Plant scientist analyzes Hawaii County’s anti-GMO Bill 113

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A papaya farm, via Karl Haro von Mogel, Biofortified

Hawaii County Council is currently reviewing the controversial Bill 113, which would ban all new open-air cultivation of genetically modified plants.

Karl Haro von Mogel, co-founder of Biofortified, an independent science-focused non-profit organization, and PhD candidate in plant breeding and plant genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, pointed out in an analysis that he believes it would negatively impact Hawaii’s farming and scientific community.

Because farmers who already grow GM crops would be exempt, other farmers would have a much harder time competing in the market, von Mogel argued. The bill would allow GM technology to be used in the event of an emergency if all other alternatives have been exhausted, but von Mogel noted that the bill is vague in defining what a constitutes as an “emergency” and also what “alternative” solutions might be.

Most importantly, von Mogel wrote, the bill disregards the regulatory process that requires GM crops to be tested in open air environments before they are approved. If passed, the bill would severely limit the research of GM plants by University of Hawaii scientists, and any “emergency exemptions” would be useless.

The bill has numerous problems, in my opinion. It inadequately justifies limiting the rights of farmers on the island, and where it tries to make exceptions based on historical use or emergencies, it will introduce inequities and would fail to protect Hawai’ian farmers when pests or disease hit their farms. The reason why it would fail to protect them lies in a misunderstanding about how plant breeding and genetic engineering work – and the law is written such that when an exemption is allowed, it will be too late to develop and approve a home-grown biotech solution.

The first round of testimony ended Tuesday with no vote and will resume on November 19. Council chair J Yoshimoto has proposed three amendments to the bill, in response to concerns raised during testimony, Big Island Video News reported. The proposed amendments would do away with the required registry for farmers already growing GM crops, offer exemptions to growers of ornamental flowers and would allow more exemptions to be approved by the Council.

Read the full, original story here: “A Plant Scientist’s perspective on bill 113”

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