lunes, enero 22, 2007


New video now available for activists and house parties January 2007

Contact: Brian Smith, 510-550-6714

Honolulu, HI - Earthjustice announces a new video entitled Islands at Risk – Genetic Engineering in Hawai'i. This half-hour program explores a subject that has received little attention in the media but involves a potential public health and safety issue of enormous consequence.

Focusing on local experiments with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the program features local Hawai'i farmers, teachers, legal and medical experts, and community activists who share their perspective on the genetic engineering of crops and the patenting of life forms.

"Hawai`i has been called the GMO testing capitol of the world because, in the past ten years or so, we have had here more than 2,000 field tests of experimental genetically-engineered crops in more than 6,000 locations around our small state," says Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff in the video. "And this is more than any other place in the world."

Earthjustice has won recent lawsuits in federal and state courts challenging the introduction of these experimental crop tests in the islands without first assessing the environmental and human health impacts.

Islands at Risk – Genetic Engineering in Hawai'i looks at some of the possible impacts, including allergic and immune system responses from exposure to biopharmaceutical crops - both in humans and in Hawai'i's endangered species - and contamination of regular food crops such as papaya, taro, coffee and corn with genetically modified versions of those crops.

"Some people say it's a tiny risk," says Kaua'i taro farmer Chris Kobayashi in the video, "but it's a huge risk."

Some of that risk is described by medical doctor, public health officer and World Health Organization consultant Dr. Lorrin Pang of Maui who calls for more oversight of the genetic engineering industry. Regarding the substances introduced into the cells of GMO plants, Pang states, "These things are not benign. These things are quite unknown. The kinds of studies we do for drugs and vaccines are exactly what genetically-engineered food needs."

Aside from health issues, the video focuses on the economics of the current state government policy of subsidizing the biotech industry. Local organic farmers growing coffee, papaya, taro and corn point out that genetically engineered produce does not command the export market prices of conventionally-grown and organic produce. Many countries either refuse to import GE food or require labeling. "We're going in the wrong direction for economic development," says international legal expert Mililani Trask. "We need to re-assess it."

Trask also discusses the practice of patenting Hawaiian life forms, calling it a form of bio-piracy. "We Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) are claiming our inalienable right to the biodiversity of our lands. This is the heart of what we are in terms of our survival, our ability to maintain our health."

The recent attempt by the University of Hawai'i to patent taro, honored as an ancestor of the Hawaiian people, is recounted in the video by Moloka'i hunter and Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte. His and others' successful efforts to persuade the UH to drop their patents on new hybrid Hawaiian taro varieties was a signal to the whole biotechnology industry, Ritte says in the video, that "you cannot own our ancestors."

The issue of food security and the world's future ability to feed itself is discussed by local farmers Una Greenaway and Nancy Redfeather.

"By choosing the path of genetically-engineered agriculture, we are narrowing significantly the amount of seed varieties that are available to the farmer today," says Redfeather.

The video ends with a vision of Hawai'i as a model for sustainable tropical agriculture. "Hawai'i is a niche specialty market for amazing things: coffee, pineapple, banana, flowers. We can actually support ourselves with this," says mixed organic farmer Melanie Bondera.

The program was produced for Earthjustice by Joan Lander and Puhipau of the documentary production team Na Maka o ka 'Aina. Copies are available at

Watch a clip of the video online here:

Media seeking review copies please contact Brian Smith