Study finds modified papaya seeds in UH sale batches
Lots labeled as not genetically modified had up to 10 modified seeds per 10,000
KAILUA-KONA » Opponents of genetically modified papayas say the University of Hawaii is selling seeds advertised as unmodified mixed in with small amounts of modified seeds.
Kona organic food farmer Melanie Bondera released a 19-page report yesterday saying a study by an independent laboratory showed one to 10 modified seeds among every 10,000 unmodified seeds sold by the university's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.
The genetic modifications cause no harm to people, said university researcher Richard Manshardt. He recognized that some people prefer not to eat papayas grown from them, and organic farmers can lose their market if their crops do not meet organic standards.
The numbers are the same as the opponent organization, Hawaii SEED, found two years ago, Manshardt said. Papaya seeds can be preserved for extended periods, and the sample tested by Hawaii SEED might have been old seeds, he said.
However, university growers will examine the situation at the university's Poamoho farm, he said.
Genetic modifications were made to protect papaya farms from ringspot disease, which was causing major economic losses in the 1990s. The change is similar to vaccination in a human to the extent that a small amount of ringspot genetic material is placed in a papaya, which then causes the papaya to fight future ringspot infestation, Manshardt said.