The Big Fix and How It Works: Pima County’s “Project Corn”

Why would Marana’s multi-millionaire Kai family give $4,000 to Supervisor Sharon Bronson’s re-election campaign? According to Pima County election filings, John Kai gave just $150 to Democrat Bronson in 2012 but the other Kai’s gave nothing, and Marana Town Council Member Herb Kai donated his money to a Republican. The Kais have not been a happy family, with brothers John, Jr. and Herb suing each other in 2006 for “breaching partnership agreements” and “ongoing disputes.” What changed?

It seems Monsanto, the giant agri-chemical company facing criticism around the world over its genetically manufactured seeds and promotion of the herbicide glyphosate — named a probable cause of cancer in humans by the World Health Organization — is coming to Pima County to build giant greenhouses and genetically modify and produce GMO seeds. They are negotiating for land owned by Herb Kai in the Avra Valley. County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry acknowledged that there are discussions about “financial incentives” to bring “Project Corn” here, not naming Monsanto because of confidentiality agreements.

A few years ago then-Marana Vice-Mayor Herb Kai sold land to DKL Holdings for a garbage dump that could threaten the water supply of the next-door rural community of Silverbell West. Attorney Michael Racy, who is also the highly-paid lobbyist for Pima County (see “Pima County’s Secret Government,” ADI, August 24, 2016), was the front person for the dump deal. He and his associates made a number of campaign contributions to Town Council members, assuring a four-to-one vote in favor of the landfill.

The Council further obliged DKL by annexing the Kai land, leaving the Silverbell West families without legal voice or vote. Campaign contributions to local bodies to grease the way for deals real people might oppose is tried and true, and not just in Pima County. DKL Vice President Kurtis Wahl gave Supervisor Bronson’s campaign $2,000 this year; the BOS Chair was initially skeptical of the dump deal but fell into line.

Monsanto, facing a takeover attempt by another chemical giant, Bayer, has seen concern over its products skyrocket in recent years. Bayer is a German company that recently apologized for using Jewish slave labor during the Nazi era. They were part of I.G. Farben which manufactured the poison gas Zyklon B using to kill millions of people in concentration camps.

The way GMO seeds work is that they are genetically modified to resist glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. Using those seeds allows indiscriminate spraying of the crops with glyphosate, killing all other plants. Glyphosate residue is being found in mother’s breast milk, tampons, vaccines, and a lot of the foods we eat. A growing number of studies link it to disorders other than blood cancer. Glyphosate’s killing of milkweed, food for the monarch caterpillar, is blamed for the world-wide plummeting of the monarch butterfly population.

In a number of widely publicized US and Canadian cases GMO seeds spilled over onto adjacent farmland and sprouted; Monsanto sued the family farmers for illegally using patented seeds, and won a Supreme Court case in 2014 upholding their right to sue.

The European Union recently refused to re-license glyphosate for the usual 15 years, finally extending approval for just 18 months for further study, with a host of restrictions. Several countries have banned it outright and major European retailers have pulled it off market shelves. The US Environmental Protection Agency has put off a decision on re-licensing until 2017. Its earlier decision to label the herbicide safe was based on a number of studies, most of which were found to have been funded by the pesticide industry. Aerial spraying of buffelgrass by Saguaro National Park and Tucson Water in the Avra Valley has caused illness in people and pets and killed cattle forage.

So expect to read soon that Pima County Administrator Huckelberry, with Board of Supervisors’ approval, has once again brought “good” jobs into the area with taxpayer dollars as incentives, just like Caterpillar and World View Space Port. No matter that Caterpillar has laid off employees while the County spiffs up its new executive offices, or that World View’s $75,000 space balloon rides are not selling like hotcakes. And the Kai family’s contributions are small potatoes next to the more than $13,000 Diamond Ventures has put into the Bronson campaign. But then, Don Diamond gets the Sonoran Corridor leg of Interstate 11 as an access highway for his 3000 acre planned Swan Southlands development. You get what you pay for.

About Albert Vetere Lannon 107 Articles
Albert grew up in the slums of New York, and moved to San Francisco when he was 21. He became a union official and labor educator after obtaining his high school GED in 1989 and earning three degrees at San Francisco State University – BA, Labor Studies; BA, Interdisciplinary Creative Arts; MA, History. He has published two books of history, Second String Red, a scholarly biography of my communist father (Lexington, 1999), and Fight or Be Slaves, a history of the Oakland-East Bay labor movement (University Press of America, 2000). Albert has published stories, poetry, essays and reviews in a variety of “little” magazines over the years. Albert retired to Tucson in 2001. He has won awards from the Arizona State Poetry Society and Society of Southwestern Authors.