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What Farming Ban? The Maui GMO Initiative, herbicides and the Rainbow Papaya

Mr. Douglas also took the opportunity to respond to Nancy Johnson.

First, Mr. Douglas said that Professor Johnson’s opinion that it is safe to eat GMO crops was “totally wrong.”

Douglas asked, “Why do you think most of Europe, China, Japan, New Zealand and Australia have banned GMO crops?” He added that eating GMO crops “creates foreign proteins that cause autoimmune and many dysfunctions in peoples bodies. They like to cite scientific studies that have been funded by the industry. There is a revolving door between the FDA and the chemical industry. The head of the FDA used to be a Monsanto executive.”

Mr. Douglas also rebutted Professor Johnson’s suggestion that people simply eat GMO free food. Douglas argued that GMO food is not labeled and that 70 to 80% of our processed food has GMO products, thanks to “soybean oil, canola oil, high fructose corn syrup, it’s all in our foods.”

Mr. Douglas responded to Nancy Johnsons worries of punishments for growing the Rainbow Papaya, arguing that growing the Rainbow Papaya should not be allowed because “we don’t want it.” Mr. Douglas added that no one is growing Rainbow Papaya on Maui. Douglas also felt that the people of Maui are “fully aware that they don’t want this stuff, that is the voice of the people.” He added that “all over the world, people are speaking out against genetically engineered crops.” Finally Douglas reminded me that there is “not one regulation” on the GMO industry on Maui, saying the “industry is totally unregulated.”


An important factor in the GMO debate is Glyphosate. Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Roundup and in most herbicides used in the world. Glyphosate was discovered in 1970 by Monsanto. Glyphosate works by inhibiting an enzyme involved in the synthesis of plants.

Most modern GMO crops have been engineered specifically to be resistant to Glyphosate, so that the crops can be protected from weeds by spraying the whole field with Glyphosate.

Because Glyphosate works by disabling synthesis in plants, it is thought to be safe to all animals, including humans. The exact science of Glyphosate is hotly debated, although the American science community seems to agree that it is safe and not harmful to humans.

However, Mothers Across America actually found that levels of Glyphosate were detectable in 3 out of 10 American women’s breast milk that they sampled. They also found that “urine testing also shows levels over 10 times higher than in Europe,” further suggesting bioaccumulation of the poison. Mothers Across America also found that levels of Glyphosate were detectable in 70% of households drinking water.

The United States Geological Survey found detectable levels of Glyphosate in 34% of Midwestern water streams that they tested. The USGS found evidence of Glyphosate’s broken down components in 70% of streams tested.

However, the levels found in these water samples and within the women’s bodies have been deemed as insignificant and safe, even for new born infants, by the FDA and the EPA.

A Mycogen Seeds worker pollinates corn on Molokai on July 2, 2014.
A Mycogen Seeds worker pollinates corn on Molokai on July 2, 2014.

According to some studies housed in the US National Library of Medicine, Glyphosate has also been linked to Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in occupations that deal with spraying Glyphosate, and to breast cancer, due to its impact as an “endocrine disruptor.” One study suggested that Celiac Sprue (or gluten intolerance) could possibly be a direct result of contact with Glyphosate.

A direct quote from a scholarly article from Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai says that “herbicides have been recognized as the main environmental factor associated with human neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.”

The US National Library of Medicine also houses a French study performed on rats over the span of two years. In the study rats were fed only Monsanto Maize, a GMO crop designed to be resistant to Roundup.

The study found that rats fed with the Maize showed high levels of Kidney Disease, liver congestion, necrosis, and a higher rate of mortality. Female rats also developed large mammary tumors and disablement of the pituitary gland. In the same time span, only one rat in the control group developed a tumor.

However, the rat test was found to be incomplete by many in the science community, because only 100 rats were used and the data was flawed, particularly because the type of rat used is known to suffer from tumors and health complications.

Furthermore, many in the American science community have denied allegations that Glyphosate can be harmful in any way to human beings and many science associations, including the American Health Association, stand behind the use of Glyphosate.

However, a consequence of increased Glyphosate use has been the evolution of new Glyphosate resistant weeds. In a attempt to combat these new weeds Dow Chemical has introduced a new soy crop and a new corn crop that is resistant to 2,4-D. 2,4-D was originally one of two main components in the Monsanto chemical weapon Agent Orange.

However 2,4-D was not the component in Agent Orange that proved to be “unknowingly” dangerous to human beings, according to Steve Savage of the website Biofortified. This September the USDA approved Dow Chemical’s two new 2,4-D resistant crops, both of which have been experimentally grown on Molokai.

Monsanto has already introduced Dicamba resistant GMO soy crops. Dicamba is another herbicide and is Monsanto’s answer to Glyphosate resistant weeds.


The story of the Rainbow Papaya on the Big Island is intertwined to the origins of the movement across the islands of Hawaii to stop GMO growth.

A once booming industry on Oahu, the papaya farming industry in Hawaii was forced out of Oahu and onto the Big Island in the 1950’s by the ringspot virus. For four decades, papaya farming thrived on the Big Island until the ringspot virus once again began appearing in residents yards.

Soon, the industrial production of papayas was cut down to 20% of original yields, as many farmers struggled to contain the spread of the virus by cutting down infected trees.
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About David Kelley Smith

David Kelley Smith is a staff writer at MAUIWatch. He is a recent graduate of the University of Hawaii at Manoa holding bachelor degrees in both Political Science and American History. David was also a staff writer for the student paper Ka Leo O Hawaii and is now covering community and political issues in Maui County.

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