Saturday | November 18, 2017
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Letters 7-9-13

GMO testimony is a wakeup call

Last week’s outpouring of opposition toward the proliferation of genetically modified plants expressed before the County Council was a wakeup call not only for us here on the island, but more so to all of agriculture and the world at large.

I personally testified that this procedure was a more environmentally responsible method than the continued use of increasingly toxic poisons to control evolving insect pests and diseases, which quickly become immune to those pesticides. I was wrong.

I doubt that anyone who sat through the two days of testimony could walk away without realizing that neither a regimen of more poisonous pesticides nor genetically altering the plants we eat and feed to our livestock lead to a viable future. The well-demonstrated difference, however, is that unlike creating more toxic poisons that can be stopped, changing the genetic character or content of a plant to make it resistant to disease is an irreversible act.

By manipulating the genetic structure or content of a plant we interfere with the natural selection process of both the targeted plant, as well as all other organisms associated with it, especially those that feed on it — forever.

This procedure, used to create resistance or tolerance to disease and insect invasion, also introduces the probability of unintended and unforeseen effects that may create irreversible damage to beneficial insects such as bees and ladybird beetles, which are essential to the well-being of the modified plant and many others as well. This will have a cumulative effect that could destroy the process of evolution and life itself.

The issue now before us is that if neither a regimen of more toxic poisons nor genetic alteration of plants provide the answers for sustained agricultural, what does? Is it organic agriculture?

The dilemma of course is: can we reapply the techniques of yesterday to accommodate the needs of tomorrow while developing an economic model that works. The answer at this point is, I sure hope so. It’s not going to be easy but the answers do lie within past cultural practices and ancient wisdom.

Our mission here on this island and the opportunity that flows from this awakening needs to be focused on a combination of rediscovery and scientific research based on what we know and on what we once knew.

The University of Hawaii is in the process of envisioning an institution of advanced studies in North Kona and a curriculum based on this endeavor creates an opportunity to bring ancient culture into the modern world and, in so doing, develop a path of sustainability for the planet.

Most people in the financial world will tell you it’s not possible but if you listened to the response to Councilwoman Margaret Wille’s bill to control the spread of GMOs not possible is not an option.

Kelly Greenwell