GMOs in the coffee fields

SUBHEAD: Pioneer is actively using A&B land that is snuggled amongst the Kauai Coffee fields to grow GMO seed corn.

By Juan Wilson on 3 March 2013 for Island Breath -

Image above: A&B Draft Plan showing designated Seed Corn Fields in light yellow. Click to enlarge. Heavy black solis line is the state highway between Eleele and Kalaheo. Dotted line is A&B proposed road between Poipu and Eleele. Photo by Juan Wilson.

For a few years now we've been hearing about GMO operations amongst the thousands of acres of coffee fields leased to Kauai Coffee by Alexander & Baldwin that lie between the National Tropical Botanical Gardens and Port Allen.

Going back four or five years were reports that Pioneer was using McBryde Sugar Mill facilities that we thought were being used by Kauai Coffee. More recently, in late 2010, Kauai Coffee was bought by an Italian beverage company.

Italian firm assumes operations of Kauai Coffee Co.
An affiliate of an Italian beverage company has completed its acquisition of Kauai Coffee Co. operations from Alexander & Baldwin Inc.
The deal, announced in December, involves a subsidiary of Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group buying the Kauai Coffee brand, retaining all employees, leasing the 3,000-acre plantation and distributing the coffee through its global sales channels.
Financial terms of the acquisition weren't disclosed.
Massimo Zanetti expects to expand recognition of the brand, which will be added to its collection of green coffee operations in Brazil, Costa Rica, Honduras, Vietnam and Indonesia.
"We are excited to welcome Kauai Coffee into our portfolio of prestigious brands," John Boyle, chief operating officer of Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA, said in a statement. "It's a wonderful new entry point for us into the growing super-premium coffee segment."

Image above: A&B Draft Plan title. Photo by Juan Wilson.

Draft Master Plan
 At about that time Alexander & Baldwin had PBR Hawaii & Associates working on a Draft Master Plan for A&B's property that includes the coffee fields. Over the last 40 years PBR has provided professional services to most major land owners and developers in Hawaii.

A draft of the Master Plan hangs in the museum area of the Kauai Coffee visitors center on HI-540 just west of the Niumalu site of the old McBryde Mill.

On the plan the legend identifies various field uses are identified, including:
  • Base Lease Acreage
  • Additional Lease Acreage
  • County Owned Acreage
  • Not Cultivated / Pasture
  • Seed Corn

Image above: A&B Draft Plan Legend. Photo by Juan Wilson.

This last use, "Seed Corn", appears in ten fairly large areas scattered across the makai (oceanside) of the A&B properties (the light yellow areas of the map at top.  Kauai Coffee fields appear to be within the dark and light green areas, the base and Additional Leased areas. Together these potential corn seed fields make up hundreds of acres amongst the Kauai Coffee fields.

Of course, this draft of the plan did (and does) not indicate that these fields were being used by GMO companies, such as Pioneer, to grow experimental seed corn. But it does indicate that was certainly a possibility in the corporate mindset of A&B.

It seems to have been clear to the Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group that this was the intent of A&B and that their coffee fields could be intermingled with experimental GMO corn experiments.

Biking the South Coast
Several times over the past ten years I have ridden a bike perimeter coastal road. In Hawaiian that is often called the alaloa trail, and was a traditional public way for traveling the islands and having access for fishing. In the area of the A&B property on the south side of Kauai the land that the alaloa trail follows is designated as State Conservation area.

Be forewarned, A&B considers anyone walking anywhere in the conservation district a trespasser. They use security personnel to enforce this.

Pesticides Onsite
On one of my first bike trips from Port Allen to Poipu I came across a young man in an empty coffee fields working on a chemical sprayer attached to a tractor. We wore no protective suit, gloves or mask. He was trying to unclog the chemical sprayer nozzles. He told me he was prepping the fields for planting and the chemicals he was using kept clogging. I feared for his health.

In 2009 Kauai Coffee assured the public that:
Kauai Coffee is committed to environmentally friendly agricultural practices including being the largest drip irrigation coffee estate in the world. This system delivers water and fertilizers directly to the roots of the trees so there is no spraying or dusting. Kauai Coffee uses no pesticides on its 3,100 acres of coffee. It is GMO free and has cut herbicide use by 75% through cultivation practices.
Perhaps Kauai Coffee uses no insecticides, but as I see it a "pesticide" is any chemical substance used for destroying insects or other organisms harmful to cultivated plants or to animals. That would include herbicides.

The point is, Kauai Coffee has used chemical pesticides applied to its fields. They may not spray pesticides directly on coffee bean plants but they do spray pesticides. More over, it would seem from observation of conditions at the ends of the drip lines that there is more than just fertilizer and water being fed into in the irrigation system.

On more than one occasion I have found that nothing grows in the dried pools of chemicals at the end of the drip lines. And some of these irrigation systems appear to be in the State Conservation district.

In July of 2012, was my last trip by bike along the alaloa trail that passes the Kauai Coffee fields. As I was approaching the westside of the telecommunication tower that is south of the old mill (a center right of image below) I found myself next to a field with GMO corn growing in on about a 5 acres with coded markers at the end of each row. As I passed between two fields a white and red pickup truck wheeled into the area. I thought at first it was A&B security, but turned out to be a Pioneer corporation vehicle.

Image above: GoogleEarth image showing one of ten Seed Corn Fields in light yellow. The three yellow plots are a little over 30 acres of land. Reddened area is the State Land Use Conservation District boundary ( The purple line is the Alaloa Trail. Note that coffee and corn fields extend into this district as do the drip lines and chemicals applied to those fields. Click to enlarge. GoogleEarth graphics by Juan Wilson.

It just a little bit of corn
The siting of the GMO fields along the makai (oceanside) of the fields makes sense if your concerned with tradewinds blowing GMO products, or chemicals into the coffee fields. However that point is mute if we have increasing Kona winds as we have had for the last few years, and as scientists believe will increase due to global warming.

Obviously, the money from the big chemical corporations is good. They have deep pockets and want every acre they can get of  sunny southside agland for GMO fields. Already, A&B has made qualified statements that the fields on their land are not "experimental". Just growing GMO seeds over here. Bullshit.

Pioneer is actively using A&B land that is snuggled amongst the Kauai Coffee fields to grow GMO seed corn. How many sites are not known to the public, nor is it known if other GMO corporations are involved. We do know that GMO experiments include the use of pesticide cocktails that are applied to fields and that gene based insecticides are in some of the plants themselves. Probably no one knows how these chemicals are interplaying with adjacent coffee fields.

If the cautionary principle was observed one might have reservations about claims that Kauai Coffee is free of pesticides. In fact, with GMO experiments in the area their are certainly unknown dangers to the coffee fields.

My wife, Linda Pascatore, and I have been daily brewing Kauai Coffee since we moved here. We have been proud that Kauai is more than self sufficient in this important crop.We think Kauai Coffee and its parent company Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group should realize the problems many Kauai residents have with GMO fields near where we live and near where our food comes from.We also think Alexander & Baldwin should know of our displeasure with burying GMO experimental corn fields among our food crops.

If it is not important to A&B, Kauai Coffee (or their owners) we may have to take steps boycott and in other ways put pressure on them to make our food safe.


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