Monsanto wants to build sustainable agriculture in Hawaii

John Purcell, Business and Technology Lead for Monsanto Hawaii, wrote a thoughtful piece that was published in the Star-Advertiser. We’d like to share it with you.

Time for meaningful conversations

The emotional intensity of the recent public debate on GMOs and pesticides has been difficult for our island community. Sadly, these issues have created divisions within the community, generated confusion instead of clarity, and made it harder than ever to have an open, productive and mutually respectful dialogue about GMOs, pesticides and agriculture in general.

These debates have distracted from other critically important issues that deserve a great deal of attention: How do we feed our rapidly growing world population? How do we keep food accessible and affordable for all? How do we help farmers thrive and survive climate change, destructive insects and diseases? How do we preserve and protect our natural resources to ensure the long-term sustainability of agriculture?

Those of us who work in agriculture think about these challenges daily. But we represent a shrinking percentage of the population. A hundred years ago, 40 percent of the country’s workforce was in farming. Today, less than 2 percent is responsible for producing food and other agricultural products that support the entire population.

The fact that advancements in modern agriculture have enabled just 2 percent of the population to safely and consistently provide for the other 98 percent, is an amazing accomplishment that should be embraced rather than shunned. These types of advancements are behind not only our company’s success, but that of many farms both big and small, with a long and proven track record of ensuring safe practices and quality products.

Monsanto’s roots in Hawaii go back more than 45 years to the 1960s when seed corn nurseries were first established on Molokai, and significant crops like pineapple and sugar accounted for over 250,000 acres in ag production. Today, our company owns or leases approximately 8,700 acres statewide, and have helped put fallow ag lands back into productive use. Not only are we able to provide nearly 1,000 good jobs for residents on Molokai, Maui and Oahu, we support local farmers at the HAF Ag Park at Kunia and collaborate with the greater community on important ag issues such as crime prevention, conservation and encouraging future farmers. Collectively, this has allowed the seed companies to help sustain Hawaii’s agricultural industry, and contribute over $550 million in direct and indirect economic benefit to the state every year.

Monsanto is a proud member of our community and Hawaii’s agricultural industry and we’re committed to helping fellow farmers continue to succeed through innovative practices and tools that empower them to produce more sustainably and efficiently. The challenges facing agriculture today are immense and the need for food has never been greater. That is why thoughtful, meaningful conversations and sharing of viewpoints about food production and agriculture in Hawaii are so critical at this point in time.

We want to share our stories and our practices to emphasize the importance of farming in Hawaii and the key role that our state plays in global food production. And we are here to listen. We welcome and encourage mutually respectful and open dialogue about agriculture and the issues and concerns of the community. Over the coming weeks and months we will continue to reach out and encourage those interested in learning more about what we do, to join our farm tours or attend our presentations. Or even visit our website (monsantohawaii.srb) to gain first-hand knowledge about our company. We invite you to engage with us and join the conversation about the different types of farming in Hawaii. As farmers, we all share the same commitment – sustaining our natural resources while providing for our families and our communities.

To view the original op-ed in The Star Advertiser, click here