Pushed almost to extinction because of the ringspot virus, Hawaii’s papaya industry came up with a genetically modified solution in the 1980s. Known as the Rainbow and SunUp varieties, it basically brought the industry back from the brink of destruction.
Council members on the Big Island, however, are seeking to ban growing GMO crops. Although at least two of the bills have been introduced, the bill’s sponsors say they want the local papayas to be exempt.
Whether the final bills include the papayas or not, Ross Sibucao, the president of the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association, told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald they could put the more-than 80 farms that grow the tropical fruit out of business.
The stigma the bills — and a growing anti-GMO movement — place on the crop could jeopardize its acceptance at retailers on the island and other markets, Sibucao said.
Comedian Roseanne Barr, who grows nuts on the island, even stopped by to offer comments during a hearing on an anti-GMO bill. She said others on the island would be glad to help by burning the trees, allowing them to “grow something decent.”
The interest is no less evident here on the mainland, where most stories from The Packer website on new varieties/crossbreeds of fruits and vegetables are met with “Is this a GMO product?” A story on Del Monte’s plans to test a pink pineapple continues to get hate mail.
It would be a shame for the papayas to fall victim to the anti-GMO sentiment on the island.
Sometimes it’s embarrassing to be part of the media, even if most people in the fresh produce industry realize The Packer has an understanding of industry issues that’s often lacking in the consumer press.
Take, for instance, the coverage of the cyclospora outbreak several weeks ago.
The story concerns foodservice packs of iceberg/romaine blend, distributed at restaurants, including Red Lobsters and Olive Gardens. In many photos accompanying that story, at least in Web coverage, is an Associated Press photo. There are three things wrong with the photo:
- It’s taken at retail;
- It’s of the wrong salad blend; and