GMO Taro Update

SUBHEAD: Update & Mahalo on GMO Taro Ban Legislation progress. SOURCE: Jeri DiPietro ( From email received on 23 August 2009 - image above: Jerry Konanui in giant non-GMO Mala taro crop, Pahoa,Hawaiii. From Testimony came from all over the State and the mainland! Mahalo nui loa to Hawaii SEED supporters!! Check out the news from the Maui County Council subcommittee meeting: Aloha all; Today was a good day for Haloa. The Committee on Agriculture, Economic Development and Recreation chaired by Councilmember Jo Anne Johnson passed the GMO Taro Ban bill (09-100) out of committee to the full council. Up Next: The date for the hearing in full council won't be set for at least a week but as soon as we know you'll get the word. We have four solid votes and need a minimum of one more. The councilmembers in question are Victorino, Baisa, Pontanilla, Molina and Council Chair Mateo. The Mayor supports the idea of protecting kalo but is not convinced yet on the enforcement issue, citing the inability to distinguish between a gmo taro and non-gmo taro as one of the reasons and suggesting state and federal agencies work out a different solution. We heard that Victorino is going to propose a moratorium instead of a ban as well. They've got Tsuji's playbook in hand and I think they also know if Maui falls, we will have the momentum to go statewide since Maui County includes Molokai and Lanai as well. [Source Note: Expect strong attempts to try to reduce the bill to only Hawaiian varieties on the next round.] Ongoing Action: Keep sending emails and taking just a few minutes to call. Include the Mayor in your calls. I don't have a direct email for her but the Mayor's Office phone number is (808) 270-7855; Fax: (808) 270-7870. Recap of today's hearing: The usual suspects were there testifying against us. A few new twists on the song and dance we've been hearing since 2006 that we will all hear more of this year: Each of the key players at HCIA and Monsanto are now growing a little kalo in their yards (dryland) so that they can say they have grown it or know how to if asked. According to them (and CTAHR), UH has been the exclusive center of taro research and expertise for the last 100 years. Amazing. The Farm Bureau is suggesting that this ban prevents farmers from having a "right to choose." CTAHR is now saying that Hawaiians recognized early on that disease was their number one problem - based on a 1902 report written by a researcher at the UH Ag Station. It's a far stretch to make that assumption from that report. He also forgot to mention a whole lot of factors contributed to that condition in 1902, including that the water was stolen more than 50 years prior. Taro only produces viable seeds through human intervention, inclusive of how Hawaiians developed their varieties. Because of budget cuts, this is a "poor use of county dollars" and there are "better ways to protect crop diversity" - out of the mouths of the company that has done more to reduce crop biodiversity on a global level than any other business in the entire world. They are focusing on the issue of enforcement and playing up the inability of the county to do so. Hawaii Seed stepped up to the plate and offered to monitor, test and report for the county, effectively negating the enforcement argument. Lorrin outlined their expertise which made it clear they are highly qualified to do the work. Mahalo! Chair Johnson was awesome, with the support of Councilmember Kaho'ohalahala. She took a strong stand on getting the bill to the full council. This was our third hearing in her committee and she told voting members if they couldn't decide she would dissolve the committee on this issue and use her perogative as chair to send it forward out of respect for all the taro farmers who've come to testify from such long distances each time. Council member Molina tried to introduce an amendment at the last minute straight from the Tsuji playbook, guided by the Farm Bureau, UH CTAHR and Monsanto - only the Hawaiian varieties listed in Bulletin 84. Baisa and Pontanilla supported that. Thankfully, the rule says a substantial change such as that would have had to be introduced as an amendment seven days prior so it was only admissable as testimony and didn't get attached to the bill. It went forward with it's original language encompassing all kalo. Mahalo nui loa to Walter who travelled from Molokai, the taro farmers and supporters that came to testify from all over Maui, and those who called or wrote in to council members, or signed on to the KAHEA and the Farmer's Union letters (319 of you!). Councilmember Medeiros, the sponsor of the bill, said he was excited to see testimony come from all over the state and even the mainland. Keep it coming! for more information on the unintended consequences of laboratory bred food and biotech research in Hawai`i, please visit these sites: GMO Free Kaua`i PO Box 343 Koloa, HI 96756 808 651 9603 see also: Ea O Ka Aina: GMO Action Alert 3/3/09 Ea O Ka Aina: GMO Taro Ban 2/16/09 Ea O Ka Aina: Genetically Modified Kauai 12/10/08 Island Breath: Taro Bill SB 958 thu Ag Comm 4/4/08 Island Breath: Tainted Taro Bill SB 968 4/12/08 Island Breath: Enemies of Taro 3/20/08 Island Breath: Two Taro Bills thu Senate 2/8/07

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