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Activists' victory in Hawaii could impact corn research elsewhere

A county board on the island of Hawaii recently passed an anti-biotech, anti-pesticide ordinance that could have a significant impact on seed corn research by U.S. seed companies. Because of its climate, researchers can grow three corn crops a year on the big island.

CropLife America’s Jeff Case discussed the importance of the 6-1 vote in a presentation at the State Affairs Summit held by the Southern Crop Production Association at its annual meeting in Orlando.

Hawaii has had a history of anti-biotech, anti-pesticide activities, says Case. In recent years, several bills have been introduced in the state legislature that industry was successful in opposing. "I think there was a feeling among some of the activist groups that Hawaii might be fertile ground for passing this kind of legislation, and their ideas have been vindicated."

The recent ordinance, 2491, was passed by a 6-1 vote, which would make it veto-proof. The county mayor has not announced if he will sign the bill.

CropLife and industry representatives believe that if this type of legislation spreads to other parts of the island, companies that have poured millions of dollars into research facilities may have to move to other locations.

While corn hybrid testing is a major venture on the island, it's not the only GMO crop being grown. In the 1990s, a scientist named Dennis Gonsalves developed a GMO papaya that resists the ringspot virus. Until Gonsalves inserted a gene from the virus into the papaya, thus inoculating it from the disease, ringspot threatened the future of the papaya industry.

Another bill, this one in the state legislature, currently threatens farmers' ability to grow GMO papayas by placing so many restrictions on them it would make papaya production impractical, according to Ken Kamiya, whose family has been growing papayas for four generations.

Supressing technology will not feed Hawaii or the world

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