Hawaii Is Ground Zero For Ag Innovation
In sharp contrast to the opinion piece, “Paradise is being poisoned” (Jan. 5, 2016), I can personally attest to the care that Hawaii’s farmers have for our land. As a resident of Hawaii, a concerned mom and an advocate of both environmental protection and agricultural technology, I can tell you that our state is proud of our successes in both these areas.
Since the advent of biotechnology and GMO crops, the increased use of insect-resistant crops has reduced the need for insecticides and the adoption of herbicide-tolerant crops has enabled farmers to switch to more benign products to control weeds. An international study reviewed GM crop data collected between 1995 and 2014 and found that GMO crops have reduced chemical pesticide use by 37 percent, increased crop yields by 22 percent and increased farmer profits by 68 percent.
Another success story is how GMOs are responsible for preserving the livelihood of Hawaii’s papaya industry.
In the 1990s, Hawaiian papaya farmers were faced with devastation from ringspot virus, a plant virus that reduced papaya production by 50 percent within six years and kept spreading. But thanks to development of a transgenic disease-resistant papaya, the fruit is grown today on hundreds of Hawaiian farms with an estimated value of $18 million.
Unfortunately, as activists’ contempt for genetically modified food crops has grown, some of Hawaii’s papaya trees have suffered from eco-terrorism with vandals cutting down trees with machetes in the middle of the night.
Hawaii farmers are a kind, humble, yet fiercely proud group. They enjoy talking alongside farm roads, or over morning coffee; they do not shout for the sake of being the loudest voice in the room nor do they prey on people’s fears to confuse the community deliberately.
My grandfather was a farmer and I used to farm myself, so it’s personally insulting that anyone would allege that Hawaii’s agriculture sector is doing anything to harm the environment or that farmers would damage the land that they depend on for their livelihood.
Thanks to Hawaii’s climate, our islands are home to ground-breaking research in the area of agriculture innovation. More than 200 bioscience operations in our state provide high-paying jobs to nearly 4,000 local workers.
We are a broad-based coalition representing the entire American agriculture food supply chain – from farm to fork. We are committed to increasing the public’s understanding about the science and safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and advocating for science-based policies that keep food affordable for every American.