Seed News

GM Papaya destroyed on Hawaii

Date Posted: July 25, 2011

Honolulu, HI (KHONTV)-- Police are still searching for suspects in the destruction of ten acres of papaya farms in the Puna district on Hawai'i.

Three small, independent farmers were affected. While the damage was not enough to affect supply and prices for consumers, it was a devastating blow to the farmers.

"We only started two months ago harvesting, so it's like a new field," said Lanie Barao.

Trees plump with fruit, hacked and strewn across 2.5 acres on Lanie and Jerry Barao's Pahoa farm plus two adjacent farms, one five acres the other, Loreto Vallente's three acres. He last saw these trees standing Monday night, more than 7,000 trees total. He found them on the ground Tuesday morning.

"This is his very first farm, lost it all, all of his 3 acres is gone," said Margarita Hopkins of County Research and Development.

Farmers attended an emergency meeting Tuesday night.

"We believe it's possibly four people involved with this. If you look at the trees, there's different heights of the cuts," said Det. Brandon Konanui of the Hawai'i Police Department.

"That's why somebody said do you think they are anti-GMO? That's mad, they're mad over that, they could be mad over that," Hopkins says.

Myrone Murakami, a papaya farmer and president of the Hawai'i Farm Bureau Federation, says the majority of papayas grown in Hawai'i are GMO, a necessity to fight the papaya ringspot virus.

"When they were able to genetically modify so you could resist it, it saved the industry," Murakami says.

But those against it say it can contaminate non-GMO crops and there's no certainty GMO's don't negatively affect humans. Still, no one knows who or why this was done. No one was ever caught a year ago when the same thing happened to a papaya farm nearby.

"The curious thing I have and I'm not quite sure about this, is there are other fields around here yet they still went just swipe right through you folks place," Konanui says.

"If we put enough reward out there somebody will say something I think that will be the only way to find out whose behind this," said papaya farmer Michael Madame.

The Hawai'i Papaya Industry Association is offering a $5,000 reward for someone's arrest, plus CrimeStoppers offers up to $1,000. Meanwhile, the three farmers say they're hoping for a loan to re-plant, but in a different location.

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