A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands
This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.
The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.
SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).
PAPGREN coordination and support
Mr William Wigmore
Mr Adelino S. Lorens
Dr Lois Englberger
Mr Apisai Ucuboi
Dr Maurice Wong
Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
Mr Frederick Muller
Mr Herman Francisco
Ms Rosa Kambuou
Ms Laisene Samuelu
Mr Jimi Saelea
Mr Tony Jansen
Mr Finao Pole
Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
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Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Posted 6:16 PM by Tevita
GMO taro bill moves forward
From : The Garden Island
Would put moratorium on developing GMO strains
by Rachel Gehrlein - THE GARDEN ISLAND
Supporters of a Senate bill aimed to impose a 10-year moratorium on the developing, testing and raising of genetically modified taro are relieved, after waiting for more than a year, that the bill will be heard on March 19.
After Senate Bill 958 was first introduced in January 2007 it failed but was carried over to the 2008 legislative session.
“We were very stubborn telling them (lawmakers) the bill needs to be heard,” said Chris Kobayashi, a Kaua‘i taro farmer. “The 10-year moratorium is just a time out so things could be explored further.”
Jeri DiPietro of GMO Free Kaua‘i agrees.
“(The bill) asks for a temporary moratorium, a time out,” DiPietro said.
“It is a moment to evaluate and use precaution in a new situation. If only a second look had been given before the Department of Agriculture allowed the importation of the apple snail and let it rage out of control into pest status.”
Kobayashi said the idea of GMO taro is scary because on the genetic level, if the taro is modified from the original plant, “we can never bring it back.”
“As farmers, we wouldn’t be able to see the difference,” Kobayashi said. “There is a lot of sharing of huli (the starts of taro) between farmers.”
Rep. Mina Morita, D-Kapa‘a-North Kaua‘i, said taro is a food crop that has cultural implications that scientists need to be aware of.
“The scientists should be responsible to the individual,” Morita said. “If individuals think GMO research is not necessary at this time, and the farmers don’t want to grow it and the consumers don’t want to eat it, who does it benefit?”
Wayne Nishijima, associate dean with the University of Hawai‘i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, said the university signed an agreement with the Royal Order of Kamehameha I a few years ago to not conduct GMO tests on known Hawaiian varieties of taro.
But Nishijima said the Hawaiian taro’s susceptibility to various pests, such as Phytophthora colocasiae — a fungus-like organism that invaded American Samoa taro in 1993 — could be solved with genetic engineering.
“The current GE project (at UH) is on Chinese taro to develop resistant varieties to Phytophthora blight,” Nishijima said. “No Hawaiian varieties have been genetically engineered, but we have researchers doing traditional breeding to develop Phytophthora resistant cultivars, but it takes time.”
But because none of the Hawaiian varieties have Phytophthora resistance, taro from other locales must be used, Nishijima said.
Nishijima feels that because UH has already signed a moratorium, there is no need for a law to be passed to create another moratorium.
“In my opinion, extending the moratorium to include genetic engineering of non-Hawaiian taro varieties does not follow their argument of infringement of their cultural rights and heritage,” Nishijima said. “What it will do is significantly limit our ability to address current and future problems. If the bill passes, it will put taro in a position to make it vulnerable to the devastation by new invasive species.”
In support of SB 958 imposing the moratorium, the Kaua‘i County Council has drafted Resolution 2008-04. The resolution is scheduled to be heard at the council meeting on March 12.
“We need as many testimonies as is possible to support SB 958,” DiPietro said in an e-mail. “You need not be a farmer. Consumers have a right to a choice too.”
GMO Free Kaua‘i will also hold a rally in support of the SB 958 today from 4 to 6 p.m. at the gateway at Lihu‘e Airport.
• Rachel Gehrlein, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or
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