Legislatures Pass Bill Compromising the Protection
Over 6,000 names and letters were submitted in support Senate Bill 958.
Honolulu, Hawaii- Senate Bill 958, 10-year halt to experimental research of genetically modified taro of all varieties, was watered down to a compromise despite farmers and Native Hawaiian’s hopes today at the Capitol. The Senate Agricultural Committee voted 9-3 on what they are calling a compromise bill: a 5-year moratorium on Hawaii varieties of taro only, despite receiving over 7,000 testimonies in support of the original bill.
Many Native Hawaiians and taro farmers stated today that they will continue to request a 10- year moratorium on GM research of all taro varieties. Genetic engineering modifies the genetic foundation of the plant by inserting genes from other unrelated organisms into the taro. Researchers at the University have been using the controversial technology to insert rice, wheat and grapevine genes into the taro despite public concerns around the cultural significance of taro as well as health and environmental effects of genetic engineering.
“We are the ones out in the field, and we don't want any GMO taro,” said Chris Kobayashi, Kauai taro farmer. “The fact is that all varieties of taro are important to us, and they have been known to cross pollinate or get mixed up when farmers trade plants. Why continue GMO research when we say no?”
Major pressure from Hawaiian leaders through large events prompted Senators to hear the controversial bill, including a rally on the opening day of the legislative session where over 500 protestors gathered demanding the bill be heard this legislative session.
Proponents of the bill have noted that the entire agricultural committee is up for re-election this year and many of the current committee-members’ opponents running are in vocal support of the bill of the original bill. The main arguments to end GE taro research include the cultural significance of the root crop as a sacred plant. According to many taro farmers in support of the bill GE technology is simply not needed, and money and research could be better spent on alternatives including organic growing and diversifying varieties of the crop.