Bill 113 needlessly stigmatizes our papaya farmers, but that’s not enough, so it penalizes them as well.

Now all farmers growing Rainbow papaya will have to register their fields by providing a tax map key, the names of field employees and a detailed description of the location.

They will also have to pay $100 per location per year. If this is not a penalty then why not require this of all farmers? Because this bill is based on the premise that transgenic crops are dangerous.

However, every credible scientific body that has examined this issue has concluded that current transgenic crops are as safe as their non-transgenic counterparts. This bill disagrees, but it can’t explain why.

This bill mentions the precautionary principle and risk avoidance.

Kidney beans contain phytohaemagglutinin, which induces mitosis, affects cell membrane transport and permeability, and causes clumping of red blood cells.

It is inactivated by boiling for 10 minutes but consumption of just four or five raw beans can make you sick. Cassava produces cyanide, as do the seeds of apple, cherry, peach, plum, almond, apricot, and lima beans (never eat raw cassava or lima beans).

Updated: A reference to a purported death from tea made from tomato leaves has been removed from this posting on the request of the author, who said further research showed that there is no solid evidence to support that claim.

Many of our common ornamental plants are toxic.

Growers of the plants mentioned above aren’t required to register or pay $100 per location per year, even though those plants are demonstrably dangerous.

Growers of transgenic crops are singled out because Ms. Wille proposes that transgenic crops are a unique threat, but fails to articulate what that threat is.

Biotechnology is not going away, and as the products get better and better, our county has decided to shut the door on all of it based on inarticulate fear.

I teach in an agriculture college, and I wish we had more students interested in farming. While we do have ample food (I certainly overindulge at times), it’s mostly coming over on boats. Our food supply chain is fragile and we don’t have nearly enough farmers. We need to support the farmers we have.

We need to be proud of them and thank them for feeding us. That might get more people interested in farming.

This bill and the many hours of debate accompanying it did the opposite. The Hawaii County Council discouraging papaya or any food farming is a ridiculous concept, but they’ve done so and at great expense. Are we really growing so much food here that we need to cull some sectors?

If the Hawaii County Council believes that one kind of farming is superior to another (this bill says as much), they should put resources into encouraging organic agriculture. But they shouldn’t discourage conventional agriculture.

Organic and conventional agricultural systems can and do coexist, and sometimes the organic system benefits from a neighboring conventional one.

While my opinions are my own and not the university’s, at our college we welcome anyone that wants to learn to grow food. We are especially interested in sustainable systems, and there’s plenty of room here.

About the author: Michael Shintaku earned a PhD in Plant Pathology from Cornell University in 1991. He is a professor of Plant Pathology at the UH-Hilo College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Management.


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About the Author

  • Michael Shintaku
    Michael Shintaku earned a PhD in Plant Pathology from Cornell University in 1991. He grew up on his grandparents and then his father's farm, and attended Kau High School on the Big Island. Michael is a professor of Plant Pathology at the UH-Hilo College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Management. (He is expressing his own opinions, not those of his employer.)

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