KAPA‘A — A passionate but peaceful group of protesters gathered at the intersection in front of Safeway in Kapa‘a Wednesday afternoon to speak out against genetically modified organisms and the experimental use of pesticides by biotech companies on Kaua‘i.
“We are over it,” said Fern Anuenue, one of approximately 150 demonstrators. “We want (the biotech companies) to be evicted from this land.”
Demonstrators began organizing at Papaya’s Natural Foods around 3 p.m. — signs and banners in hand — before taking to the sidewalk along Kuhio Highway.
Blake Drolson, an organizer of the protest, said several similar demonstrations have been held on Kaua‘i in the past, involving anywhere between 10 and 60 people. None measure up to Wednesday’s event, which featured a group of drummers and a sea of sign waving.
“This is the largest rally by far,” he said, gripping a sign which read “Keep Yo Greedy Hands Off My Genes Pool.”
The rally came less than one month after physicist, philosopher and environmentalist Vandana Shiva spoke to more than 1,100 people in a standing-room-only Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall in Lihu‘e.
In her presentation, Shiva called for the elimination of GMOs on Kaua‘i, often considered ground zero in the fight against companies such as DuPont and Syngenta, which are experimenting with pesticides and genetically engineered seeds on the island’s Westside.
“Since the Vandana Shiva event, people are fired up,” Drolson said.
Despite being organized in front of Safeway, Drolson said the protest was not against that company or any specific business.
“We’re really out here to win the hearts and minds of all Kaua‘i’s residents,” he said. “We believe it’s in everyone’s best interest to be out here and to promote the transformation of the agriculture on Kaua‘i from GMO to local family farms.”
Drolson said the goal was to raise awareness about what GMOs mean for the island and its people.
Groups such as GMO-Free Kaua‘i, Kaua‘i Rising and ‘Ohana O Kaua‘i were represented at the rally, according to Anuenue, who said the ongoing anti-GMO movement focuses on the toxicity of food, chemical testing and the patenting of life.
While everyone came together to support the same cause and rally against GMOs and the companies behind them, Anuenue said many brought their own individual message.
Banners and signs, some as large as cars, featured messages such as “No Patents on Life,” “Label GMO Now,” “My Food — My Right to Know” and “Kaua‘i is a Chemical Test Site.”
“This is a world movement,” Anuenue said. “We’re going to win this. There’s no going back.”
Drolson said he did not know who was responsible for the recent appearance of anti-GMO graffiti tags along Kuhio Highway and other locations.
“We don’t encourage that,” he said, speaking on behalf of the rally’s organizers. “Breaking the law is going to be seen as disrespectful to the Kaua‘i community.”