HILO, Hawaii – A group comprised of a number of agricultural businesses, united in their opposition to a bill that would prohibit genetically modified organisms on the Big Island, made their presence known in Hilo on Friday afternoon.
Numerous papaya farmers, holding signs that framed GMOs as “Great Miracle Opportunities” and depicted the transgenic Rainbow Papaya as a friendly cartoon character, cheered along Aupuni Street outside of the county building.
At the same time, several trucks with signs that read “Save Our Farmer and Ranchers” and “Science Helps Farmers” drove in circles around the Aupuni-Kilauea-Pauahi loop that surrounds the state judiciary building and other county facilities.
During Friday’s event, we spoke to Eric Weinert, the general manager of Calavo Growers, the largest exporter of papaya to the mainland. Weinert says his business grows all Rainbow papaya. Also participating: The Hawaii Papaya Industry Association, Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association, Big Island Banana Growers Association, Hawaii Dairy, and Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council.
The event was one of the first counter-demonstrations to recent anti-GMO rallies held on Hawaii Island this year. It adds to the passionate debate that has been building in recent weeks as a big day of public testimony before the Hawaii County Council approaches. On July 2nd, a special council committee hearing will consider bill 79, which would prohibit GMOs on the island. The bill “grandfathers in” the papaya industry, exempting the virus-resistant Rainbow variety from the proposed law.
There was a handful of anti-GMO demonstrators at the same event. At one point, the police made their presence known, as the traffic flow in the vicinity of the county building deteriorated thanks to the vehicle procession.