In Search of Frankencorn in Hawaii
Hawaii's dishonest anti-biotech activist campaign
by Ronald Bailey, Reason, October 25, 2013
Maui—“Anybody you see around here dressed in a Tyvek suit will be someone from Greenpeace,” David Stoltzfus joked as we surveyed the thousands of carefully numbered corn plants growing in the stony rust-colored soil of a former sugar cane plantation. Stoltzfus, the head of Monsanto’s Piilani seed production farm on Maui, was referring to the white disposable coveralls that anti-biotech protesters wear for the television cameras when “decontaminating” biotech crop fields. Hawaii is the epicenter of a ferocious anti-biotech campaign that aims to shut down such biotech seed production farms. I was there to see for myself the Frankencorn that haunts the activists’ choleric imaginations.
Anti-biotech signs and literature are festooned across the Hawaiian Islands. The Crystals and Gems Gallery in Hanalei, for example, displayed several protest posters and offered fliers urging a ban on biotech crops. The Gallery is the sort of place where, when my wife asked a clerk what an attractive stone was, the reply was, “Do you mean, ‘What does it do?’” Apparently, that particular rock can dispel negativity.
After being advised on the therapeutic properties of various crystals, we asked the clerk what all the anti-biotech literature around the shop was about. She informed us that biotech crops cause cancer, stating emphatically the Kauai’s cancer rates were exceptionally high, especially among people who live close to the seed company fields where biotech crop varieties are being grown. She added that eating foods containing biotech ingredients disrupts satiety signals to the brain, causing people to eat too much food, resulting in the obesity epidemic. Don’t ask me to explain.
Why are the seed companies in Hawaii in the first place? Three words: perpetual growing season. Plant breeders here can produce three crops per year instead of just one. This speeds up the development of new crop varieties from seven years to just four years. The carefully selected seeds can then be transferred to mainland seed production farms, where bulk quantities of the new, improved seeds can be grown to supply farmers around the world.
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