From humble beginnings, the seed industry, at more than $243 million annually, is the largest segment of Hawaii’s Ag sector.  In 2010, the Ag companies exported more than 9.7 million pounds of seed, half of which was genetically modified. The seed industry alone employs roughly 1,400 people.

Now, here comes the kicker. In Hawaii, seed crops are not the only things that are being bioengineered. Along with corn (which is the largest crop), wheat, soybean, sorghum and canola are also benefiting from genetic modification. In addition, in the late 1980s, the University of Hawaii began developing a papaya strain resistant to the Papaya Ringspot Virus that was decimating papaya crops. Hawaiian farmers began commercially growing the first virus-resistant papayas in 1999. Bioengineered papayas now cover roughly 2,400 acres, three quarters of the total Hawaiian papaya crop. These papayas have been approved for consumption both in the U.S. and Canada, and several Asian countries are developing GMO papaya varieties resistant to their local virus strains.

So, in reality, GMO engineering has been a savior for Hawaii’s papaya industry. As for the public hearings on the bill, San Diego biologist Steve Savage who writes for the blogsite Applied Mythology and is not employed by any chemical company, just returned from Kauai after attending a council hearing on Bill 2491.

“The activist speakers made hyperbolic assertions about heartless corporations perfectly willing to sicken the entire population of the island and destroy the environment,” he writes on his blog. “Many non-agricultural residents expressed their palpable fear for the safety of their families. Some of the employees of the seed or coffee companies tried to explain to their fellow islanders that they and their families also live there, and so they would never want to put either their families or neighbors at risk. These people have good reason to worry about the future of their jobs.”

So there you have it – the same old scare tactics that environmentalists have used for years against the empirical scientific evidence proving otherwise.  As of this writing, Bill 2491 has been deferred to September while opinions are sought from the area’s county council and state attorney general.

You can see now why a website was needed to dilute the fabrications and misinformation being spread by overzealous activists.  It would help to spread the word about this new website and I’ll be keeping you updated about the developments in Hawaii.  Let’s hope council members use common sense and logic to arrive at a sensible decision in the matter, instead of being swayed by emotional pleas that fly in the face of the evidence.

 

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