Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Hawaii's Big Island Bans GMO Crops and Biotech Companies

Food

The Big Island of Hawaii has a new law that bans biotech companies, as well as all open-air growing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The bill exempts papayas and other GMO crops currently being cultivated and includes fines of $1,000 a day for violators.

Photo credit: GMO Free Hawaii Island

Mayor Billy Kenoi hasn’t indicated his stance on the bill, but he has 10 days to veto it. The county council could override a veto with a vote from six members.

"WOOHOO! WE DID IT!" read the Facebook page of GMO Free Hawaii Island. "We ask for your continued support on the following two items: Write a letter to thank our council members for protecting the health of our community and Hawaii's agricultural lands, and encourage Mayor Billy Kenoi to sign Bill 113 into law."

Supporters of the measure filled the council chambers at the West Hawaii Civic Center with applause after the vote late Tuesday, according to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

“We’re stoked. We’re relieved,” resident Blake Watson told the newspaper. “This is a great first step.”

"We are at a juncture," Councilwoman Margaret Wille, who introduced the bill, told Honolulu Civil Beat. "Do we move forward in the direction of the agro-chemical monoculture model of agriculture, or do we move toward eco-friendly, diversified farming?

At least two farmers' groups supported the measure—the Hawaii Farmers Union United, whose focus is on family farms, and the Kona Coffee Farmers Association.

Farmers supporting the bill said they fear cross-pollination between modified and non-modified crops, which they say can hurt or even close their markets.

Papayas were exempted in the Big Island bill because most of the 200 papaya plantations in Hawaii are planted with genetically engineered trees. A team of scientists modified the DNA of the papaya in the 1990s to withstand a devastating ringspot virus.

Large biotech companies like Syngenta, Monsanto, Pioneer, Dow and BASF have long been experimenting with GMO crops and seeds in Hawaii. They have farms on the islands of Oahu, Kauai and Molokai, but they've never operated on Hawaii's Big Island.

The world’s biotech giants have set up shop in Hawaii in recent years, attracted by year-round growing conditions and an ecosystem favorable for testing and growing produce such as seed corn. The biotechnology industry has all but completely supplanted the sugar cane and pineapple industries that used to dominate the Hawaiian landscape.

The Big Island bill comes just days after Kauai County Council overrode a mayoral veto on a bill that mandates disclosure of GMO crops.

Anne Lopez, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said earlier this fall that the office has no plans to weigh in on the Big Island's proposed ban or challenge it if it’s adopted.

“We have not analyzed it to come up with a legal opinion,” she said.

In 2008, the county adopted a ban on GMO coffee and taro that has not been legally challenged.

Watch this interview with Councilwoman Wile from Big Island Video News:

Visit EcoWatch’s GMO page for more related news on this topic.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. JustTulsa / CC BY 2.0

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The Firefly Watch project is among the options for aspiring citizen scientists to join. Mike Lewinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tiffany Means

Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.

Read More Show Less
People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin, Texas, on June 26, 2020. Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to be closed by noon on June 26 and for restaurants to be reduced to 50% occupancy. Coronavirus cases in Texas spiked after being one of the first states to begin reopening. SERGIO FLORES / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.

Read More Show Less
A never-before-documented frog species has been discovered in the Peruvian highlands and named Phrynopus remotum. Germán Chávez

By Angela Nicoletti

The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.

Read More Show Less
Left: Lemurs in Madagascar on March 30, 2017. Mathias Appel / Flickr. Right: A North Atlantic right whale mother and calf. National Marine Fisheries Service

A new analysis by scientists at the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that lemurs and the North Atlantic right whale are on the brink of extinction.

Read More Show Less
Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular. Colin Dunn / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Julia Vergin

It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Data from a scientist measuring macroalgal communities in rocky shores in the Argentinean Patagonia would be added to the new system. Patricia Miloslavich / University of Delaware

Ocean scientists have been busy creating a global network to understand and measure changes in ocean life. The system will aggregate data from the oceans, climate and human activity to better inform sustainable marine management practices.

EcoWatch sat down with some of the scientists spearheading the collaboration to learn more.

Read More Show Less