Eco-friendly, Environmentalist, FDA

Papaya Perpetrators

GMO papaya trees
More than 100 papaya trees were recently chopped down in Hawaii for being genetically modified.
Image: Shutterstock

How do you feel about genetically modified food?  With initiative 522 on the ballot for Washington State soon, the sides are taking a stand.  Yes, we should label it, or no, we shouldn’t have to.  Some people go a little further in their quest to stop genetically modified food from entering the food chain.

Recently a farm in Puna, Hawaii was hit.  Some people are calling the culprits “eco-terrorists.”  Under the cover of darkness, just after midnight, activists chopped down over 100 papaya trees costing over $3,000 in damages.  Yet, this is not the first time the farm, owned by the Bernardo family, was targeted.

In 2011, 3,000 trees were chopped down by machetes.  In 2010, 8,000 trees were cut down on a 17-acre lot.  A year before that, 800 trees were hacked down on Oahu.  The most recent bunch of trees were between three to four feet high and laden with fruit.  Most believe they were targeted because the crops were genetically modified.

Papaya farmers argue that their crops are safe and worth a lot of money in sales.  Typically, fruits with a thicker skin are safe against pesticides.  However, it is not known how safe any fruit is when genetically modified.

The county is currently in the process of deciding whether to restrict the use of GMO crops in Hawaii.  Even if they do decide to, papayas are exempt due to special status.  This may anger many hardliners who believe all GMOs are dangerous for human consumption and for the environment.

Two bills are up for debate.  One would require all papaya farms to be cut down.  Anyone caught growing GMO papayas would be subject to a fine and jail time.

Currently, most of the papayas grown in Hawaii are genetically modified.  A rash of ring spot virus that hit the papayas in Hawaii in the 1950s scared many farmers.  They believe the GMO version saved the $11 million industry.

Hawaii is only one of many places around the globe dealing with the issue of GMO crops.  In Australia, activists chopped down drought-resistant wheat crops.  In the Philippines, modified eggplants were destroyed.

“It’s hard to imagine anybody putting that much effort into doing something like that.  It means somebody has to have a passionate reason,” said Delan Perry, vice president of the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association.

What do you think about these “eco-terrorist” methods of dealing with GMOs?

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