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Wednesday, January 19, 2000

Papaya committee
accused of distributing
seeds unfairly

Some growers say the group is giving
disease-resistant seeds to favored members

Star-Bulletin Staff


HILO -- A group of dissident Big Island papaya growers says the Papaya Administrative Committee is unfairly distributing disease-resistant, genetically engineered papaya seeds only to favored members.

The group filed a petition in U.S. District Court in Honolulu yesterday asking the court to make several "declarations" that would force the U.S. Department of Agriculture to act. The papaya committee is a "marketing order" under the jurisdiction of the department.

The documents identify the petitioners as "PAC members not supportive of the current PAC management." The petitioners include Virginia Aste, a former manager of the PAC, and Michael Durkan, who was accused of improperly obtaining transgenic seeds from the University of Hawaii in 1997.

Michael Harrington, interim dean of the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, said legal action by the university against Durkan is pending.

Emerson Llantero, the current manager of the PAC, said mainland offices of the USDA should respond to the accusations of the petitioners.

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