Biotech firm touts record in face of Molokai protest
Native Hawaiian protesters demonstrated yesterday against growing genetically altered corn on Molokai.
Hui Ho'opakela Aina spokesman Walter Ritte said Hawaiian Research's activity threatens the community's health, organic farming and medicinal Hawaiian plants, such as the uhaoloa shrub whose roots are used to treat congestion in children.
"Their secret GMO (genetically modified organisms) experiments in the corn fields surrounding our town is dangerous to our lives and is unacceptable," Ritte said.
Ritte said the 20 protesters demonstrated their objections at a lunch sponsored by Hawaiian Research to discuss worries expressed by the community.
Hawaiian Research, which employs about 140 full- and part-time employees, started on Molokai in 1968 and became a part of the Monsanto Co. in 2000.
The company develops seed corn in fields near the eastern and western edge of Kaunakakai town.
Hawaiian Research manager Ray Foster said the business is very proud that in the 10 years that biotech crops have been commercially grown, there has not been one single documented case of any health issue anywhere in the world caused by the technology.
"I don't think we could have wished for a better record," he said.
Foster said there is a growing body of evidence that shows the biotech crops could actually help reduce illnesses and deaths.
"Some of the newer plant varieties being developed now will have higher levels of vitamins or Omega 3 fatty acids that can help fight vitamin A deficiencies and cardiovascular disease," Foster said.
Foster said 100 percent of the biotech crops on Molokai are corn, which can only cross-pollinate with another corn plant and not any known native species.
He said the business also plants fields far apart from other fields and at different times, and also bag the tassels so the pollen can't go elsewhere.
Foster said agricultural biotechnology has been endorsed by a number of health and medical organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, American College of Nutrition, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Ritte said the plants grown by Monsanto are not normal corn plants but genetically modified.
"Nobody knows what the reaction of these modifications are," Ritte said. "That's why they call it research. We're not guinea pigs. We are not lab rats."