Chuck Robinson, Assistant Copy Chief
Chuck Robinson, Assistant Copy Chief

Pack the bags — we’re headed to Hawaii!

A new Facebook friend has planted a seed in my mind for a way to pay for it.

He posted a picture of some lovely young women holding signs that read “No GMO” and “Ban GMO” and chastising Dow, Syngenta and Monsanto for suing Kauai County in Hawaii, which voted in November to bag GMOs, except for papayas. The law goes into effect in August.

“Shame on you for suing Kauai County for the right to spray poisons next to our homes, schools and hospitals,” the sign read.

The women parade under the name “Babes Against Biotech.”

My friend, Chuck Lasker, mocks them for showing up late to a rally but parading their signs anyway, missing a crowd of thousands of other anti-GMO activists by an hour or two. No refunds on the donations to their cause, which surely raised enough for the women to treat themselves to a night on the town.

I can think of only a few things stopping me from starting my own activist organization to fund a trip to Hawaii for me to hold an anti-GMO sign for a couple of hours.

I am not a “babe” by anyone’s terminology. Also, I am not against biotech. Still, I think we can work this to our advantage. I will hold that sign. I want to see the beaches too.

Controversy about GMO crops seems to have charged debate in many political arenas in Hawaii, which has become an epicenter of GMO angst. It seems born of Hawaii’s role for many decades in corn crop development.

The climate allows seed companies to cram three or four seasons of seed production and testing into a year, which speeds up research. The best performers are sent elsewhere for more growing trials.

As more GMO crops need to be tested, they get a turn in Hawaii’s crop development system.

In an article posted in March at, a Hawaiian food author and historian suggests the anti-GMO debate in Hawaii follows the sociological fault lines between people who have lived in the islands for generations and those who are newcomers from the mainland.

“For the locals, the islands have always been a place of high-tech agriculture,” Rachel Landan, author of “The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary Heritage” and “Cuisine and Empire,” said in the article.

“Many of them worked on big sugar and pineapple plantations. They saved to buy small plots of land. Those who farm these plots know that the papaya growers have survived thanks to genetically modified varieties that have been safely used since the 1990s.”

Indeed, an article from the Hawaii Tribune-Herald online titled “Papaya: A GMO Success Story” tells the story of the creation of the virus-resistant Rainbow papaya, which is credited with bringing the industry back from the brink of destruction caused by a virus.

Papaya production is nowhere near back to what it used to be but at least there are some Hawaiian papayas being produced. Vicky Boyd, staff writer for The Packer, wrote in April that Hawaiian papaya growers were not shy in support of GMO papayas.

In fact, the trade organization Hawaii Papaya Industry Association, Hilo, took out a two-page advertisement in Hawaiian Airlines magazine to tell travelers about nutritious papayas and how genetic engineering helped save the industry.

She quoted Eric Weinert, general manager of Los Angeles-based Calavo Growers Inc.’s Hawaii operations in Keaau that papaya growers had nothing to hide.

“Everybody knows Hawaiian papayas are GMO and have been for 15 years,” he said.

In early 2012, The Packer reported “after 13 years of negotiations, Japan has approved its first shipment of genetically modified Rainbow papayas from Hawaii.”

Many of us at The Packer support the use of genetically modified crops. Vicky Boyd attests to the tastiness of the Rainbow papaya, but I prefer to try it myself.

That means I need to get to Hawaii, since I think all the product in Japan is already spoken for. If I have to wave a sign saying no to GMOs in order for people to send me, so be it.

I need to set up a website and begin collecting donations.

What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.