GENET archive


2-Plants: GMO in Hawaii gets stirred up on Molokai

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  GMO in Hawaii gets stirred up on Molokai
SOURCE: KHON2, USA, by Ron Mizutani
DATE:   3 Nov 2005

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GMO in Hawaii gets stirred up on Molokai

The controversial issue of genetically modified crops in Hawaii took
center stage on Thursday on Molokai.

A town meeting briefly heated up after protesters stepped forward.

Executives from Monsanto wanted to hear from residents about their
concerns over bio-tech research that's been going on for many years. On
Thursday, they got what they wanted.

Genetically modified crops of corn in Kaunakakai have Molokai residents

"It's very hard because you looking at people that you love, that you
care about, and they stay on the other side," says Hano Naehu, Molokai

The research companies provide much needed jobs.

"It's the main thing you get job in Molokai because sometimes Molokai
don't have to much jobs, so how we going to feed our family if no more
job?" asks William Casino, Monsanto employee.

"We are developing GMO crops here, or bio-tech -- better stated, bio-tech
crops -- and we are proud of that," says Ray Foster, Monsanto/Hawaiian
research general manager.

But some feel the crops are creating questions.

"We have concerns. These concerns have been pushed under the rug, and
everything that's being grown is a big secret," says Walter Ritte,
Molokai resident.

About a dozen people protested as Monsanto executives arrive for a town

"We wanted to come now to raise the red flag and get people to ask, 'well
what is a GMO, what is going on?'" says Ritte.

A majority of the estimated 150 people who were in attendance were
employees. Many of them were bussed in.

Inside, as executives start to share information, the protesters step forward.

"This is Molokai, brah, not only what you guys went hire," says Naehu.

"Nobody is telling us anything. We're afraid for our health, we're afraid
for our children's health, the cornfields surround our town," says Ritte.
"Half of us don't even know what a GMO is. We don't even know what we're
growing over here."

So we ask a couple of workers.

"Do you know what a GMO is? Yeah, we know something with chemicals or
something," says Casino.

"We're very proud of what we do, and we welcome the questions," says
Foster. "We've been planting biotech's products now for 10 years. We've
planted over a billion acres, and so there hasn't been one case of harm
to people or the environment."

The State Health Department says there's no proof genetically modified
crops are dangerous to the people of Hawaii or any place where they're
being tested.

                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Seeds a growth industry in isles
SOURCE: Maui News, USA, by Harry Eagar
DATE:   4 Nov 2005

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Seeds a growth industry in isles

WAIKAPU - Somewhere in the world this year, the 1 billionth farm acre was
planted with a genetically engineered seed - probably a soybean, although
if it were corn it likely had a Hawaii connection.

As part of an occasional outreach to the community, two Monsanto
executives from headquarters in St. Louis are visiting Maui County. They
answered questions about the company's operations in the islands and
around the world for about 30 people at a workshop held at the Kahili
Golf Course on Wednesday.

Mark Lawson, the company's global leader in corn trait integration, said
the record of the past 10 years is one of enormous benefits to farmers
and consumers, with no safety problems and a promising future.

Already production of seed crops, primarily corn, employs nearly as many
people in Hawaii as sugar does, and the outlook is for more.

Lawson has a long history on Maui, having helped set up the seed
production facility in Kihei when it was part of DeKalb (since absorbed
by Monsanto).

In those days, two decades ago, seed corn companies on the Mainland sent
their corn varieties to Hawaii to be cross-bred through selective
pollination. That allowed them to develop new varieties with two to three
crop cycles in a year, providing the latest variety a year sooner than
possible in the Midwest with just one growing season a year.

The business took off, worldwide and here, 10 years ago, with the first
commercial plantings of seeds altered by use of recombinant DNA
techniques - referred to by Monsanto executives as BT for biotechnology
and commonly, especially by Monsanto's foes, as GMO for genetically
modified organism.

Since then, the Hawaii segment of the business has expanded by about 15
percent per year, and the total value last year was $60.2 million,
employing about a thousand people.

That puts seed crops second among island diversified agriculture, about
equal to fruits and vegetables but behind flowers.

The $60 million is also roughly the value of sugar cane at harvest,
although once through the mills, the added value puts sugar well ahead.

It may not be too many years, though, before seed crops grown in Hawaii
catch up to sugar in value. Mark Leidy, executive vice president for
Monsanto's worldwide manufacturing, says the company plans for
"substantial" new investment in Hawaii in the next five years.

He did not say how much, but this year Monsanto will spend $29.7 million
in the islands. There will be $16 million on biotechnology, $6.7 million
on research and $7 million on production.

Monsanto biotech employs 60 people full time and 300 seasonally; research
employs 50 full time and 90 seasonally; and production 16 full time and
120 seasonally.

Leidy says the company shortly will announce a Monsanto Hawaii Science
Education Fund to help schools with curriculum development aimed at
youngsters who are interested in science.

"Monsanto is critically focused to get more local talent," says Leidy,
especially people with advanced professional training.

Asked what "professional" means, Lawson said the company hires engineers,
agronomists and biological scientists - many with doctorates - but even
hired an English major. "The people we really like are people who are
bright and inquisitive and interested in science."

Monsanto and the other major seed producers, Dow/Mycogen, Garst, Novartis
and Pioneer, operate on Kauai, Oahu, Molokai and Maui, with Maui County
the center of the business.

Besides favorable weather, Hawaii appeals to seed corn companies because
there is hardly any commercial corn farming here. Although GMO alarmists
worry about BT pollen escaping from corporate fields, Leidy says Monsanto
is more concerned about the flow of unknown pollen into its fields.

Starting with perhaps 1,000 seeds produced by the researchers, Monsanto
multiplies that to 100,000 in "pre-foundation fields," such as the ones
in Kihei; then to 100 million in foundation fields; and finally (on the
Mainland primarily) to 7.5 billion seeds for commercial sale.

"If you have one seed contaminated by pollen flow" early in the process,
the number of seeds without the desired traits can be very, very large at
the end of the multiplications.

"That's why Hawaii is important," Leidy says.

However, Monsanto also does a "considerable amount" of old-fashioned
plant breeding in the islands, crossing existing varieties while looking
for desirable traits that can be enhanced by inbreeding. (The pollination
is done by hand, calling for a lot of field labor.)

The work gets fancy, though, when a gene from some unrelated organism is
inserted into the corn's DNA. With Monsanto, that often means a gene to
make the corn immune to its weedkiller Roundup.

But the technique can be used to put vitamin A in rice (to combat vitamin
deficiency blindness, common in parts of Asia), or to make a plant more
drought tolerant.

Monsanto's main crops are corn, canola, cotton and soybeans, and it takes
about 10 years and $50 million to $100 million to develop, test and
obtain government approval for a new introduction.

In Hawaii, seed corn companies get the most attention from people opposed
to genetic engineering, but seeds are only a small part of Hawaii's
biotechnology business.

According to Enterprise Honolulu, an economic development advocate, by
2010 biotechnology will be a $3 billion industry in the state - as big as
hotels are today.

Most of the revenue will be in the field of human health, including
development of new drugs or vaccines; but also in marine biotechnology
and the use of BT organisms in bioremediation, using "bugs" to clean up
the environment.

According to Lawson, seed BT already is doing its part to help the

Roundup-Ready crops require less tillage, meaning fewer gallons of fuel
burned in tractors, less erosion from turning over the soil and less
consumption of irrigation water.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
In den Steinäckern 13
D - 38116 Braunschweig

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