Capitol Corridor
University of California
Capitol Corridor

Science provides facts for Hawaii GMO debate

Symptoms of papaya ringspot virus. The disease is controlled in a GMO variety called Rainbow papaya. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The New York Times reported on a heated debate on the Big Island of Hawaii late last year about a proposed law that would ban the production of genetically modified organisms by farmers in that part of the island state.

The story describes a lone councilman's effort to get science-based information in face of vocal opposition to GMOs among advocacy groups. The lack of input from farmers and scientists on policy issues that affect food and farming has rankled many agircultural scientists, including Pamela Ronald, professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis. She compared some advocacy groups' resolute objections to GMOs to people who don't believe the world climate is changing despite the scientific proof.

“Just as many on the political right discount the broad scientific consensus that human activities contribute to global warming, many progressive advocacy groups disregard, reject or ignore the decades of scientific studies demonstrating the safety and wide-reaching benefits” of genetically engineered crops, Ronald said.

Hawaii has a unique status in the GMO debate. It's the only American state where farmers grow genetically modified fruit. After an outbreak of papaya ringspot virus in the mid-1990s, scientists used biotechnology to insert a gene from the virus itself into the papaya that gave it immunity and saved the crop.

The article outlines research showing that many of the claims made by GMO opponents do not stand up to scrutiny. Experts conceded that the research doesn't prove genetically engineered food could never cause harm, but the risks of such crops could be reliably tested, and they had so far proved safe.

“With scientists, we never say anything is 100 percent certain one way or another,” USDA-ARS research molecular biologist Jon Suzuki said. “We weigh conclusions on accumulated knowledge or evidence — but often this is not satisfactory for some.”  

The GMO ban was approved by Hawaii's County Council by a 6 to 3 vote and on Dec. 5 signed by the Big Island's mayor.

Posted on Monday, January 6, 2014 at 9:25 AM
Tags: biotechnology (11), GMO (17), Pamela Ronald (7)

No Comments Posted.

Leave a Reply

You are currently not signed in. If you have an account, then sign in now! Anonymously contributed messages may be delayed.




Security Code:
AEJDTN
:

 
E-mail
 
Webmaster Email: kmchurchill@ucanr.edu