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POLICY & REGULATION: Hawaii (USA) papaya farms hit again with 10 acres of trees destroyed



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   PUNA PAPAYA FARMS HIT AGAIN WITH 10 ACRES OF TREES DESTROYED

SOURCE:  Hawaii 24/7, USA

AUTHOR:  Baron Sekiya

URL:     http://www.hawaii247.com/2011/07/19/puna-papaya-farms-hit-again-with-10-acres-of-trees-destroyed/

DATE:    19.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Three Kapoho papaya farms were hit hard by vandals who chopped through more than 10 acres of papaya trees sometime between Monday, July 18 and Tuesday, July 19. A year ago a similar chopping of 8,500 papaya trees occurred in the same area. [...] A big question at the meeting was the motive for the crop destruction. Theories voiced included: Someone possibly having a vendetta against one or more farmers; possible jealousy between farmers; anti-GMO (genetically modified food crops) activists; marijuana growers; and even disgruntled hunters though one of the victims of the crop damage dismissed the theory on hunters."

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PUNA PAPAYA FARMS HIT AGAIN WITH 10 ACRES OF TREES DESTROYED

Three Kapoho papaya farms were hit hard by vandals who chopped through more than 10 acres of papaya trees sometime between Monday, July 18 and Tuesday, July 19. A year ago a similar chopping of 8,500 papaya trees occurred in the same area.

Hawaii County Police Detective Brandon Konanui said a resident drove past the fields of papayas between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Monday and saw the trees standing. At 6 a.m. Tuesday, a farmer discovered the destruction to the farms.

Three farms were affected by the destruction with Margarita Hopkins of the county Research and Development Department reporting one new farmer had his entire 3-acre crop wiped-out.

County representatives along with police and papaya farmers attended an emergency meeting Tuesday evening at the Pahoa Community Center to work on solutions to prevent the problem and catch the vandals who destroyed the crops.

A big question at the meeting was the motive for the crop destruction. Theories voiced included: Someone possibly having a vendetta against one or more farmers; possible jealousy between farmers; anti-GMO (genetically modified food crops) activists; marijuana growers; and even disgruntled hunters though one of the victims of the crop damage dismissed the theory on hunters.

Konanui said four or more individuals may have caused the destruction due to the various cut heights on the trees likely corresponding to the height of each vandal chopping at the tree trunks.

Solutions suggested at the meeting included: Creating a Neighborhood Watch-type system to observe farmlands and creating a large enough monetary reward so an anonymous tip would lead to arrests.

Along with the vandalism to trees in June 2010, a few farmers recalled another act of vandalism occurred two years ago in the same Kapoho papaya farm area.

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POLICE MEDIA RELEASE

Big Island police are investigating the destruction of 10 acres of papaya trees in Puna.

On Tuesday morning (July 19) Puna patrol officers responded to a report that trees in three adjoining papaya fields in the Kapoho area had been cut down. Each property belonged to a separate owner. Additional adjoining papaya fields were left undamaged.

The scene, near the area where 8,500 trees were destroyed a year ago, is located on Alohalani, about one mile north from where it intersects Route 132 near the 6-mile marker. The trees appear to have been chopped down with a machete sometime between Monday morning and Tuesday morning.

Detectives from the Area I Criminal Investigation are continuing the investigation. The value of the damaged property is still under investigation.

Police ask that anyone with information about this case call Acting Lieutenant Reed Mahuna at 961-2252. Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn?t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   VANDALS DESTROY 10 ACRES OF BIG ISLAND PAPAYAS

SOURCE:  KITV Honolulu, USA

AUTHOR:  Keoki Kerr

URL:     http://www.kitv.com/r/28603480/detail.html

DATE:    19.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Vandals struck three farms in the Kapoho area on the Big Island between Monday and Tuesday, cutting down about 10 acres of papaya trees, according to Big Island police. The farmers said the criminals struck three separate but adjoining papaya farms, chopping the trees down using a machete and leaving the fruits on the ground. At J and L Papaya Farm, five of seven acres of its Rainbow and Sun Up papayas were destroyed."

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VANDALS DESTROY 10 ACRES OF BIG ISLAND PAPAYAS

Police Investigation Underway

HONOLULU -- Vandals struck three farms in the Kapoho area on the Big Island between Monday and Tuesday, cutting down about 10 acres of papaya trees, according to Big Island police.

The farmers said the criminals struck three separate but adjoining papaya farms, chopping the trees down using a machete and leaving the fruits on the ground.

At J and L Papaya Farm, five of seven acres of its Rainbow and Sun Up papayas were destroyed.

?They were mostly ready to pick. We were going to pick them tomorrow. We were going to harvest them tomorrow,? said farmer Lea Bernardo, whose parents own J and L Papaya Farm.

Bernardo and the other farmers said they?re still tallying the financial damage, but it will be severe.

?That farm that they cut down had really nice papaya. And we were relying on that because we?re kind of in debt a little bit. We?re trying to make more money and that papaya might have helped us,? Bernardo said.

A second smaller farm had its entire papaya crop -- three acres? worth -- cut down. A third farm saw two and a half acres out of its eight acres of papayas destroyed.

?It?s a very sad sight. You have to feel for the growers because it is their livelihood. The trees were like stumps, they were just fallen over, cut and left,? said Karen Umehara, office manager for the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association, who travelled from her Hilo office to visit the farms Tuesday.

Some farmers suspect a group of at least four people carried out the destructive raids, because they were so widespread. Some people in the farm industry theorize it?s a case of environmental terrorism, perhaps carried out by people opposed to genetically modified fruits, like the papayas cut down overnight.

But Umehara, of the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association, said there are no suspects.

?It?s something so random and so isolated that you?d never think it would happen to these growers,? Umehara said.

In July of 2010, vandals trashed more than 8,000 papaya trees at another farm in the Kapoho area of the Big Island. There have been no arrests in that case.

The farmers called an emergency meeting Tuesday night.

They came together at the Pahoa Community Center to talk about how they can protect themselves.

?If you put enough reward out there somebody will say something. That will be the only way to find out who is behind this,? said one farmer who didn?t want to be identified.

?It affects everybody, farmers hotels consumers, everyone If everyone just chipped in a little bit and puts a significant amount into that reward, somebody knows something about this,? he added.

Someone else suggested regular patrols similar to a neighborhood watch.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   POLICE FOLLOW NEW CLUES IN PAPAYA DESTRUCTION MYSTERY

SOURCE:  KHON2, USA

AUTHOR:  Kathy Muneno

URL:     http://www.khon2.com/news/local/story/Police-follow-new-clues-in-papaya-destruction/H_0HppIy302Snxx6kFW3Mg.cspx

DATE:    20.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Police are still searching for suspects in the destruction of ten acres of papaya farms in the Puna district on Hawai?i. Three small, independent farmers were affected. While the damage was not enough to affect supply and prices for consumers, it was a devastating blow to the farmers. ?We only started two months ago harvesting, so it?s like a new field,? said Lanie Barao."

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POLICE FOLLOW NEW CLUES IN PAPAYA DESTRUCTION MYSTERY

Police are still searching for suspects in the destruction of ten acres of papaya farms in the Puna district on Hawai?i.

Three small, independent farmers were affected. While the damage was not enough to affect supply and prices for consumers, it was a devastating blow to the farmers.

?We only started two months ago harvesting, so it?s like a new field,? said Lanie Barao.

Trees plump with fruit, hacked and strewn across 2.5 acres on Lanie and Jerry Barao?s Pahoa farm plus two adjacent farms, one five acres the other, Loreto Vallente?s three acres.

He last saw these trees standing Monday night, more than 7,000 trees total. He found them on the ground Tuesday morning.

?This is his very first farm, lost it all, all of his 3 acres is gone,? said Margarita Hopkins of County Research and Development.

Farmers attended an emergency meeting Tuesday night.

?We believe it?s possibly four people involved with this. If you look at the trees, there?s different heights of the cuts,? said Det. Brandon Konanui of the Hawai?i Police Department.

?That?s why somebody said do you think they are anti-GMO? That?s mad, they?re mad over that, they could be mad over that,? Hopkins says.

Myrone Murakami, a papaya farmer and president of the Hawai?i Farm Bureau Federation, says the majority of papayas grown in Hawai?i are GMO, a necessity to fight the papaya ringspot virus.

?When they were able to genetically modify so you could resist it, it saved the industry,? Murakami says.

But those against it say it can contaminate non-GMO crops and there?s no certainty GMO?s don?t negatively affect humans. Still, no one knows who or why this was done. No one was ever caught a year ago when the same thing happened to a papaya farm nearby.

?The curious thing I have and I?m not quite sure about this, is there are other fields around here yet they still went just swipe right through you folks place,? Konanui says.

?If we put enough reward out there somebody will say something I think that will be the only way to find out whose behind this,? said papaya farmer Michael Madame.

The Hawai?i Papaya Industry Association is offering a $5,000 reward for someone?s arrest, plus CrimeStoppers offers up to $1,000.

Meanwhile, the three farmers say they?re hoping for a loan to re-plant, but in a different location.



                                  PART 4

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:   PAPAYA VANDALS MUST BE STOPPED

SOURCE:  Star Advertiser, USA

AUTHOR:  Editorial

URL:     http://www.staradvertiser.com/editorials/20110721_Papaya_vandals_must_be_stopped.html

DATE:    21.07.2011

SUMMARY: "Papaya farmers on Hawaii island again have been victimized by what has all the appearance of organized vandalism. Police need to step up their investigation of this criminality and, along with the public, recognize that this goes beyond mere property damage and is becoming a form of agricultural terrorism. The latest incident earlier this week makes it the third such episode in little more than a year, and other papaya farmers are now worried that they might be next."

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PAPAYA VANDALS MUST BE STOPPED

Papaya farmers on Hawaii island again have been victimized by what has all the appearance of organized vandalism. Police need to step up their investigation of this criminality and, along with the public, recognize that this goes beyond mere property damage and is becoming a form of agricultural terrorism. The latest incident earlier this week makes it the third such episode in little more than a year, and other papaya farmers are now worried that they might be next.

Papaya trees were decapitated, likely with machetes, on 10 acres of land belonging to three separate farms between Monday morning and Tuesday morning near Tangerine Acres makai of Pahoa. In late June of last year, machete-armed vandals destroyed 8,500 papaya trees at a 17-acre farm in the Kapoho area of the island. Two months previous to that, someone chopped down nearly 400 of 500 papaya trees at a Mililani farm.

In all incidents, the papaya trees were genetically modified. William Julian, brother of the Kapoho farmer, speculated that the destruction was the work of people who oppose genetically modified crops or the use of chemicals to control weeds and pests. Julian said he left the papaya farm business three years ago because someone had been destroying his crops.

Julian?s speculation is not far-fetched. His brother, Laureto Julian, who has grown papayas since 1967, said he had harvested his first patch of genetically engineered, or GE, ?Rainbow? and ?Sun Up? papayas just three days before what he called ?a gang of up to five people? whacked away at his trees. The devastation caused more than $100,000 in damage. Those GE varieties were created by University of Hawaii and Cornell University researchers to counter the ringspot virus that had reduced Hawaii island?s papaya harvests by more than half following its discovery in 1992.

The use of genetical modification to counter the ringspot virus threat to papaya is controversial among farmers. The patented seeds were distributed in 1998 and sold commercially in the United States. The seeds are banned in Japan, which buys 40 percent of Hawaii?s annual $16 million papaya crop from organic farmers. That has resulted in friction between organic and GE papaya farmers. Some organic farmers have said they found GE seeds in their fields.

At this point, of course, there is little way of knowing why any of these papaya-farm vandalisms occurred, or if they are related, though Big Island police are looking into possible connections between the two incidents there. But this rash of agricultural destruction should not be allowed to further degenerate into what amounts to gang criminality by a fringe element of whichever camp; it is an assault on the entire papaya-growing industry. These crimes were not committed lightly by free-spirited graffiti artists out on the town but by organized criminals with a malicious agenda. Hawaii County police should put the attacks high on their plate as the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association grows its reward, now $2,500, for the arrest and conviction of the vandals. Anyone who comes across information about these crimes is urged to contact police.

Amid all the talk today of food sustainability and small-business hardships, the sight of thousands of papayas cut down before their time is tough to see. Swinging machetes at papaya trees cannot continue as a summer sport.