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Tuesday, May 23, 2000

Email reveals
root of Kauai
farm vandalism

A Memphis-based firm sounds
the alert after receiving the
information via email
from the 'Menehune'

By Gary T. Kubota


WAILUKU -- Kauai police detectives are investigating vandalism at two experimental farms that apparently have been the victims of ecoterrorism.

Acts of vandalism against biotechnology companies have occurred in Europe and parts of the United States, but farm officials say it is the first time they can recall ecoterrorism in Hawaii.

The vandal or vandals refer to themselves as the "Menehune," after the legendary native elves who worked secretly at night.

" ... We must stop the genetic pollution of our homeland," the Menehune said in a letter released yesterday.

Novartis Seeds Inc. told police that on May 10 it suffered $4,800 in damage when 2,400 corn plants were destroyed.

Officials at the University of Hawaii's Kauai Agricultural Resource Center said vandals did $3,570 damage to their pineapple, taro, awa and papaya plants.

The reason for the crimes was unknown until a news release yesterday by Denny Henke of the Memphis-based Genetixs Alert.

Henke said he was not associated with the vandals, but that emails were sent to him explaining the reason for the vandalism.

"To some degree, I would say the goal is to increase public awareness by drawing attention to the issue," Henke said.

"It's mainly targeted at the kind of engineering called 'splicing.' The government is letting these companies sell these products without much testing."

University spokesman James Manke said the Kauai Agricultural Resource Center was not involved in gene-splicing experiments.

He said the experiments involved the selection and growth of stronger varieties of awa, pineapple and taro.

The papaya was being grown to test pesticides other than Malathion, a federal agricultural official said.

Novartis spokesman Tony Minnichsoffer said some biotechnology work was taking place with the company's seed corn crops but the company was following guidelines.

"There's nothing wrong with that," he said.

He said there have been sporadic acts of vandalism in the Western and the upper Midwestern United States, but it's the first he has heard of ecoterrorism in Hawaii.

In a news release on a Web site, the Menehune accused biotechnology companies of flooding the land with genetically engineered crops.

The Menehune acknowledged it wasn't sure to what degree it had destroyed ordinary crops or genetically engineered varieties.

"Did we get 100 percent GE (genetic-engineered) crops? 50 percent?

"We will never know, because they do not tell the truth," the Menehune said.

"What is important is that we acted on the information we had. We have no other choice."

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