19,273 Citizens of Maui County in Hawaii, Ground Zero for Open-Field GMO Seed Production & Pesticide Experimentation, Challenge Chemical Companies to "Prove It's Safe"

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Enough Maui County residents have signed a petition to potentially place on the November 2014 ballot a temporary moratorium on all GE cultivation practices, including open-field GMO and pesticide experimentation, until a company funded, County administered Environmental and Public Health Impacts Study (EPHIS) shows they are safe for the environment and human exposure.The SHAKA Movement (Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the 'Aina) helped to successfully coordinated this first ever citizen’s initiative to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot of a Maui County election.

With each new revelation it seems more likely that the future of our kid's health could be at risk. Our moratorium is a reasonable request, designed to protect both farmers and the pubic, until we know for sure what's happening here specifically is safe.“

The Maui citizens assert that the multiple crops each year of Genetically Engineered (GE) seed, other GMO experimentation and chemical cocktails (multiple pesticides applied in combination or in sequence) in Maui County differ significantly from the GE food farming occurring elsewhere in the world, and pose unique risks that have not been studied and are not adequately monitored by county, state or federal agencies. (1) (2)

On April 7th, five Maui citizens submitted 9,768 signatures, 48% of which were deemed by the County Clerk to be valid. The rest were rejected mostly because signers were not registered voters or the address people entered did not match the county’s voter registration rolls. (3)

“The ratio between valid and invalid signatures on the GMO moratorium petition is fairly consistent with previous initiative petitions made in other counties in the State of Hawaii.” stated Danny Mateo, County Clerk, in a Maui County press release, “Twenty percent of the total number of voters who cast ballots in the last mayoral general election, or 8,465 registered voters, are required to sign the petition to place the initiative on the ballot.” (4)

Today the five sponsoring citizens submitted an additional 9,505 signatures. The County now has ten days to verify those and determine if the threshold has been met.

“Our petition gatherers learned a lot the first go round. We reviewed this second wave and see a much higher rate of valid signatures.” Mark Sheehan, one of the five sponsoring citizen said, “We’re thrilled to have gathered over 19,000 all together. We’ll know for sure in ten days, but most likely, we’ll be on the ballot in November. ”

“The elections can’t come fast enough for me. I hope the County Council simply ratifies and enacts the moratorium when they have the chance to, as soon as possible.” Says Dr. Lorrin Pang, who is the District Health Officer for Maui County, but who speaks as a private citizen, one of the five to sponsor the bill, “I’m very concerned with the research results coming from outside of the U.S. on the growing use of combinations of pesticides associated with GMO crop production. It’s alarming. You may know the effects of each chemical individually but each new combination could have stunning effects. (5)

“Our proposed moratorium is in response to reports of new and increased health problems showing up all over Hawaii.” say Sheehan, (6) “Pesticides and herbicides have been used here for decades. People want to know: What's different now? Are the new GMO’s and experimental pesticides and herbicides behind these heightened levels of health issues? How do we know for sure that the most vulnerable, our children, are safe? “

“Contrary to often-repeated claims that today’s genetically-engineered crops have, and are reducing pesticide use, the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds in herbicide-resistant weed management systems has brought about substantial increases in the number and volume of herbicides applied. “ says Charles M Benbrook, Centre for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University. (7)

“They're using this land and endangering everything on these islands in an attempt to control the new outbreaks and problems evolving everywhere GE crops are grown and their associated pesticides abused.” says Sheehan. “And we’re not alone in this, Russia and China both just banned GMO’s and their associated pesticide abuse, Jackson and Sophia Counties in Oregon, The Big Island of Hawaii and Kaua’i have all moved to restrict or ban them too.”

“More and more surprises are coming out about pesticide exposure, which is growing due to GMO’s increasing dependency on them.” says Sheehan, “Farmers are reported more likely to take unreasonable physical risks or commit suicide from depression because exposure to pesticides may be interfering with an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter that affects mood and stress responses. (8)

“According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), use of use of the world's most popular herbicide, Glyphosate, has tripled since 1997 and the EPA just raised the level of Glyphosate residue that's allowable in food. (9) We were told by the manufacture and the regulators that it would never end up being retained in people’s bodies, but Glyphosate has just been found in the breast milk of 30% of the women recently tested. (10) Another German study found it in city dweller’s urine at levels 5 to 20 times the limit allowed for drinking water (11) and a third study found it in people’s blood." (12) says Sheehan.

“No one knows for sure what this all means yet but it casts enough doubt to make us want to know specifically what we, in Hawaii and Maui County in particular, are all being exposed to. It's clear that the human health effects of what they are doing here has not been adequately studied and with each new revelation it seems more likely that the future of our kid's health could be at risk. Our moratorium is a reasonable request, designed to protect both farmers and the pubic, until we know for sure what's happening here specifically is safe.“

The SHAKA Movement (Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the 'Aina) is an educational and outreach program that has been helping to coordinate the gathering of petition signatures. “The movement has drawn fire from bloggers, cyber bullies and certain local press outlets that staunchly defend everything related to GMO technology.” says spokesperson Bruce Douglas.

“It’s a pretty well coordinated and obviously well funded crew that consistently and immediately attacks anyone who questions anything about GMO technology, calling us anti-science, fear mongers, and worse. We know they have tried to disrupt our efforts with disinformation and false claims against us, seeking to divert attention from the real issues at hand: the integrity of our fragile ecosystem and the health of our children. And it’s only just begun, once we know for sure the moratorium is on the ballot the chemical company’s public relations, advertising and black ops teams will kick into full gear. It’s going to be a real interesting run up to the elections. Our little islands of Maui and Molokai will be thrust onto the global stage.”

(1) http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/files/cfs-bill-2491-written-testimony--7-15-13_24101.pdf For an ordinance to amend the Kaua’i County code 1987 relating to pesticides and genetically modified organisms. July 2013)

(2) (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0042768 A Preliminary Investigation into the Impact of a Pesticide Combination on Human Neuronal and Glial Cell Lines In Vitro, August 03, 2012)

(3) (http://www.mauicounty.gov/documents/24/COR.pdf_201405212058035764.pdf Certification of Results May 21st 2014)

(4) (http://www.co.maui.hi.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=5412 Clerk finishes first review of GMO moratorium petition May 21, 2014)

(5) (http://www.inra.fr/en/Scientists-Students/Food-and-nutrition/All-reports/Cocktail-effects-of-toxic-substances/The-cocktail-effect-of-pesticides Cocktail effects of toxic substances demonstrated in vitro – Jun 2013)

(6) (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/25/usa-gmos-hawaii-idUSL1N0LU0A220140225 Anti-GMO crop, pesticide ballot initiative launched in Hawaii, Reuters Feb 24, 2014)

(7) (http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24/abstract: Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. -- the first sixteen years, Environmental Sciences Europe Sept 28, 2012)

(8) http://www.pubfacts.com/detail/24125049/Structural-equation-modeling-of-pesticide-poisoning-depression-safety-and-injury. Structural equation modeling of pesticide poisoning, depression, safety, and injury. Pubfacts.com Oct 2013)

(9) http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/world-our-backyard/2013/jul/5/epa-raises-levels-glyphosate-residue-allowed-your-/ EPA raises levels of glyphosate residue allowed in food. - Washington Times July 5th, 2013)

(10) (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11735170.htm. Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse's New Glyphosate Test Report Reveals World's Number 1 Herbicide Discovered in U.S. Mothers' Breast Milk - PRWeb 4/7/2014)

(11) (http://omicsonline.org/open-access/detection-of-glyphosate-residues-in-animals-and-humans-2161-0525.1000210.pdf Detection of Glyphosate Residues in Animals and Humans - Environmental & Analytical Toxicology Jan 13, 2014)

(12) (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24581382 The effect of metabolites and impurities of glyphosate on human erythrocytes (in vitro). - PubMed Feb 20114)

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Mark Sheehan
SHAKA Movement
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