Hawaii Becomes Flash Point in GMO Controversy
As companies have expanded their seed crop operations in Hawaii, opposition to genetically modified organisms has grown. It’s become a particularly touchy subject because so many seed companies now operate in Hawaii, where three crop cycles can be planted each year. About 90 percent of all corn grown in the US is genetically engineered and has been developed partially in Hawaii, according to the Associated Press.
County governments in Hawaii and Kauai are moving to regulate genetically modified organisms and pesticides, reported the AP. The Kauai County Council overrode a mayoral veto in December on a bill on a bill instituting pesticide disclosure rules and buffer zones for genetically modified crops.
Seed companies Syngenta, Pioneer, BASF and Agrigentics have sued the county to stop the law, which goes into effect in August.
That same month, Hawaii’s mayor signed into law a near-complete ban on genetically modified crops. Despite outrage over GMOs, it was initially unclear whether the council would pass the measure. One councilman found that local papaya farmers credited genetic modification with saving their crop from disease. And the University of Hawaii told the council that according to the global scientific consensus, existing GMOs pose no increased risks and have also provided some benefits. The measure ended up passing 6-3.
Genetically modified crops — that can feed 9 billion by 2050 and tolerate heat, drought and disease — are the future of sustainable agriculture, David Rotman, editor of MIT Technology Review, wrote in December’s publication. Advances in biotech have made genetic engineering practices far more sophisticated than the transgenic techniques used in first-generation GMOs, Rotman writes.
Despite the growth in GMO products, global sales of non-GMO food and beverage products are projected to double to $800 billion by 2017, growth largely driven by demand in Europe and the US, according to a November report by Packaged Facts.
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