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GMO Victory on Big Island

October 11th, 2008

I was touched to tears when I read about this victory–expecially the testimony of a 5 year old Hawaiian girl.

From: lyn howe <>
Date: October 9, 2008 11:00:26 AM HST
To: Know your Farmer listserve <>
Subject: [KYFA-Hawaii] Bill 361 – victory!

Aloha and Blessed congratulations to all of us today!
Geoff and I want to thank each of you for you support in this process of testimony for bill 361.  We know that it was a bit tedious to be getting these constant barrages of emails and calls for the last several weeks and that we had to repeat it for 3 different hearings of the bill –  but guess what…?????  

IT MADE A DIFFERENCE the bill passed UNANIMOUSLY!!!!!!!!!!!!
The will of the people was heard, even the council members that had been bent on voting it down changed their mind after listening to testimony for over 8 hours.  60 people from the eastside  showed up in Hilo to testify, 40 in Kona and 3 in Wiamea. The industry was their in their full deceptive and double-talking regalia and in the end their lies, fear-mongering and threats became totally transparent.  The Hawaiian community was there in force for support and the Coffee farmers took the time to come for the day,( just as cherry picking is starting)  and they too spoke  up and over the voices of the blenders, roaster and retailers – these farmers made the difference for coffee.

We want to deeply thank and acknowledge the diligent, intelligent and so often grueling work of our community leaders, Nancy Redfeather, Jerry Konanui, Melanie Bondera, Elisha Goodman, Hawaii Seed, Hector Veneauela, Una Greenaway (and we know there are others) who have worked for 7 years  against amazing odds to make this happen. They endured in spite of seemingly never ending university/ industry/political and bureaucratic scrutiny and criticism. Last night it was apparent that their tenacity and perseverance and wisdom paid off. Nancy said to me “I have waited 7 years to see this day!”  We are so thankful that we all can see it.  We have the greatest respect for Angel Pilago who had the courage in an election year to craft and bring this controversial piece of legislation to Hawai’i Island county council – to make it first a “home rule” giving it a stronger leg to stand on when the state legislation challenges it (and they will so be prepared to rise up again in even greater numbers).  It is of course only one chink in the “strong-arming industrial/agricultural/political” seemingly impenetrable “armor” –  But it is a giant chink,  one thought impossible by some. It is un-precedented and will become historic.  I only wish you all could have been there to see it and hear it. For me yesterday was one of the most revealing days of my life. All the testimony (for and against) was appreciated both spoken and written. The council members kept brandishing a pile of emails and letters that were 8″ high (at least).

Yesterday I gained a new respect for all of our council members and this process of our county’s arm of government, I can see their job is not an easy one. Some put aside their personal views, pressure from friends and constituents, they did their homework, some actually polled the farmers by personally contacting them.  Yes they REALLY  were concerned with the welfare of those most affected by this AND THEY  LISTENED AND HEARD THE TRUTH. Those that were in the beginning were going to vote against this bill went into the place of truth –  their hearts – and  CHANGED THEIR MINDS! In the end all 9 council members voted YES and passed this bill unanimously, killing the possibility of a veto by our mayor Harry Kim ( a very real possibility as he had warned the council before the session).  After the fianl count there were cheers and tears and handshaking and hugs all around.

Let me now speak of our youth who we must respect and recognize…wow alone was this was worth the 10 hours of waiting.  Yesterday they came forward with many voices and had a significant effect on the council who rarely hear from this sector. All the way from a tiny Hawaiian girl that may have been only 5 years old (I have to guess).  She got up in front of the council microphone and immediately shyness and terror overcame her as she tried to speak for at least 5 minutes of her allotted 5 minutes – no effort on her part could bring forth her voice.  The room became deathly still and respectful as everyone waited in total silence, vibing courage to this tiny being who is our future. Kindly and discreetly I smiled as I saw chairperson, Pete Hoffman reach over and turn the timer off so no buzzer would further terrify her…and we all waited in unison, Emily Naeole spoke softly,encouragingly in Hawaiian as did the young girls father. Finally the small but determined voice issued forth, she had something very personal to say and fear or not she would say it. Speaking in her Hawaiian tongue she haltingly told why she could not understand why they would want to hurt or change her brother Haloa – wow.  Then the young women from our KYFA community spoke and made us all proud.  Beautiful, eloquent and courageous.  16 year old Lauren spoke with wisdom and clarity well beyond her years… she just blew them away (she told me later that as long as she is only 16 she is going to use that to her advantage- believe me it works!) and then Emily and Kat spoke equally and passionately from their hearts and for the future. They were followed by several young UH college students who too are looking to the future and consequences of decisions made now – also amazing.  During these very uncertain times in our world – yesterday we had several generations of our future, standing up for what they believed in, speaking from their hearts that place of true wisdom. They came forward on their own, no one coerced them or wrote their script and they sat patiently for hours & hours in the council chambers waiting to speak, never once did complaining, they were attentive to other testimony and opinions, cautiously skeptical of but excited by the realization that the process can work if you involve yourself. They saw hope and possibilities for change in their future and realized  it would be up to them and others like them to steer the course.

Once again thank you all for your testimony, for your help gathering testimony, signing petitions and making this a priority in your busy lives.  As a collective voice the farmers and gardeners and lovers of the land in the KYFA helped make this a success.

Geoff and I appreciate you all very deeply.  We love the work we all do together, the dreams we dream together, our coming together to meet challenges, create the solutions and develop connections.  We look forward to this process of growing  both our food and our spirits together as we will find the courage and the joy to walk through these changing times and come out on the other side of the new paradigm that we all dream.

We hope we could give you a snapshot of yesterdays victory now we ask that each of you Please take just a moment to thank each of the council members for their support on bill 361. Remember thanking someone is often as or more important than asking! their email addresses are below.
Mahalo Nui Loa
Lyn & Geoff

 Call or Email Your Council Member:


Brenda Ford: <>
Stacy Higa: <> ,
Pete Hoffmann: <> ,
Donald: Ikeda: <> ,
Bob Jacobson: <> ,
Emily Naeole: <> ,
Angel Pilago: <> ,
Dominic Yagong: <> ,
J. Yoshimoto: <>
KYFA-Hawaii mailing list


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