Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Will Hawaii's Big Island Ban GMO Farming?

Food

The Big Island of Hawaii County Council is expected to consider a bill on Wednesday, Oct. 16 that would prohibit all open-air growing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) except papayas and other GMO crops now being cultivated.

The bill also would prohibit biotech companies from operating on the Big Island.

Most papayas grown in Hawaiii are GMOs. The genetically modified fruit was introduced in 1998 after a virus devastated the papaya crop. Photo courtesy conservationhawaii.org

Papayas were exempted in the 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. However, some people say this genetically modified papaya is not worth as much as the non-genetically modified fruit. 

The issue of growing GMO crops in Hawaii has been highly volatile, as described in Honolulu Civic Beat

On one side are some of the world’s biotech giants—including Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer, Dow and BASF—that in recent years have set up shop in Hawaii, 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.

On the other side, some GMO opponents have vowed to make Hawaii ground zero for the national and international battle over genetically modified crops.

"It's a paradise over here that is being ruined by this," said Michiyo Altomare, a local resident of Waimea, a small town in Kauai that is surrounded by GMO crop fields.

Altomare and her husband told the New York Times that they purchased their dream home about 30 years ago near a pristine river in the town, which is located across the river from a beautiful bluff where gentle breezes flow down and through the area. But in recent years, the bluff, which used to sustain fields of natural sugar cane, became blanketed with GMO corn, the chemicals of which now waft through the Altomares' property.

The recent hearings on the bill have been particularly heated and featured an appearance by comedian Roseanne Barr, who testified in favor of the ban.

In late September, a group of unknown people chopped down about 100 genetically modified papaya trees, presumably in opposition to GMOs. The destroyed crop was valued at $3,000. It was the second time the same family had been targeted.

Anne Lopez, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said the office has no plans to weigh in on the 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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pangolin hunting for ants. 2630ben / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Alexander Richard Braczkowski, Christopher O'Bryan, Duan Biggs, and Raymond Jansen

Pangolins are one of the most illegally trafficked animals on the planet and are suspected to be linked to the current coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less
Humpback whale splashing in the North West Atlantic Ocean, Massachusetts. Tim Graham / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

In a move that environmentalists warned could further imperil hundreds of endangered species and a protected habitat for the sake of profit, President Donald Trump on Friday signed a proclamation rolling back an Obama-era order and opening nearly 5,000 square miles off the coast of New England to commercial fishing.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Fresh fruits and vegetables are a healthy way to incorporate vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants into your diet.

Read More Show Less
These 19 organizations and individuals represent a small portion of the efforts underway to fight racism and inequality and to build stronger Black communities and food systems. rez-art / Getty Images

By Danielle Nierenberg

Following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, people around the United States are protesting racism, police brutality, inequality, and violence in their own communities. No matter your political affiliation, the violence by multiple police departments in this country is unacceptable.

Read More Show Less
Residents plant mangroves on the coast of West Aceh District in Indonesia on Feb. 21, 2020. Mangroves play a crucial role in stabilizing the coastline, providing protection from storms, waves and tidal erosion. Dekyon Eon / Opn Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mangroves play a vital role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Mangrove forests are tremendous assets in the fight to stem the climate crisis. They store more carbon than a rainforest of the same size.

Read More Show Less
UN World Oceans Day is usually an invite-only affair at the UN headquarters in New York, but this year anyone can join in by following the live stream on the UNWOD website from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. https://unworldoceansday.org/

Monday is World Oceans Day, but how can you celebrate our blue planet while social distancing?

Read More Show Less

Trending

Cryptococcus yeasts (pictured), including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas

From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.

Read More Show Less