Hawaii Council aims to overturn veto of GMO ban, study finds link to fertility

News Report
Travis Quezon

HAWAII ISLAND -- The debate over the dangers in consuming genetically modified food manifested last month in Big Island politics when Mayor Harry Kim vetoed an island-wide ban on testing genetically modified organisms.

Mr. Kim expressed concerns over the ability to enforce such a ban and supported genetic modification research as a way of meeting global food demands.

Members of the Hawai'i County Council convened a special session this morning to overturn the veto.

"My position remains unchanged," Councilman Bob Jacobson said. "I think we need to protect our coffee farmers and our taro growers from genetic drift."

In October, the council heard testimony from taro and coffee farmers and Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners who supported a ban against genetic engineering in order to protect traditions associated with taro (kalo) and coffee in Hawai'i.

Bill 361, first introduced by Councilman Angel Pilago and passed unanimously by the council, makes it illegal to test, propagate, cultivate, raise, plant, grow, introduce or release genetically engineered taro and coffee in the Big Island—carrying a fine of up to $1,000. The bill also makes it illegal to build a laboratory or a greenhouse for the purpose of conducting genetic research on the two crops.

The council's action comes as a new study identifies GMO crops as posing serious risks to reproductive health.

The long-term study, sponsored by the Austrian Ministries for Agriculture and Health, found that mice fed with a variety of Bt corn (known as NK 603 x MON 810) were found to be severely impaired, with fewer offspring being produced than mice fed on by natural crops. Bt corn has been marketed in the Phillippines and approved for food use since 2004.

Anti-GMO groups point to the study as a warning that there are still many unforeseen risks to public health that come with genetically engineered food.

"Genetically modified crops are not safe beyond reasonable doubt," Antonio Claparols, president of The Ecological Society of the Philippines, told Philstar.com. "It has been banned in other countries, especially in Europe, and the government should protect us from the influx of imported GMOs."