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[Genet-news] BUSINESS & NATURE: Hawaii: We need a GMO-free space





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TITLE:   HAWAII: WE NEED A GMO-FREE SPACE

SOURCE:  Ka Leo

AUTHOR:  Kimberlee Speakman

URL:     http://www.kaleo.org/opinion/we-need-a-gmo-free-space/article_9eb6c37a-6589-11e5-8335-27676bf1ac26.html

DATE:    01.10.2015

SUMMARY: "After Hawaiâ??i Countyâ??s ban on GMOs, companies like Monsanto and Syngenta have been pushing back. Itâ??s up to big agricultural business to prove it can responsibly conduct open-air testing and grow GMO crops without a negative effect on Hawaiâ??iâ??s ecosystem before it can be allowed to do so."

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HAWAII: WE NEED A GMO-FREE SPACE

After Hawaiâ??i Countyâ??s ban on GMOs, companies like Monsanto and Syngenta have been pushing back. Itâ??s up to big agricultural business to prove it can responsibly conduct open-air testing and grow GMO crops without a negative effect on Hawaiâ??iâ??s ecosystem before it can be allowed to do so.

Most agrochemical companies donâ??t keep track of where genetically modified produce ends up and some escape into the local environment. Because big ag is doing more harm than good in Hawaiâ??i, the ban should remain enforced. 

Taking genes to court

Seeds and other plant materials spread through animals, wind and water, and often find their way to places hundreds of miles away. In the case of patented GMO plants, this may create legal problems with farmers in whose farms the modified crops end up. 

In one infamous case of cross contamination, Monsanto sued Canadian canola farmer Percy Schmeiser after finding the companyâ??s patented Ready Roundup canola crops on his farm. The Saskatchewan farmer argued he had never bought Monsantoâ??s seeds and has been getting his own from the farm for 50 years. Monsanto eventually won the case and demanded he pay for using their genetically engineered crops.

As of 2014, Monsanto filed 145 lawsuits against U.S. farmers who have been found with crops that have patented genes. If open-air GMO crop farming were to become legal in Hawaiâ??i County, with little square mileage across the islands, cross contamination is likely to occur with crops from Hawaiâ??iâ??s organic farmers. If the Hawaiâ??i County ban on open air GMOâ??s disappears, cases like Schmeisersâ?? may begin to showing up in Hawaiâ??i courts. According to Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, the ban is meant to protect local crops from cross contamination with GMOs.

No choice

In a perfect world, GMO crops will benefit consumers and make it easier for farmers to produce more and better manageable crops. So far, mass production and GMO patents have created problems for organic farmers. In practice, it has become hard for them to grow their own produce independently from big companies. 

Some farmers just forego the hassle altogether and buy the genetically engineered seeds. However, if this continues, there will be less variety in our food and crops would end up becoming monopolized by the few companies that own the patents. To eat GMO or not to eat GMO is a choice still available for Hawaiâ??i residents. However, due to cross contamination, we may lose that privilege once and for all.

There is another aspect of monopolization that big ag quietly enforces on modern farmers: a monetary one. Having much more resources and power than small scale farmers, corporate agriculture giants can easily buy out those who go out of business because they canâ??t compete with their larger quantities of produce. People who have lost their livelihood because of pressure from rich organizations donâ??t deserve to be disadvantaged for not having the same capital as corporate agriculture.

Chemicals in the air

Due to the warm weather and multiple harvests a year, our state is one of the most important researching grounds to five of the largest agrochemical companies: Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer and BASF. There have been cases when Hawaiâ??i residents have raised concerns over agrochemical research potentially affecting surrounding areas.

In 2011, more than 150 residents of Waimea, Kauaâ??i, filed a suit against DuPont Pioneer claiming that airborne chemical dust from the companyâ??s pesticides polluted the areas surrounding the testing fields for ten years, damaging homes and lowering their property values. The plaintiffs blamed DuPont Pioneer for not taking the proper steps to keep testing contained, despite having been warned.

The agricultural corporations need to find a way, whether it is through buffer zones or greenhouses, to restrict to genetically modified chemicals to testing areas. The Hawaiâ??i County ban protects residents near testing grounds from open-air testing and until big agrochemical businesses are able to ensure chemicals and seeds wonâ??t spread to natural Hawaiian habitats, the ban should stay in place. Better yet, instead of open-air tests in Hawaiâ??i, big ag should contain its experiments to greenhouses, so they donâ??t affect local farmers and the environment.



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