Taro and Coffee are safe on Hawai'i Island

Posted by kahea at Dec 07, 2008 06:43 PM |
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Lele ka houpo i ka ʻoliʻoli!
The heart leaps for joy!

In November, Hawaii Island County Council passed a visionary law to ban GMO-taro and coffee on Hawaii Island. For the 1st time in world history, and thanks to your overwhelming support, the public has successfuly supported protections of a sacred, indigenous plant from dangerous, irreversible genetic modification and patenting.

Over 1,200 people submitted testimony in favor of the bill. Hawaii Island taro growers were in unified support, and over 80% of coffee farmers approved the ban. People of all ages and backgrounds came forward to be a voice for Haloa, the taro, and support the preservation of our beloved natural Kona coffee. Hundreds of community members and organizations enthusiastically testified at the four hearings, which stretched long into the evenings.

Bill #361- “Restriction of Genetically Engineered Taro and Coffee”
successfully passed through 3 council hearings, with a final unanimous vote of 9-0. Then the council voted 7-0 to override a veto by Mayor Kim, and turn the bill into county law. Councilman Angel Pilago originally introduced the bill, and throughout the coyurse of the hearings other councilmembers did their research. Councilman Dominic Yagong from Hamakua, who was undecided after the 2nd hearing, decided to do a random poll of 89 coffee farmers. He found that 82% were in support of the ban. In Kona, 53 out of 60 coffee farmers polled also said yes to the ban (88%).

We now continue to work across our islands, with county councils, neighborhood boards and state legislators to protect the legacy of traditional farming and the taro on our tables. Stay rooted for information on how to support protection for taro on all islands– the huli is planted, this is a growing movement!

Why are GMO-taro & coffee rejected by local farmers & consumers?
The taro plant is sacred to the Hawaiian people and the foundation of local culture. Taro is also the world’s only allergen-free carbohydrate. Genetic modification, or GMO, of taro is disrespectful to the cultural heritage of Hawai’i, and could greatly endanger the unique, important health qualities of the taro plant.

GMO-coffee could contaminate natural Kona coffee and economically destroy the specialty local coffee industry– Japanese & European consumers largely reject GMOs.

GMO-taro & coffee could be patented and “owned” by corporations. Patents would rob local farmers of the free and public right-to-grow taro and coffee.

Can GMOs harm our health or the environment?
Scientific studies on laboratory animals show that GMOs can cause toxic, allergic, and deadly reactions. However, despite the health impacts on lab animals, GMOs have NOT been scientifically tested on humans to prove that they are safe for consumption.

The effects of GMOs on the ‘aina have never been scientifically studied. If released from the lab, GMO-taro and coffee could pose serious threats to Hawaii’s unique ecosystems and diversity of natural taro and Kona coffee. Unnatural gene mutations introduced through GMOs may harm insects, birds, fish and other wildlife. GMO mutations can also unpredictably transfer from the GMOs into other organisms through gene transfer among soil & insect microbes, with unknown longterm impacts on the whole ecosystem.

Click here for more background info.

It is a breath of fresh air, a moment of hope and calm that simply says democracy lives here in Hawaii County…
We are for safe science, transparent science and science of mutual consensus.

- Jerry Konanui, 8th generation Taro Farmer, Puna


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