Outrage is going viral today on Kaua`i as parents and community members perused pro-biotech, propaganda-filled comic books that were distributed to Kapa`a Elementary School kids as part of a Monsanto Foundation-funded, “GENE-ius Day” program “taught” by the “Biotechnology Outreach Program” in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa.
Although details are still coming in the personalized “comic book” pamphlets were given to kids who were apparently took part in CTAHR Associate Professor Dr. Ania Wieczorek’s, eight-year-old indoctrination program. A newer “Saturday Gene-ius” program began about two years ago, and according to an April 24 UH Professional Assembly release “(e)ach Saturday Gene-ius class has about 24 students and their parents come to the UH-Manoa campus for two hours of exciting, thought-provoking activities. The classes are also held at Kauai Community College.
According to the CTAHR/”GENE-ius Day” web site “(t)hese GENE-ius Day field trips are aligned to teach science standards and its implications in genetics, agriculture, and forensic sciences in a fun and memorable way.”
The pamphlet/comic books include images of children dismayed to look in their cupboards only to find there were no more “chips” and “cookies” because there were no more farmers to grow the ingredients since apparently their job was too hard- a job now miraculously made virtually effort-free through use of GMOs and pesticides, presumably courtesy of the good folks at Monsanto.
According to the CTAHR web site “(o)ur Gene-ius Day Program is funded by various grants, organizations, and private donations. Without the generous support from our sponsors, the GENE-ius Day Program could not be possible.”
So who are these generous supporters? According to a November 4, 2010 UH Foundation press release
“Monsanto Supports “Gene-ius Day” at UH Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources
(Honolulu, Hawaiʻi) — The College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has received $20,000 from the Monsanto Fund, a private foundation and the philanthropic arm of Monsanto Company, to support salaries and materials for “Gene-ius Day.” Gene-ius Day is a special program that introduces students from grade 4 through 12 to basic genetics and the function of DNA.
“CTAHR is pleased to team up with the Monsanto Fund to build a shared learning experience about basic genetics,” said Dr. Ania Wieczorek, founder and director of Gene-ius Day and associate specialist in Biotechnology, Biotechnology Outreach Program (CTAHR). “A primary goal of the Gene-ius Day Program is to build a strong understanding of basic genetics at the elementary school level so that teachers are able to present increasingly complex biotechnology topics in the upper grades.”
“We’re thrilled the Monsanto Fund is able to support Gene-ius Day, which not only teaches science, but encourages students to imagine themselves as scientists,” said Dr. Fred Perlak, vice president of research and business operations for Monsanto Hawaii, and an award-winning microbiologist. “Monsanto is proud to employ thousands of scientists and other talented employees who use science and technology in their daily work. I hope many of the students who participate in Gene-ius Day will go on to pursue great careers in the sciences.”
Pages of the personalized comic books with different names on the covers began to surface on social media yesterday and elicited outrage, especially among parents and community members who have tried to tech their children about the dangers of pesticides, the lack of actual data on and chemical company false claims of the safety of generically modified foods and the benefits of eating healthy, sustainably grown, chemical-free foods.
The program is headed up by “Dr. Ania” as she is “affectionately called” using a team of graduate and undergraduate students as well as “volunteers” who are listed at the web site. None are listed as geneticists or students of genetics.
The UHPA press release says:
Wieczorek’s love for molecular ecology and biotechnology is clearly evident in the way she serves the community. She may even tell you it’s part her DNA. She has led the UH Biotechnology Outreach Program since it began in 2002, sharing her expertise in numerous venues across the state, on the Mainland, and in Taiwan.
“She saw a need in the community for greater awareness and appreciation for genetics, and filled it. Dr. Wieczorek felt more individuals, both adults and children, could make sound decisions about biotechnology issues if they were informed about scientific facts. That desire led to her launch of a new field trip program for elementary school students seven years ago called “Gene-ius Day.” Dr. Wieczorek’s goal is to use DNA to inspire students…
“To date, more than 5,000 young students have participated in hands-on activities on topics such as human and plant genetic traits, forensic science, agriculture and DNA research… The Gene-ius Day became so popular that Dr. Wieczorek started another program called “Saturday Gene-ius” about two years ago. Each Saturday Gene-ius class has about 24 students and their parents come to the UH-Manoa campus for two hours of exciting, thought-provoking activities. The classes are also held at Kauai Community College.
“Dr. Wieczorek added that in the near future, the Saturday Gene-ius program will be expanded to middle school students, which will greatly expand the reach of this outreach program.
The Saturday Gene-ius classes fill up quickly.”
Kaua`i has nationally been called “ground zero” in the fight against the chemical companies- Syngenta, Dow and BASF after Monsanto pulled out of Kaua`i a few years back- who conduct pesticide experiments in the Westside town of Waimea.
It has been revealed through a lawsuit in federal court (Waimea vs, Pioneer et. al.), that corn, soy and other commodity foodstuffs are routinely doused 240 days a year (with multiple different pesticides routinely used on those days) with up to 18 tons a year of extra-toxic “restricted use pesticides” that have been implicated in a plethora of illnesses by local doctors and nurse practitioners as well as an unusually high number of a specific type of heart anomaly in newborns.
The state Department of Health stopped compiling data on illnesses in 2006 claiming a lack of funding.
Recently citizens recently engaged with paid biotech workers as the local county council passed a bill requiring that the companies disclose exactly what, where and when they are spraying and created buffer zones around the testing fields after years of data-request stonewalling by the chemical companies and state flouting of regulations.
A recent DOH study found pesticides present in streams and their sediment near and around the chemical testing fields but does not plan to retest.
After public outrage threatened his November reelection Governor Neil Abercrombie instituted a “voluntary” partial disclose program while the bill was being debated. Activists called the “Good Neighbor Program” too little, too late and the bill passed after an override of a veto by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.
Carvalho also faces reelection this year and is being challenged by local surfer Dustin Barca, one of the leaders of the “Pass The Bill” movement and an organizer of a 4000-strong march on the county building. The population on Kaua`i is 61,000.