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Hawaii Treats GMO Farmers like Criminals

Where in the United States is growing safe, affordable and successful crops a crime? Answer: The Big Island of Hawaii. Late last year, anti-GMO activists were successful in pushing Bill 113 through Hawaii County Council. The bill is bad news for farmers currently growing or planning to grow biotech crops on the Big Island. Unless the bill is overturned, the very act of pushing a biotech seed into the ground is now a crime there.

Current GMO papaya farmers, who plant a genetically engineered, virus-inoculated variety of papaya, have been “grandfathered in” under the new law. That means that these farmers will be allowed to continue planting the technologically improved papayas that rejuvenated the Hawaiian papaya industry when a deadly papaya virus struck in the 1990s.

But even these grandfathered-in farmers are not entirely off the hook. Despite bringing truckfuls of healthy, inexpensive GMO papaya (3 for $1.00, according to one report) to customers in Hawaii and around the world for over 15 years, they will have to “register” themselves as GMO farmers and pay a fee for the privilege of doing so with the island council.

Some of these farmers have objected to being forced to register and one of these filed a case with the court last week (and won a temporary reprieve from registering). Acts of ecoterrorism against genetically modified plants are not uncommon in Hawaii, and farmers fear a registry, detailing who they are, where they live and precisely where their plants are located, will make them easy targets. The attorney in the case, Margery Bronster, told the court: “These are farmers who really fear for their plants, for their farms and for their livelihoods.”

Councilwoman Margaret Wille, who backed the bill that was responsible for the GMO ban said: “I worked hard when I drafted my bill to minimize anything harmful.”

I guess preventing farmers from planting successful foods, forcing them to register like criminals and slamming the door on biotechnology isn’t viewed as harmful.

You can see a video of reactions outside of the courtroom here.