Monsanto and GMO Crops
The concerns voiced by environmentalists and organic farmers over the years about potential impacts of bioengineered crops on organic agriculture and the environment are now proving increasingly evident. GMO canola has naturalized and has become a roadside weed, and GMO alfalfa and sugar beets are spreading their mutant genes onto organic farms and other non-GMO varieties and plant relatives. A growing number of published scientific studies indicate that genetically engineered foods pose serious health risks (American Academy of Environmental Medicine). Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) has been linked to serious animal health problems and increased cancer risk for humans, and an appeals court recently ruled that consumers have a right to know whether the dairy products they consume are from cows injected with rBGH.

Two quotations we came across from Monsanto executives highlight the fact that Monsanto really doesn’t care about feeding the starving world or guaranteeing the safety of their crops – only their bottom $ line:

“If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.” – Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Co., a Monsanto subsidiary – Kansas City Star, March 7, 1994.

“Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.” - Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications – New York Times, Oct. 25, 1998.

Since foods containing GMOs are not currently labeled, it is not easy to be a proactive shopper. Some ways to keep GE foods off your table are (1) grow your own produce from seeds labeled as Heirloom or Open Pollinated, (2) shop at health food stores and buy as many organic-labeled products as you can afford, (3) swap or purchase produce with growers you know, and avoid any foods labeled as containing high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is made from GM corn and has invaded so many processed foods (including unlikely ones like horseradish) that it is increasingly difficult to find products that do not have it. Take your magnifying glasses to the store so you can read the fine print. I have found that Welch’s and Minute Maid juices now contain high fructose corn syrup but Dole does not, for example. And you can let the manufacturers know that you are either boycotting their products or recommending them based on GM content. Their addresses are always on the label. If enough people write and it affects their bottom line, they may rethink their inclusion of these ingredients.


Our 2012 Year in Review out. Click here to check it out !

Also take a look at our new Local Food Recipes page and give us your delicious input.

Malama O Puna means to protect, preserve, cherish and nurture the district of Puna.

We are a Hawai‘i non-profit corporation and 501(c)(3) volunteer service organization which focuses on the environment. Our mission is to assure critical habitat for native species and open space for future generations through environmental education, hands-on projects, advocacy, watch-dogging and land trusting.

Please visit our page, Who We Are, for more detailed information about our aims and for a list of our Board of Directors.

Currently, donations for the Uluwehi Native Tree Arboretum is top priority on our wish list.

Vanilla PodsThanks to Ann Kobsa, one of our board members, we are now selling organic vanilla pods. All of the proceeds will go to Malama O Puna.

Tips for Life Without Plastic Shopping Bags:
We should all recognize that it would be a good idea to take personal responsibility and, at the very least, reduce our personal dependency on these items. There are many good reasons to do this, starting with the pollution created by their manufacture: they are a petroleum-based product (think oil spills) and the oil refineries produce massive amounts of air pollution. At the consumer end of the cycle, as we all know, there is the (too often) ‘mis-disposal’ along our roadsides and in our oceans, as well as the failure of the plastics to break down and biodegrade. Unfortunately, many of us have become so used to the convenience of these bags that we can’t image life without them. But it wasn’t really all that long ago when there was no such thing as a plastic shopping bag (here is where I date myself) and people managed just fine. We had fabric shopping bags as well as cardboard boxes and paper bags - both made from recycled paper - to carry home our groceries. These are still available today. As a matter of fact, there is a larger variety of cloth and recycled shopping bags, in many sizes and colors, than ever before, and they are washable and can hold more weight than plastic. Shoppers at Island Naturals and Cost-U-Less are used to providing their own bags or using the boxes that delivered the merchandise to the store. These stores do a brisk business and have saved money on purchase of plastic shopping bags. In addition, they do not have the problem of disposing of all those boxes. And they can pass the savings on to their customers, because, make no mistake, those bags you are given at the register ARE NOT FREE - their cost is included in your grocery bill. But so many people have testified that they re-use their plastic bags for other things, such as their garbage, and would have to actually purchase trash bags if the ban goes into effect. The good news is that there are alternatives: if you have an animal, the bag the feed comes in is serviceable for garbage. And if you recycle and compost, you will have less garbage and won’t ‘need’ so many plastic bags. I use the boxes from the grocery store to sort my recyclables, and it is really easy. They are all lined up in one area and as I need to dispose of something I just toss it into the appropriate box! When the box is full, I pick it up and carry it to the car and take it to the recycle center. Usually I can even re-use these boxes. But once they have gotten too old and funky, they can be recycled too - or used as a mulch around my plants. A representative of the senior center’s nutrition program testified against the bag ban, claiming that the seniors take their leftovers home in the plastic bags, without which they would experience a hardship. Hello. Why can’t they bring a lidded container with them and transfer their leftovers to that? This is not rocket science. I believe that we can all be creative and find alternatives to plastic shopping bags, enjoy less pollution, ease the strain on the landfill, protect our ocean and wildlife, and STILL enjoy a quality of life. We just have to decide what is important to us, that that is what we want to do, and then just do it!

Keep the ‘Io Flying: This is still up in the air.
In 1993 a mainland group, National Wildlife Institute, heavily funded by Exxon and other large corporations, and with an agenda to dismantle the Endangered Species Act one species at a time, filed a petition with the U.S. Department of the Interior to have the ‘Io removed from the Endangered Species List. That group is now defunct, but the government is forced by the rules to continue the process. Archaeological evidence shows that the ‘Io were once found on all the major Hawaiian Islands, but now they are only here on the Big Island and nowhere else on earth! Wildfires, land clearing and lava flows have greatly reduced the number of huge ‘ohia trees that they require for nesting, perching and fledging. I have noticed fewer birds than ever, and others I know have agreed. Yet Interior, using spurious random sightings and mostly computer modeling, are claiming that the population has recovered and expanded. If you disagree with them, please visit this page for more information and contacts: http://www.gpo.gov:80/fdsys/pkg/FR-2009-06-05/pdf/E9-13116.pdf#page=1 If the ‘Io is your aumakua, please mention that and tell them what loss of protection means to you and your ohana. For more information, call us at 965-2000 or email us at malamaopuna@yahoo.com . Mahalo.

Coastal Land Owners Alert!
There are a lot of people moving here and buying coastal property, and they begin to develop without realizing that the rules are different here than on the mainland. Realtors, very often, will only tell them what they are legally required to disclose, so the buyers are unaware that there is a whole lot more they should know.

For example, because the coastline is constantly changing due to volcanic activity and rising sea level, it is a crucial first step to have a shoreline survey done. This will tell you where your official shoreline is, where you cannot develop at all, where you can develop if you apply for a special management area permit and where you can develop with just a regular building permit. Owners of coastal property have a very special responsibility to both the land AND the sea. Please don’t take that responsibility lightly. Violations will cost you much more than just a fine – it will cost you the quality of the environment in which you live and it will cost you the loss of respect of your neighbors.

bulldozrd coastal landDevelopment, according to land use definitions, includes even hand-clearing of coastal vegetation within 40 feet of the officially determined shoreline. Learn what plants you have before you go destroying them – some may be endangered and the federal fine is $10,000!!!

Left: From intact native coastal hala forest to nothing

This goes for inland lots as well. There is less and less native forest, our unique environment, every year. Young ‘ohi‘a may look like “scrub”, but give it time and it will someday have a girth of over 11 feet and be full of lehua flowers. It may even harbor an ‘io nest. Large albizia may look beautiful, but give it time and it will fall through your roof. You want to make the right decisions before it’s too late. As with people, appearances can be deceiving.

Malama O Puna offers a free service to property owners who want to learn about the plants on their lot before they make an irrevocable mistake: we will send a knowledgeable person to walk your land with you and point out what you need to know to make an informed decision. We accept honoraria to cover the person’s time and mileage – whatever you feel the service is worth to you. Every property owner who has ever taken us up on this offer has been extremely satisfied. Do yourself a favor and join their ranks. To make an appointment call René at 965- 2000.