Biotech food

First in a six-part series

HB 1226 raises issue of government regulation

By David Lichtenstein – KMKK-FM News Director

Every day, people on Molokai eat genetically modified foods, work with genetically modified corn and discuss the many issues surrounding genetic engineering.

This uniquely 21st century debate has raged across the world, the state and Molokai since bioengineered ingredients began appearing in food products 14 years ago. The introduction of House Bill 1226 on January 28 helps illustrate the division between the two sides.

HB 1226 (“Relating to genetically modified (GM) plant organisms”) will limit the ability of state and county government to regulate this industry. The bill has been endorsed by the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, a nonprofit group representing the Hawaii seed industry.

Molokai’s Adolph Helm, project manager at Dow Agro-Science, a seed corn research and production company, testified in favor of the bill. He stated that the industry is already strongly regulated by federal agencies along with the state Department of Agriculture. “County-by-county legislation creates a patchwork of regulations … (and) inhibits investment in agriculture biotechnology statewide,” said Helm.

On the other side is Steve Morgan, a local activist representing Hui Ho’opakele ‘Aina. Even though lawmakers in the House Agriculture Committee unanimously recommended the measure on March 4, Morgan is asking citizens to write letters to state senators asking them to block this legislation. Morgan offers a form letter that says, in part, “This bill takes away the right of local communities to make decisions over the GMO issue … GMO’s remain highly untested and federal testing and evaluation of GMO farming and food products is almost nonexistent.”

Supporters of GMO farming believe the industry is already well regulated and offers many advantages to farmers and consumers through the use of responsible science and technology. Opponents believe the science is untested and presents serious health hazards.

So where does the truth lie?

Benefits of bioengineered foods

As with many technologies, the question over whether or not genetically engineered foods are safe is about weighing risks and benefits.

On one hand, GMOs — which can be found in 70 percent of the food on our store shelves — can eliminate certain diseases such as the ring spot virus found in papaya. Nutritional benefits can also be found in GMO products such as “Golden Rice.” This form of genetically engineered rice helps alleviate vitamin-A deficiency in children in developing countries and is now available free of charge.

Reducing the use of pesticides is another important benefit from GMOs. The insertion of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin into corn and cotton crops through genetic engineering allows farmers to control pests without spraying pesticides. A 2006 study published in “Transgenic Research” shows that Bt corn can improve human and animal health by reducing contamination of food by mycotoxins, which are toxic chemicals produced by fungi.

As a result of these developments, chemical pesticide use has been cut by 46 million pounds per year, according to Paul Koehler, Manager of Scientific and Community Affairs for Monsanto Hawaii.

Monsanto, the worldwide leader in the use of biotechnology, is the largest employer on Molokai. Along with Mycogen Seed, Monsanto plants thousands of biotech corn plants on Molokai every year to develop specialized GM corn seed for farmers. Monsanto’s Molokai operation employs 165 people on a footprint of 1,850 acres, and farms 400-500 acres of corn at a time.

Weighing the risks

These improvements to the crop sound great, but at what risk? A thorough human feeding trial for foods produced from GMOs has never been undertaken. Data from animal tests also show that harmful side effects may be possible.

Jeffrey Smith is the author of “Seeds of Deception” and “Genetic Roulette,” and has made a career of criticizing the biotechnology industry. Last month Smith visited Molokai and gave several presentations.

Smith claims that the Bt genes inserted into GMO crops continue to function in our intestines. “If … GE corn were to transfer to the bacteria inside our gut, it might transform it into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of our lives,” said Smith.

In a report issued by the American Medical Association, no adverse effects on human health have been reported in peer-reviewed scientific literature and according to regulatory agencies. The AMA does say, however, that “long-term effects are theoretically possible.”

“You could not ask for a better health and safety record, nor can you say the same thing about other types of foods,” said Koehler. “Nevertheless, opponents of biotech crops continue to describe them as ‘untested’ and ‘unsafe.’ This is simply untrue.”

Smith clearly believes GMO foods are unsafe when he says, “we’re all being used as guinea pigs in an uncontrolled experiment.”

The debate continues.

(Next week the series will look at how bioengineered foods get from the laboratory to the kitchen and how the government regulates this process.)

David Lichtenstein is the News Director for KMKK radio. Listen to KMKK, 102.3 FM, Molokai’s only radio station, for Molokai news reports every weekday morning at 6 a.m., 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.


28 Responses

  1. Agricultural genetic engineering is a techno-gimmick, designed mainly to benefit Monsanto (the most hated, most polluting corporation on the planet) and ensure the continued sale of it main product, the herbicide Roundup when it’s patent was running out. As such it cannot last.

    Farmers in the RR system find that after a few years weeds begin to develop resistance necessitating more applications of Roundup and/or use of stronger versions and eventually leading to use of more dangerous herbicides. This is bad both for the food on our plate and the environment.

    But somehow Monsanto has been able to use all of their tricks and political influence over the last 14 years to beat back common sense. It will cost us all in the long run since you can’t get rid of the stuff once it starts growing in your field.

    It’s a terrible shame that Monsanto was able to weasle its way onto the beautiful iskand of Molokai.

    • Mahalo nui for your comment! Roundup resistant weeds is an issue that Monsanto avoids addressing. I will do some more research on this. Of course, if this creates a problem for farmers the way to solve it would be for farmers to stop buying Monsanto seed.

      • Wish we had been smart enough to never have bought their seeds.. and they are suing organic farmers who are cross contaminated in more and more areas.. they will own all farmers one way or another.

    • How DID monsanto and mycogen get on moloka’i?
      I’m sure it was sneaky, “just farming in the country” and all in the name of jobs… it s so sad that this beautiful “most hawaiian” island has been contaminated. I hope education on GMO will spread on the island, but I am guessing that these companies also provide the largest donations to the schools. wolves in sheep clothes.

      • Yes, they support schools through scholarships and businesses through the chamber of commerce and other avenues. I think the best thing these companies could do is to educate the public — with the help of some neutral non-profit group or university — on the science of biotechnology as it is now practiced on Molokai. There is way too much misinformation on this subject. But with more education will come greater scrutiny, something I don’t think Monsanto wants. There are serious issues with super weeds and other unintended consequences that the European political community seems to be questioning more than the politicians in this country.

      • don’t know but they are on Maui too and the only places you see chemical trails… [planes that pollute the sky with sprays that linger for hours] is over the islands you find Monsanto.
        Many countries do not allow Monsanto seed to be sold or for the crops they produce to be grown or imported.
        We have seen an increase in the # of people sick and dieing of cancer and children born with illnesses that defy logic.
        Monsanto states that
        “Control the seeds, control the people”
        That is NOT Aloha to Hawaii or the world. Even poor countries have had the good sense to refuse GMO crops and seeds… here we worship money and Monsanto has the FDA in their pocket…
        How is it that the FDA says there is no need to label GMO foods because GM foods are not significantly different from their counter [original] parts. YET.. follow this now.. To get a patent on the seeds Monsanto had to PROVE to the patent office that their seeds ARE significantly different from their counterparts.

        We are being lead blindly to slaughter.. GM Corn and Soy.. ask your self why corn and soy… easy peasy. read the labels of everything in your kitchen right now.. dare you, Corn and or soy is in I would guess about 98% of what you have in cans and bags and boxes. Yoour kids cereal, shoyu soy milk, oh and your meats and dairy? LOL what kind of grain do you think is fed to the cows pigs and chickens? yup GM!
        DEMAND Monsanto allow labels.. they are behind the no label war.. they know you will not buy food if you know it has bt poison in it.
        Google it and see what is going on .. how this company is killing off family farms and has declared war on your family.

  2. not sure if neutral is the right group to help educate with these companies. GMO companies would NOT be neutral in any type of education. If each side was presented, pro GMO and against GMO, maybe a THIRD neutral party, only then would be fair. I highly doubt they would work with anyone who would tell the true problems of GMO. Of course Monsanto and Mycogen do not want any scrutiny, they choose their locations well.

  3. There’s an excellent documentary on GMO’s, the political and economic issues, the whole concept of patenting organisms, and Monsanto’s role in all this.

    It’s “The Future of Food,” produced in 2004.

    It’s available on Netflix (insant play) along with other good documentaries, like “Food, Inc,” 2008, and “Food Matters,” 2008.

  4. Watch the videos – the best helpful education for my beloved nature and land loving Moloka’i people: You all can even help to end world hunger! Don’t get bribed anymore by Monsanto! Keep on following your big great hearts and stay in high spirits as you did with Laau!
    P.S. Why don’t you get together and build an Historic Traditional Hawaiian Village to educate everyone about living in and with nature in HERB KANE’s spirit:
    with warm Aloha

  5. I feel that Monsanto takes advantage of a high unemployment Island and provide jobs for there testing!
    If Molokai as a Community would grow organic corn without using chemicals, which is truly possible, It would provide just as much jobs or more if we would step into growing other beneficial vegetables and provide it for the rest of the islands!!
    Molokai are the Farmers I would love to see it happen!! and have Monsanto grow some where else, the main reason they pick Molokai is so they can grow it year round, they grow it mainly in the mid states then come over to hawaii and make up for there winter!! Molokai is one of the strongest communities in the U.S and with that being said nothing is impossible! Just got to do it!!
    Much Aloha,

  6. Let’s get all poison chemicals off our beautiful island. We already sold our health for pinapples…..20 years later we are still paying the price in disease and loss of life to those who lived heed then and still live here

    • True, the chemicals sprayed on pineapple fields on Molokai have been proven to be carcinogenic. However, Roundup and bioengineered corn have not been linked to disease or loss of life. They have created mutated superweeds and may be associated with the death of bees but no diseases or human deaths that I know have been caused by biotech corn.

      • Is not the death of bees, who polinate our crops, enough? What price are we willing to pay? he who controls food, controls the world.

      • What rock are you living under….they sure as hell have been !!!
        and you call yourself a news paper ! You must be on thier payroll ! See and, two of many highly informational websites that report on the health effects of ggenetically modified crops and pestides (glyphostate is the main ingredient of Round Up).

      • is not news. It lacks any scientific credibility. They once reported that the killer in the Aurora movie theater shooting was was given mind-altering drugs by the government. They make broad statements without providing proof of the allegations, that is irresponsible journalism. I am no defender of Monsanto (they were not happy with this series of stories) but if you are going to say that the ingestion of GMO food is responsible for death or disease you better provide some proof.

  7. I have no doubt that glyphosate (Roundup) can be linked to birth defects, although farmers have been using it for many years and have been producing normal babies at the same rate as the general population. However, my comment about diseases or deaths linked to biotech corn was in reference to the ingestion of food products made from the corn. Yes, Monsanto has created Superweeds and is killing bees as a result of widespread use of bt corn. But I still feel it is important to distinguish between how the corn seed is produced and how the corn is used once it is harvested. I was talking about the latter.

    • According to European reports,harvested GMO corn will not be eaten by pigs, cows and other livestock. Do they know something we humans don’t know? BTW, is the new, improved Ranch going to use that GMO corn to feed their new pig industry?

    • the problem is not the round up per se.. it is the fact that planting this bio crop the farmer can pour round up on like water.. they can use as much as they want and not have to worry they will harm the crops because the crop is now resistant to the round up.. why because they altered the make up of the plant and added in poisons and insecticides and genes from knows molds and plant maladies.
      Kind of the way they give kids vaccines.. they give you a live virus and pray your body fights back. and wins.but they failed. they are selling round up in record sales and have added the multi billions in seed sales through false advertisements false promises and fake reassurances and sealed with written contracts that have landed many many a farmer in the courts or in a grave.
      Monsanto is not the benevolent benefactor they would like you to believe..
      Yes they ‘support’ community and schools and probly built a cute lil church too boot anything to make them look like the harmless giant among them.
      Wake up and do your research.. with the world so connected to the net these days.. 10 year olds in the Sudan have lap tops and post pictures all the time.. The truth is out there is you dare to look.

  8. W HY are the first experimental crops, grown on the farthest land mass from anywhere in the world?? common sense will answer that question W hy is it a touchy subject?? money will answer that question.
    Why has eourope banned GMOs?
    Why is diabetes and other disease found in no other countries found in the USA? WHY are so many so sick?
    As for myself, MY opinion, GMO crops and thier fruit, are not good.
    Why do the workesr were protective clothing and masks?? agian..common sense.\ I quess it does not matter, one cannot stop it, it would take many. Some truths, ARE self evident .Lastley, WHY would Monsato censor my website?

    • What is your website and how did Monsanto censor it?

      • I m glad you asked. Putting a line in the water, and getting a bite is great. The websites name is HamSphere. I HAD my blog on that site, and was communicating with scientists in aruba, and Newzealand. we were discusing this, amoung other things relating to this. And, i see there is no name on your post, but ill still answer your question. Those that hide behind the web, do that too, no problem. I was banned, along with 3 others, who i now speak to online, we were acussed of being “paraniod”, i am NOT a scientist at the same level as they, yet they too were silenced. THAT is censorship. I am NOT sure it was Monsato per say but it WAS a very high level person or persons, we traced them as far as Cypress, an island that is part of the UN. They alsowere able to get my IP address, and make SURE all 4 of us were unable to even go near that site, through contacts at Kaneoe. Enough said Or would you like me to elaborate further? And expose the points of entry of the intranet in Hawaii, and who monitors them. I would be more than willing to. As many of us have been disinfranchised, it is a pleasure to meet minds with anyone who will listen, with anyone who will learn, there are far worse things on this earth than death, and to me one of those things is KNOWING something is wrong, and not being able to do anything about it, one thing for sure, people can talk about many other things, really crazy things, and nothing much is said, but when it comes to this subject, all hell breaks loose. IF we are wrong then why do people go to such lenghts, to keep it quiet. Now, lets see if you will print what i just wrote. You have made one point, i cannot say it WAS Monsato, but SOMEONE, did not like what we had to say. And that someone, was very high level. Another thing for sure, is NO ONE is sure, becuse of the fact money [big money] is able to move mountains, silence people, using a variaty of methods, my wife and i came back to Molokai 15 months ago, she now has cancer, I have become sick. I will not use his name here, as he is part of the Hawaiian nations, and i cannot speak for him, but a few months ago, he wrote an article on GMO in this paper, and it was printed ..I truly belive he and others are right, and that is my right, my opinion IF we dont talk about these things, then they will NEVER be known LET Monsato proof these crops pose no danger to the people here the burden is upon them, not the people. Respectfully, Kimo

  9. Monsanto wants to control all food production! Then when they pull the plug millions will die! Kick them OUT of Hawai’i Nei!!! Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono!

  10. Here is the simple truth about Monsanto, they seek to control seeds! When they develop GM seeds, they make them so only THEY can germinate them! They have already taken over ALL corn seed and soy seed! If you do your research, you will find that they actually have goon squads that travel the mainland and look for farmers who save seed (which is illegal) there are also cases where the GM corn pollen germinated (natural) corn on bordering farms, Monsanto sued those farmer for use of their (GM) patented corn……in the end, the farmers LOST THEIR FARMS to Monsanto!!!!

    People need to understand the game, they want to control ALL food, there is another company Gen Ex that has purchased ALL bull semen!

    They want to control all food and when the time is right, they will cause mass starvation, to CULL the population! If you look deeper, Bill Gates is involved! They hide in places like Hawaii and Palawan Philippines and grow the original (seed) if you go to Kunia and watch them, you will see them in SPACE suits!

    I love Hawaii very much and have seen first hand what is happening there, I was there for 1/2 my life, now in the midwest, I see the corn fields and soy fields here, I see the pressure Monsanto puts on the farmers……..they OWN the farmers along with the banks…..

    How long will the people of the world stick their heads in the sand? Do we not love our Keiki?

    Remember Hawaiians……..the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness…….you are a small island Molokai, but you have always been a leader and brave in the face of outsiders trying to take away your beautiful island and way of life………..if you won’t fight to the end for yourselves, please set a fine example for our keiki……please!

    aloha nui

  11. Well, at least they’re not the worst on the planet(groan)

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