Most of us know that Kauai is a special place, and not just because of its distinctive light and landscape. So I was intrigued to find, on a British website about genetically modified foods that has a neutral to pro-GMO tone, an article that states:
With Hawaii having an abundance of biodiversity, it would seem like one of the last places anyone would want to grow controversial genetically modified (GM) crops. Despite the concerns and debate around GM food production in Hawaii, it is actually the number one industry here.
And that got me wondering, given the overwhelming support the state and counties have shown for those lucrative GM seed crops, what role might the Islands play in the newly emerging field of genetically engineered insects?
I recently read a long article in The New Yorker, abstracted here, about one such effort under way to combat dengue fever, a disease now present in Hawaii:
Now a British biotechnology company called Oxitec has developed a method to modify the genetic structure of the male Aedes mosquito, essentially transforming it into a mutant capable of destroying its own species.
The company has applied to the FDA for permission to release the insects in Key West, Fla., but ran into public resistance. The "terminator" bugs have already been released in open air field trials in the Caymen Islands, Malaysian and a Brazilian jungle.
The scientists who developed these transgenic mosquitoes say they're safe, and will reduce the use of pesticides, some of which are no longer effective on the creatures. As one researcher told The New Yorker reporter: "The objections so rarely have anything to do with the science or the safety of the research. It is an opposition driven by fear.”
But given what we've seen with GMO crops, fears, it's totally legit to have some fears about this technology, or at least, some reservations. For example, the chemical companies that developed these products long dismissed concerns about cross-contamination and the creation of superweeds resistant to herbicides, both of which have come to pass. We've also seen the transgenic papaya lose effectiveness against the ringspot virus it was created to resist, a problem that also seems to be occurring with Monsanto's Bt corn and the corn root worm. In short, these transgenic creations are not a cure all, or even a long-term fix.
With so many questions still unanswered about GMO crops, it's a little worrisome to think we are now moving this technology into insects. Besides the mosquito trials, the U.S is currently testing a transgenic cotton bollworm, and more creations are to come. Since Kauai was previously the site of a failed sterile fruit fly study, it's not too far-fetched to think transgenic insects might also be tested here.
As an article in the peer reviewed PloS Journal notes:
The release of GM insects into the environment poses two broad risk issues. There are potential environmental risks associated with the introduction of large numbers of any selected mass-reared population, in many cases of an alien species, that can interact with both the wild population of that species and other, non-target organisms, including humans.
There are also specific risks related to the GM technologies introduced into the process, which may also interact with the broader environment through particular expressed traits, such as metabolic products, or through fitness differences compared to untransformed insects.
There is not yet any widely accepted specific guidance for GM insect releases.
Just something to pay attention to, since I can pretty much guarantee our elected officials are not.
Speaking of which, Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho has once again ignored my request for public documents, requiring me to ask the Office of Information Practices to order her to comply. It's getting so tedious, seeing how this is the third time our "pono" prosecutor has flagrantly violated the public records law.
Specifically, I am seeking:
Records of all expenditures for accessories identified explicitly or implicitly with OPA's POHAKU diversion program, including, but not limited to, orange and black T-shirts, orange and black shopping bags, orange and black hand-held fans, pens, baggies of Hawaiian salt and bracelets, as well as OPA POHAKU booth fees for the County Farm Fair in August 2011.
In an opinion that supposedly "cleared" Shay and POHAKU, Special Counsel Gary Slovin claims, “No public funds were expended” on the program. So who did buy all this promotional paraphernalia?