Genetically modified crops need scrutiny
Monsanto Co. plans to grow altered seed crops on land it will buy in Kunia.
JOBS and a boost in Hawaii agriculture from genetically modified crops aren't good enough if the trade-off is the island's food-growing industry and its native plants and animals.
The plans of a huge agribusiness to sow genetically modified crops in 1,600 acres in Central Oahu presents risks that demand vigorous scrutiny and review of its economic and environmental repercussions.
Although genetically modified and biopharmaceutical crops have been cultivated on Oahu and elsewhere, they have not received the examination necessary to protect other organisms, including humans. In the vacuum of state and federal rules or controls, Gov. Linda Lingle should gather experts in health, agricultural and other sciences to evaluate hazards and establish mitigation.
Monsanto Co., a global agribusiness that specializes in genetically modified seeds -- such as for corn that can withstand a weed-killing herbicide it also produces -- is poised to buy the land in Kunia. Last month, it acquired a long-term lease to expand similar operations on Molokai, drawing objections from residents.
Monsanto has been involved in lawsuits in Hawaii and other states. In March, a federal judge in California revoked government approval of Monsanto's genetically engineered alfalfa seed for lack of environmental review. Last August, a federal court here also faulted the government for "arbitrary and capricious" issuance of permits that allowed four companies, including Monsanto, to grow genetically engineered crops.
The legal problems and other concerns have investment and financial advisers urging caution in Monsanto as consumers and food retailers increasingly shun altered foods.
Proponents say there is no evidence that genetically modified products are any different from conventional crops, but there is no universal agreement on that claim. Moreover, genetically modified crops can cross-pollinate conventional and organic plants, an insinuation that could damage those businesses' bottom lines.
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