The GMO Debate Heats Up In Hawaii

hawaii_gmo_debateWe recently wrote that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved a label for meat and liquid eggs that will allow for information indicating the products do not contain genetically engineered products. Now GMOs are the focus o a debate in Hawaii.

Hearings began this week in Hawaii over crop biotechnology and two measures to end the practice there, according to Forbes. The hotly contentious debate involves whether or how to regulate GMOs on Hawaii Island and Kauai. Bill 79 was brought forward by Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille this May, banning GMOs with a proposal to exempt the GMO Rainbow papaya crop, which scientists had rescued from the ringspot virus.

The controversy has led to Wille withdrawing the bill and presenting a similar measure, which farmers oppose saying that the measure will demonize all GMO crops, regardless of how Rainbow Papaya is handled. South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford has proposed cutting and burning all papaya fields, a proposal that has been backed by anti-GMO activists in Hawaii, according to Forbes. There are also questions and controversy concerning how the anti-GMO movement is being funded, Forbes noted.

Meanwhile, on the mainland, the USDA-approved non-GMO labeling represents the first time that the Agriculture Department has approved such a claim, according to the New York Times. The label would attest that the meat was certified by the Non-GMO Project and came from animals that never ate feed containing genetically engineered foods, such as corn, soy, and alfalfa.

Increasingly, companies have been voluntarily labeling their products. In fact, the Times noted that the restaurant chain, Chipotle, now points out which of its items contain genetically engineered ingredients on its online menu. Yet, GMO indications have become a contentious issue in the food business. Some two-dozen states are still pending on a decision regarding labeling requirements and the biotech industry has been fighting against GMO labeling with intense lobbying.

Many consumers strongly object to consuming GMO foods and have long sought foods that are non-GMO, such as certified organic meats that are non-GMO fed and non-GMO crops.

The issue of genetically modified (GM) crops, and the animals fed those crops, is gaining traction. A new study revealed some potential health problems associated with GM crops and involved a study conducted with Australian scientists and United States researchers. A group of 168 newly weaned pigs were studied with half fed a diet of GM corn and soy grain; the other, conventional feed. The researchers found that pigs fed a diet of GM grain had significantly increased stomach inflammation when compared to the pigs who consumed conventional feed and GM-fed females pigs’ uteri measured at 25 percent heavier than non-GM fed pigs. That study appeared in this month’s issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Organic Systems.

GM crops are used in the U.S., Latin America, and other countries and biotech seeds are altered genetically to grow into crops that have a high tolerance for herbicides and pests. Critics say that the DNA changes that create the so-called “transgenic plants,” created from DNA from other bacteria and species, also creates new proteins that can lead to the digestive issues seen in this study. These adverse health effects could potentially occur in humans who consume these crops, Reuters noted.

We also previously wrote that another study linked GM corn to cancer in rats. That study found that rats fed a diet of Monsanto’s GM corn, or who were exposed to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, suffered from tumors and multiple organ damage, according to a French study, wrote Reuters previously. The lead researcher for this study has a reputation for being an industry critic, which is expected to spark even more controversy over GM food crops.

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