As noted in The New York Times, Hawaii has become a center for developing genetically engineered (GMO) corn and other crops. This is because of attractive growing conditions, and perhaps also because genetic engineering has saved the Hawaiian papaya industry. Maybe the companies figured that since genetic engineering had been so obviously beneficial, there would be less concern about the modern process.
But no the same old anti-GMO, anti-science groups are converging on the islands, and legislative committees on Kauai and the big island of Hawaii have approved proposed ordinances that would restrict the ability of seed companies to operate. The usual concerns have been aired about pesticide exposures, but that really doesn t have much to do with GMO processes. And, according to the Times article, agricultural breeding centers have been in Hawaii since the 1960s so it s hardly the case that pesticides are a new introduction. Further, at least some of the new traits that have been introduced into corn and other crops have reduced the use of some pesticides already and probably will continue to do so.
So far, there are no seed companies operating on the big island (Hawaii) and the new ordinance, if passed, would keep it that way. But this is where the hypocrisy is reaching its peak, since it s on Hawaii that the papaya industry was almost wiped out by a virus in the 1990s. The legislative committee on Hawaii, acknowledging the economic importance of the papaya industry, allowed a loophole that exempted papayas from the proposed legislation. Does that make sense if genetic engineering is as dangerous as the anti groups claim? No, but that s island politics, apparently.
And speaking of manipulations, we must also note that the Times article, after a long list of complaints and fears by residents, finally does mention the fact that papayas are successfully grown in Hawaii only thanks to genetic engineering. It s an interesting way to provide balanced reporting, isn t it? And the writer cites fears of a disease cluster from aromatic pesticide clouds, complete with a photo of an anxious citizen, before revealing that the concerns were entirely baseless.
ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava finds the situation amazing. It s hard to believe that residents are concerned about a process that obviously has been so beneficial to the state s economy, without causing harm to anyone. If residents are truly concerned about blowing dust and pesticides, there are ways to deal with those issues that have nothing to do with whether a crop is genetically engineered or not. Let s keep the issues clear.