Friday, October 31, 2014

At the SHAKA revival

I went to the SHAKA revival at Pukalani last night. I heard many dubious and some disgusting things, but RtO will report only 3 of them.

1. Some Filipino-Americans I know have mentioned strong anti-Filipino bias (some have used the word racism) from SHAKA. I had not encountered any of that myself. Now I have.

2. Again, the allegation -- made without any evidence -- that "every" journalist and public relations person speaking against the initiative has been paid by Monsanto. This seems to be a universal belief at SHAKA. I have heard it many times and, although at least one person (me) has said it isn't true (of me, that I'm sure of), none of the vilifiers has backed down.

This is not the only reason that I have classed SHAKA as the group with the least aloha of anybody on Maui exept meth cooks, but it contributes.

3. I had wondered (in a Facebook comment) whether Lorrin Pang would repeat his claim that the seed companies use "untested" chemicals if he knew I was in the room. He did and stared at me as he said it. Small island.

He elaborated (I won't go into details, he'll be happy to do that if you ask him), and his position boils down to -- no ag chemicals allowed, because of the impossibility of testing them as he believes they should be tested. Odd, coming from a man who used them, successfully, to eliminate dengue on Maui.

I thought I had heard him say, last week in a radio sound bite, that he thought eating GMO food was a threat. I could hardly believe it, and it was only a sound bite, so I filed that away. Turns out, he does believe that.

He then went into a longish discussion of regulation, and I will present a longish report of it. Bear with me (he jumped around a lot at this point and introduced several concepts that I am going to skip over).

He was (I did not at first know where he was going) developing a point that a man can do what he wants on his own property but once it goes outside, especially if he sells it, it comes under regulatory scrutiny. This applies, he said, to "everything" in the way of food or medicine.

Pang must be suffering from irony deficiency anemia, because (to judge by their dress and demeanor) at least a majority of his audience (of something over 100) are the people you see in the "health" store buying untested, unregulated supplements, and using untested quack cures and untested patent medicines. The kind of people who believe the energies in their bodies can become unbalanced and that this is a condition requiring medical treatment. (I kid you not; find the magazine with Pang on the cover and read the ads.)

All this (and more) was leading up to a grand challenge to introducing food altered by recombinent gene methods into the consumption arena, because it has not been -- and according to Pang, cannot be -- tested. His example was the Rainbow papaya.

(Here I must digress. Pang did not explain Rainbow papaya and it was obvious most or all of his audience knew nothing specific about it [or he would not have gotten away with the slick trick I will describe later], but you have to understand the fruit to understand the trick.

(Papaya can be infected by a virus -- ringspot -- that does not make it inedible but does make it so unsightly that it is unsaleable. In a nifty piece of work, a gene that codes for a protein in the coat of the virus is inserted into the papaya itself, which sets up an immune reaction.

(This method does not work for every disease-causing virus, unfortunately, but it does work in papaya. It is as if a gene for part of the AIDS organism were inserted into the mitochondria of human mothers, and their babies were born immune to AIDS, without any side effects. How cool would that be?)

Pang said that eating Rainbow papaya with its built-in ringspot vaccine is the same as getting the vaccine, like getting a flu vaccine shot. He held up a Hawaiian Airlines magazine that happened to have a laudatory article about Rainbow papaya next to an ad for flu vaccine.

The ad, he noted, mentioned signing a waiver and consent form for your flu shot. Do papaya eaters sign a consent form to get the ringspot virus? No, he said.

It was slick, I'll give him that, and the applause indicated it was effective. He had failed to make clear -- and his listeners were too ignorant to spot -- the gaps in his little immorality tale.

The recipient of the ringspot vaccine is not the human but the papaya tree and, yes, it's true, the tree did not sign a consent form. People don't get ringspot disease. In the course of the disease in the fruit, the virus replicates itself millions (perhaps billions) of times before the rings appear, and people eat the virus without effect.

We are not plants.

The Rainbow papaya does contain a virus protein that does not occur in other papayas -- unless they are infected with ringspot, in which case it includes not only that virus protein but all the others and the viral DNA, too.

I may be wrong in thinking that nobody but me saw Pang slide the pea out from under the walnut. During the applause, I noticed a couple of people sitting on their hands and in particular one woman whose face registered what I took to be disgust. If I had had a mirror, I expect mine would have, too. 

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