/or an education that would yield a different opinion. The only knoweldge that matters in the whole universe is what can be gained inside the shores of Molokai.

    Note to the future leaders of Molokai. This is how not to engage the public.

    Note to self: Don’t waste any more time trying to participate in community discussions on Molokai.

    • kalaniua ritte says:

      you finally got it

    • Where is the research to his comments to back up his statements?Where are his SOLUTIONS for everything they protest?Do not give in to his intimidation and harassment. Lets hear some solutions to these issues that they protest to find resolutions that would be good for the whole community.

      • jo says:

        you can’t argue logic with these folks.

        the only solution is to wait for them to get caught engaging in felonious and ignorant behaviour and be arrested, locked up and isolated from the island. can’t happen soon eough! sooner or later they will be caught. someone needs to file a domestic terrorism/hate crime/assault lawsuit – very easy to do given their nasty behaviour., er, i mean, aloha spirit.

  5. Steve Morgan says:

    The proposed bill for labeling GMO’s unfortunately did not pass by one vote. The issue had nothing to do with good science, bad science or people’s imaginations. It was simply about allowing the people the right to choose by labeling GMO products. Those who oppose such a bill claim that it is aimed at attacking the GMO industry and making it look bad. Even if this were the case, it doesn’t matter, the consumer should have the right to choose, period! The other claim is that GMO food products are no different from other food products. If this is the case why do GMO companies fight so hard to protect the uniqueness of their patented products? You can’t have it both ways. I understand the burden placed on decision makers. No doubt that the GMO companies generate many jobs and a great deal of revenue for our state. It is not as though these things are not important, but still in the end our democratic choice is the most valuable commodity that we have.

  6. Janet Franklin says:

    I was diagnosed with a serious form of breast cancer in 2010. I chose not to poison myself with chemo, radiation and hormone therapy. I have chosen instead to focus on organic wholefoods, pure water and clean living in order to heal my diseased body. I now assume that all processed foods fall into the GMO category and do not buy or eat them.I struggle constantly to maintain as much control of my food intake as is humanly possible.If everyone who is sick with obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer would wake up and understand that what we ingest can and does make a difference, perhaps we could force companies like Monsanto to be more accountable.That alone would be a step in the right direction.

    Janet Franklin

  7. kalaniua ritte says:

    eh jo,why dont you come and arrest me….ignorant little hateful person

  8. If anyone things that they are going to stop GMO, think again. They tried to stop BiG Wind and failed at that. http://www.mauinews.com/page/content.detail/id/563210/Viewpoint–Plans-for-Hana-are-cause-for-concern.html It’s like our leaders don’t seem to care.

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