Hawaii County Bans Biotech Coffee

The professional anti-biotech alarmists over at the Center for Food Safety are crowing in a press release (not yet available online) that the Hawaii County Council has banned growing biotech coffee and taro. According to the press release:

The new ordinance, which makes it unlawful to grow genetically engineered (GE) coffee or taro anywhere on the Island of Hawaii, was strongly supported by coffee and taro farmers, and passed by a 9-0 vote of the Council on October 9th. ...

Coffee growers testified that the planting of genetically engineered coffee would contaminate and damage markets for their premium Kona coffee, costing them their livelihoods. Many cited past episodes where biotech rice and corn have contaminated conventional varieties, resulting in marketplace rejection, dramatically lower prices, and large losses to farmers.

Coffee farmers argued that they would lose their "specialty coffee" status and/or organic certification if biotech coffee were ever planted on Hawaii Island. The Kona coffee industry brings more than $25 million into the state each year.

Beside fears of "contamination," some residents apparently brought up possible health concerns:

There were compelling testimonies from mothers of children who have complex allergies. Allergic reactions are one potential health threat of biotech crops, and taro is known world-wide as one the most hypo-allergenic foods on earth.

Never mind that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that any of the current varieties of biotech crops cause allergic reactions in people.

The coffee and taro growers should look at what happened to their neighbors who grow biotech papayas. In the 1990s, papaya growing in Hawaii was nearly extinct due to the ringspot virus. Fortunately, researchers developed a biotech variety that resists the virus, thus reviving the industry.

Other researchers have now developed a biotech variety of coffee that is resistant to insects such as the coffee leaf miner. Perhaps those nice Kona coffee growers will change their minds about biotech should the leaf miner ever make it to Hawaii.

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  • SIV||

    Once those anti-science Republicans are out on their ass we won't have to worry about superstitous fears of GM crops. Right?

  • Jozef||

    "Never mind that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that any of the current varieties of biotech crops cause allergic reactions in people."

    That may be so, but I as a consumer reserve the right to remain paranoid. I do understand that governmental intervention is never good, but given that there is the chance of contamination, I see it as the lesser evil towards maintaining greater consumer choice.

  • Jay||

    Maybe I missed it in the story or the links, but is it NOT possible for the bio coffee to contaminate the Kona coffee?

    That absolutely cannot be allowed to happen. Kona is one of the top coffees in the world...

  • B||

    While I agree that the threat of biotech crops is massively overblown (or at least not currently supported by sound science) it's hard for me to blame the specialty coffee growers for wanting to preserve their brand. The perception matters more than the reality, especially in the markets geared toward people affluent enough to worry about GM crops (i.e., specialty coffee).

  • Neu Mejican||

    Never mind that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that any of the current varieties of biotech crops cause allergic reactions in people.

    This is due in large part to the fact that biotech crops are tested carefully to control potential harms from allergenic proteins.

    There is a well understood potential for the problem, and biotech firms and government regulations have put rules in place to screen out the dangerous varieties.

    Of course this system will never breakdown and miss a potential allergen.

    It is disingenuous to try to characterize concerns over allergens as scientifically unfounded.

    This potential danger has never manifest, therefore it will never manifest?

  • Mad Max||

    If consumers insist on buying only, like, *organic* coffee, man, and you're marketing to those consumers, you want some way to reassure the consumer that the coffee isn't contaminated by that evil, capitalist GE stuff. To avoid having your brand diluted by fraudsters who grow GE coffee and misbrand it organic when selling to hippies and neo-hippies, then it makes sense to have some consumer-fraud regulations.

    If, on the other hand, you're marketing to consumers who don't care if there's evil capitalist genes in their coffee, you should have the right to use GE materials. In a community where a large proportion of growers are marketing to hippie market, then it a perfectly reasonable accomodation of the competing interests to require that GE coffee be clearly labelled as such, so that the "organic" growers won't have to risk a boycott from the granola-crunchers.

    If this law bans GE coffee entirely, or if it's based on fake-ass health rationales, then it's a bad law.

  • Neu Mejican||

    That absolutely cannot be allowed to happen.

    QFT. Fresh Kona coffee drank in Kona is an unmatched coffee drinking experience.

  • ||

    Neu: Who ever said "never"? But how about now? What's the "evidence" allegedly being cited to show that current crops cause allergies?

  • Max Cavalera||

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ron,

    Did my point get past you.
    Your words have implications.
    Your sentence implies that there is no potential harm because it was written in the context of the following:

    Allergic reactions are one potential health threat of biotech crops, and taro is known world-wide as one the most hypo-allergenic foods on earth.

    There is a well recognized and well understood potential threat, never mind that it has not yet manifested due to careful testing and regulation.

    But, because you are ideologically against government regulation, you can't make the point this way.

    "Yes, there is a potential threat, but careful regulation of the industry means that the threat has not yet materialized and is exceedingly small."

  • ||

    Not only is there no scientific evidence that current GE crops cause allergic reactions, but GE technology could actually be used to remove allergens from food.

    It's even less of a modification than inserting a gene. All you have to do is supress the expression of the gene responsible for the allergen.

    Of course, it's technically possible to introduce an allergen into a food. But it's unlikely anyone would knowingly use a gene that codes for an allergen for that reason. There's a remote possibility that complex genetic interactions could create a new allergen, or someone might have an extremely rare allergy that noone has ever heard of. But that goes for conventional cross-breeds too. What's more likely to introduce a new allergen? A specific gene insertion, or a wild-variety cross that cuts in millions of new alleles?

  • thoreau||

    I want to see a farmer sue the organic farm next door on the grounds that pollen from the organic plants crossed his property line, got into his high tech plants, and produced plants that aren't as bug-resistant/disease-resistant/whatever.

    I have nothing against organic farming, but it would make for an interesting case.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Hazel,

    A wild variety cross is more likely to introduce a new allergen.

    So, what of an unintentional cross between a GE crop and a wild variety (the concern that motivates the law under discussion)?

    Does the fact that one half of that cross is GE reduce, increase, or change the risk compared to two wild types?

  • ||

    They're also trying to ban plastic bags on the Big Island. And the Big Island is the LEAST left-leaning of the Neighbor Islands. Kauai had protesters shut down the Superferry to their island, because apparently an island devasted by a hurricane recently doesn't need a way to quickly move emergency vehicles to the island if a recurrence should occur.

  • ||

    Pretty much all the food we eat is genetically modified and engineered. I mean, look at wild maize versus the bloated mutated ears of corn we eat, and ask if this is a natural food unmodified by people. Apparently being efficient about the modification is the sticking point that galls these protesters.

  • ||

    Neu Mejican:
    I see no scientific reason to think that a GE type crossing with wild species is more liekly to create an allergen than a conventional type.

    The allergen would be coming from the wild species either way. Plus, most farmers would not be growing an accidental wild cross commercially, anyway, since it wouldn't yield well. It takes generations for plant breeders to refine a wild cross to the point where it can be used commerically. Whether they started with a GE type or conventionally bred plant is irrelevant by that point.

  • Neu Mejican||

    prolefeed,

    Not, I think, quite accurate.
    Some protest because they see the potential for a newer technology to replace a technology that they prefer.

    Think of the reaction of vinyl lovers when the CD came out. Same thing for many.

  • ||

    Thanks for the link to the contamination article!

  • ||

    So before we go any further afield on this allergen thing:

    If my boy is allergic to peanuts, is it then required by law that my neighbor not grow them?

    Also, taro could go totally extinct and I wouldn't shed a tear.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Hazel,

    I see no scientific reason to think that a GE type crossing with wild species is more liekly to create an allergen than a conventional type.

    Agreed. Once the GE plant is in the environment the careful control you mention goes away.

    The allergen would be coming from the wild species either way.

    I believe this is not necessarily true. The allergen would come from the interaction, no? Otherwise where would they come from in two wild types that were hypoallergenic?

    Plus, most farmers would not be growing an accidental wild cross commercially, anyway, since it wouldn't yield well.

    This is quite an assumption. It takes generations for plant breeders to get a particular trait to work, but there is no reason to assume that the cross breed will automatically result in lower yields.

  • ||

    I proudly support .0004% of the Kona coffee industry every year

  • Paul||

    it's hard for me to blame the specialty coffee growers for wanting to preserve their brand.

    AKA Rent seeking.

  • Paul||

    Of course this system will never breakdown and miss a potential allergen.

    It is disingenuous to try to characterize concerns over allergens as scientifically unfounded.

    This potential danger has never manifest, therefore it will never manifest?


    Neu, if someone has an allergic reaction to a GE variety, is it the the "GE'ness" of it, or is it an allergic reaction that one might have to 'organic' peanuts, for example?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Paul,

    That depends upon whether the allergen resulted from the GE or not. If the allergy results from a specific change made by the GE process, then, I suppose, to use your odd terminology, it would result from the GE'ness of the crop.

    See Hazel's comment above.

  • ||

    "In a community where a large proportion of growers are marketing to hippie market, then it a perfectly reasonable accomodation of the competing interests to require that GE coffee be clearly labelled as such, so that the "organic" growers won't have to risk a boycott from the granola-crunchers."

    Is it also a prefectly reasonable accommodation to require that foods be labeled "non-kosher"? Why not let the burden of labeling remain with the organic-types?

  • Citizen Nothing||

    I actually prefer coffee from Molokai Coffee Plantation to the Kona stuff.
    But I normally drink whatever is cheapest at Meijer.

  • Paul||

    pollen from the organic plants crossed his property line, got into his high tech plants, and produced plants that aren't as bug-resistant/disease-resistant/

    Or a pesticide maker who sues GE famers for making everyone's crops more pest-resistant.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Or a pesticide maker who sues GE famers for making everyone's crops more pest-resistant.

    Monsantos sues Monsantos?

  • ||

    I *AM* one of those Kona farmers. Turns out that a number of foreign countries won't buy coffee from us if it is GMO. Foreign buys pay a premium price for our coffee.

    Large coffee producers are pushing for GMO. They say they don't sell to Japan and thus the estriction on GMO is unimportant. These are the same companies taking 10% pure Kona, mixing it with 90% garbage coffee from India, Pakastan or Viet Nam and passing it off as a Kona Blend. To them it is just money. If the Kona name goes down because of problems, they just switch to Jamacian.

    A poster notes theer is no scientific evidence to support concern, that statement fails to note that every day we develop new methods to detect things. We continue to find that drugs that passed strict tests, maim and kill people and are withdrawn from the market, even after the companies spent millions of dollars and had Government oversight and approval. because we don't have any CURRENT evidence is not good enough.

    With GMO, once done, not easily undone.

    In a broader view:

    The concerns over Superferry were valid when one considers that Hawaii is an very enclosed and remote location. We laready have ben overrun with frogs that hid in a countainer plant and have pread throughout the county (the size of a small state). Now those frogs are appearing on other islands remote from us. They are being carried by autos and in other plants.

    Hawaii has strict agricultural and animal controls. We have no rabies. We have many unique and endangered plants and animals.

    Until the missionaries and explorers came, the millions of Hawaiians here had no major diseases and lived to old ages. Within a decade or two, perhaps 90% of the Hawaiians died after being exposed to measles, rubella, plague, TB, etc.

    You wonder why they resist change.

    The Hawaiian Islands are the most remote inhabitated area and we don't like change and experimentation. They call this paradise primarily because we don't bend to every idea and change that has contaminated the rest of the world.

    Perhaps the reason people want to test things here is because their test bed back home has already been contaminated?

    If the scientists KNEW what they were doing, they wouldn't call these "TRIALS"...

  • Paul||

    See Hazel's comment above.

    I noticed the discussion after I posted my comment.

    And I was being somewhat tongue-in-cheek about my terminology.

    I guess I'm not convinced that the possible accidental release of an allergenic crop variety should be the impetus of a ban for any genetically modified variety.

  • Neu Mejican||

    The Hawaiian Islands are the most remote inhabitated area and we don't like change and experimentation. They call this paradise primarily because we don't bend to every idea and change that has contaminated the rest of the world.


    Interesting since 90% or more of the plants on the Islands are not indigenous.

    Of course, Hawaii does have a long history of experience with unintentional and intentional contamination of the pristine environment.

    Mosquitoes were intentionally introduced to the Islands and killed a huge percentage of the unique bird life on the Island, for instance.

  • Paul||

    Perhaps the reason people want to test things here is because their test bed back home has already been contaminated?

    Fair enough. After testing, if the GM varieties are found to not be allergenic, would you allow them to be grown on the island?

    Monsantos sues Monsantos?

    Absolutely. They contribute to both sides of the isle, you know.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Mosquitoes in Hawaii.
    http://www.uhh.hawaii.edu/~biocomp/hawaii.php

    Mosquitoes are thought to have been introduced by a merchant ship emptying its bilge waters in revenge for being denied access to the Hawaiian women by missionaries...or something, iirc.

  • Paul||

    What I wanna know is who introduced people to Hawaii after 200 A.D.?

  • Guy Montag||

    That's it! I am NOT going through Hawaii when I leave the country after the election.

  • ||

    Paul,

    I believe they came in boats. Probably not airplanes.

  • ||

    The Hawaiian Islands are the most remote inhabitated area and we don't like change and experimentation.

    So how did they feel about it being colonized and made into an invaluable strategic outpost before becoming a US state?

  • ||

    Seriously, screw these farmers anyway. If we can create GM coffee in a lab, we sure as hell can grow it in a warehouse. And sell it for cheaper. I admit to being somewhat bitter because everyone I've ever met from "Hawa'ii" is a stuck up snobby a-hole. And here I was thinking they were all as cool as Magnum P.I....

  • ||

    Neu Mejican :
    "I believe this is not necessarily true. The allergen would come from the interaction, no? Otherwise where would they come from in two wild types that were hypoallergenic? "

    This is speculative. Thus far we really don't have a lot of evidence that gene interaction will result in the creation of new proteins at all.
    Gene do interact, but it's more like the specific protein they code for interacts with other proteins in complex ways. As far as anyone can tell, one gene still codes for one protein. And it's the protein which is the allergen.

    Moreover, even if genetic interactions do create new proteins, there's no reason to think that a "conventional" gene as opposed to a "GE" gene is going to interact with a new wild-type gene differently. There's not really a physical difference between a "GE" gene and a "conventional" gene anyway. The difference is in how they get into the cell, not what they do once they get there. All genes are made up of the same four base-pairs, whether they were inserted into the cell artificially or cross-bred into it.

    So again, really no scientific evidence that GE crops are more likely to introduce new allergens than other conventional breeding techniques. Er, Not only no evidence, but no theoretical reason to think so. It's very far into the realm of speculation to suggest that they would.

  • Paul||

    So again, really no scientific evidence that GE crops are more likely to introduce new allergens than other conventional breeding techniques. Er, Not only no evidence, but no theoretical reason to think so.

    You see, this is what I've always understood. That worrying about new allergens in modified foods isn't even the right question to be asking. Is this not true?

  • Paul||

    You wonder why they resist change.

    So Hawaiian's aren't swinging Obama, then.

  • ||

    Regardless of the contamination article, this seems to me to be a question of property rights. Can I do something on my property that in effect destroys the value of your property. I mean, if I wanted to save money on having my trash picked up, can I just throw it on your lawn? If not, then I don't see why you have the right to grow something for profit at the expense of someone else's property. I think the one doing the polluting has the responsibility to either prevent the pollution or make a deal with the people that are having their land polluted.

  • ||

    Paul: That's right, the scientific consensus is reflected in the NAS position that the potential risks of a new organism should be evaluated according to "the nature of the organism and the environment into which it is introduced, not by the process by which it was produced".

    In other words, it's irrelevant how the gene got there, by gene splicing or crossbreeding, what matters is what the gene codes for and it's effect on the organism. Which would entail treating GE and conventionally bred crops the same way, although GE crops are currently more highly regulated.

  • ||

    Robbie, but it's not pollution. Lets say your neighbor runs a company that sells magic crystals to people believe in psychic healing.

    These people think that having raunchy biker joint next to the place where the crystals are packaged will pollute the psychic energy in them.

    Never mind that the entire thing is a figment of their imagination. The guy selling the magic healing crystals says that you can't open a biker joint because it will negatively affect his business, cause the psychic healers will think there's something wrong with his crystals.

    The issue is, do the ill-founded fears of one group of irrational people constitute a justification to restrict the freedom of rational people?

  • Paul||

    If not, then I don't see why you have the right to grow something for profit at the expense of someone else's property. I think the one doing the polluting has the responsibility to either prevent the pollution or make a deal with the people that are having their land polluted.

    All of this is reasonable and true. I'm not sure if the contamination issue is settled to be a major problem, however. We know the enviro's believe it is. A quick search of GE Contamination turns up plenty of articles (I'm not knocking merit, here) from sources with an interest: Greenpeace, BeyondPesticides, Organicconsumers.org, Earthopennetwork, sustainableforestnetwork.com, etc. It's sort of like searching on a global warming issue and getting hits from: greeningearthsociety, globalwarminghoax.com, rushlimbaugh.com etc.

  • YoungLiberal||

    Precautionary Principle, people.

  • ||

    "All of this is reasonable and true. I'm not sure if the contamination issue is settled to be a major problem, however."

    Maybe not, but the perception of a problem could itself be a problem. Truth is some consumers don't want GMO to pass their lips. If you introduce GMO crops that can cross polinate, even if they don't, and even if it isn't a problem anyway - if that hurts your neighbors business - isn't that a violation of his property rights? It's an aggression!

  • Paul||

    Maybe not, but the perception of a problem could itself be a problem.

    Definitely. For instance, I'm breathing air which has carried or blown by GE pollen. I'm worried. Something should be done.

    I'm just not sure if caving to every irrational fear is good policy, even if it appeases a few interests.

  • ||

    Hazel, that is an interesting point. I think it is still more complicated than that and we have to be careful of logical slippery slopes. At what point do you consider the way consumers value things "reasonable"?

    Say party A owned an art gallery. Party B opens a store next door that produces a chemical byproduct that degrades the paint on some of the paintings, causing it to run. Does party B have the right to do this and cost A money by destroying the value of A's paintings? I would say no.

    I think the difference here is that in your crystal example, nothing was physically *actually* happening. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around whether or not that makes a difference, but there seems to be some line of reasonableness that has to be crossed for something to be considered disallowed because it devalues property. Just because the value is perceived by some and not others, such as psychic crystals which are nonsense in the first place, does not make it less valuable to the owner.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Hazel,

    We don't disagree on the science, but we seem to be emphasizing things differently.

    You say: "So again, really no scientific evidence that GE crops are MORE likely to introduce new allergens than other conventional breeding techniques. Er, Not only no evidence, but no theoretical reason to think so. It's very far into the realm of speculation to suggest that they would."

    I say: "So again, really no scientific evidence that GE crops are LESS likely to introduce new allergens than other conventional breeding techniques."

    And

    In other words, it's irrelevant how the gene got there, by gene splicing or crossbreeding, what matters is what the gene codes for and it's effect on the organism. Which would entail treating GE and conventionally bred crops the same way, although GE crops are currently more highly regulated.

    This partly due to the fact there are means and methods for doing so, partly.

  • ||

    "Definitely. For instance, I'm breathing air which has carried or blown by GE pollen. I'm worried. Something should be done.

    I'm just not sure if caving to every irrational fear is good policy, even if it appeases a few interests."

    I'm an organic coffee farmer (not really) and I don't give a flying rats ass about GMO - but my customers do. They will stop buying my product if I can no longer claim that my coffee is GMO free. Some new entrant to the market wants to compete in a way that will damage my credibility of GMO purity. If we are "caving" to any interests, it's my interest in protecting the purity of my product, and the enforcement of my right not to be interfered with by my neighbor. Irrational though the fear may be, it still harms me. What is my remedy? Try to educate my skeptical customers that GMO is ok?

  • Neu Mejican||

    More on GE and allergens.

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C00E2D7113AF936A25753C1A9649C8B63

  • ||

    You know, if this were any decent SF story, we would have come up with a snappier name by now, other than "biotech" coffee. Can you get any drier?

    I will suggest "that got damn splicer coffee." It's got a nice sound to it.

  • Paul||

    I think the difference here is that in your crystal example, nothing was physically *actually* happening.

    Sometimes simple analogies are good, sometimes not. This is a case where I don't think they're doing anyone a service.

    No one's going to disagree that if you're poisoning or causing visible, tangible, tracable damage to the property of a neighbor that your activities should be curtailed. But this biotech issue is very complicated.

    There are many layers to be considered. What contamination? How much? What are the results, if any? If we can detect results, are they harmful?

  • ||

    "What contamination? How much? What are the results, if any? If we can detect results, are they harmful?"

    It seems like everyone is concerned about the science. Whatever the case, it's a very difficult to prove anything - and not really necessary. I argue that the only thing necessary for the introduction of GMO to be an aggression is that it makes my crop less marketable. If the organic farmer can show that he is likely to be harmed, they ought to be able to regulate against it.

  • Paul||

    If the organic farmer can show that he is likely to be harmed, they ought to be able to regulate against it.

    Reasonable argument on the surface, until the harm being done is competitive harm. Ie, I don't think that another book store should open on this block because, well, people might buy books from him and I might be harmed.

    I don't think it's unprecedented in politics to try to shut down competitors on the premise of health or safety.

  • ||

    "Reasonable argument on the surface, until the harm being done is competitive harm."

    I'd be totally with you on that if the analogy were correct. But it's not. The GMO coffee does more than undercut my coffee on price - it literally affects the perceived quality of my product. Like your bookstore has a dehumidifier that dumps water on my floor and makes my books musty and un-saleable.

  • ||

    because we don't have any CURRENT evidence is not good enough.

    You want future evidence? Where's that temporal anomoly I had?

    So, we should sit here, hands folded in lap, and never do anything, because, well, something bad might happen? It's kinda hard to prove, about anything, that nothing bad will ever happen, ever.

    If the scientists KNEW what they were doing, they wouldn't call these "TRIALS"...

    If scientists knew what they were doing, it wouldn't be science. It would just be normal.

  • Kolohe||

    The concerns over Superferry were valid when one considers that Hawaii is an very enclosed and remote location. We laready have ben overrun with frogs that hid in a countainer plant and have pread throughout the county (the size of a small state). Now those frogs are appearing on other islands remote from us. They are being carried by autos and in other plants.

    I'd respect the anti-super ferry argument if Kauai also prevented Young Brothers from docking there.

  • Paul||

    your bookstore has a dehumidifier that dumps water on my floor and makes my books musty and un-saleable.

    Here we go again. This is what I'm trying to avoid. This isn't quite that simple. It's more like a restaraunt moves in next door, and you're convinced that potential cooking odors are going to damage your business. They might, they might not.

  • ||

    Paul - your right that my analogy is incomplete - yours was too. Analogy really isn't the best way to look at this. Lets agree that I am concerned that the bookstore/restaurant/GMO farm will damage my business. The science people can go back and forth on whether the beans cause allergies or not - what I am suggesting is that the standard of proof of harm is much lower than proving my product will actually be damaged.

    All I have to show is that profits and hence the value of my business will be damaged because of perceived contamination (not simply competition, as you rightly argue). Normally I would argue that there should be no regulation - and I could sue you for nuisance if I wanted to make you stop. But, in this case, the harm cannot be undone by suing you and making you close up shop - the perception of contamination is irreversable.

  • DannyK||

    So how did they feel about it being colonized and made into an invaluable strategic outpost before becoming a US state?

    As someone who used to live in Hawaii, I can tell you there's a serious separatist movement there. There was a very dodgy coup that deposed the local Hawaiian monarchy and installed a white-controlled legislature that later negotiated statehood.

    Obviously, nothing is going to change at this point in history, but the Native Hawaiians have a valid grudge IMHO. That's one reason Hawaiian affairs have a particular status in local politics, as opposed to Indian affairs in most mainland states.

  • Guy Montag||

    The anti-biotech crowd sounds like the segregationists of the past. They are afraid of mud-species and all that.

    Next thing you know, they will be firebombing schools of hybrid fish.

    I believe Sen. Obama would agree that this is a correct analogy.

  • ||

    Well, paint melting example is actual physical damage. But pollen from GE crops doesn't really do any damage. There's no scientific evidence it does, and no theoretical reason to think it would. So it's not analagous.

    The consumers reacting to GE cross-pollination are reacting to a *perceived*, not an actual difference in quality, based on a slight but irrelevent physical effect.

    Anyway, cross pollination hardly affects coffee since the bushes must be grown for years, and obviously are going to be purchased from a nursury, not grown from seed. It's not even like corn where some people want to save seed year to year. Cross pollination shouldn't even matter.

    There's this old philosophical problem that might apply here. Suppose there's a raging mob that's threatening to burn the town down killing thousands of people. You can placate the mob by executing an innocent man on the spot, thus saving thousands of lives, by killing one. Would it be moral to do so? Most libertarians would answer no (I hope).

    The analogy here is that the GMO farmer is the innocent person getting executed. The raging mob is the gang of consumers with irrational fears. The innocent people who will get killed by the mob are the non-GMO farmers whose profits will be hurt if GE is introduced. And the sheriff who has to decide whether to execute the man is the government.

  • ||

    Just realized that wasn't too clear where I was going....

    Basically, saying that the government should ban GE because some consumers irrationally perceive a difference in quality is analagous to saying that the sheriff should execute the innocent man to save your life. The GE farmer objectively hasn't harmed you or the mob. You're only threatened because the mob THINKS he has. So it's the mob that is the threat to you. If you wouldn't shoot an innocent person to save your family from a mob, then you shouldn't want to stop an innocent person from growing what he wants to save your business from the mob.

  • Jennifer||

    But it's not. The GMO coffee does more than undercut my coffee on price - it literally affects the perceived quality of my product.

    Key word being "perceived." The product itself has not changed, people's opinions of it might, however. In that regard, I think the earlier analogy of the biker bar next door to the psychic-crystal store is perfectly apt: the crystals are identical in either case, it's only opinions about them that might change. That's not sufficient cause to limit someone else's use of their property.

  • Paul||

    Is coffee native to the island of Hawaii?

  • Paul||

    Answered my own question:

    The coffee plant was first brought to Kona in the nineteenth century by Samuel Reverend Ruggles from Brazilian cuttings,[1] although it was not until much later in that century that it became a consistent and worthwhile crop.



    I'm sort of thinking that if we're trying to return Hawaii to it's original, pure state, that we need to eradicate this blight from paradise.

    Purity, always a bogus concept.

  • Guy Montag||

    Crystals and Bikers analogy.

    I submit that the bikers are running the crystal meth store and it would not be so profitable if it were not for the war on some drugs.

  • Paul||

    Oh this is too rich.

    Different varieties are grown throughout the state. Most common is Typica grown in Kona.In order to protect the public from counterfeit Hawaiian coffees , the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture began certifying all Hawaiian coffees, by origin (island - district) in 1997.



    Protect that native Hawaiian "real" coffee from those evil white missionary versions. Oh wait.

    Born in Brookfield, CT, Ruggles studied at the mission school at Cornwall before sailing with the first company of American missionaries [to Hawaii] in 1819. He and his wife, Nancy Wells Ruggles (1791-1873), future mother of six children, helped to establish two missions in the Hawaiian Islands; one at Waimea, Kaua'i, with the Samuel WHITNEYs, and another, at Hilo, with the Joseph GOODRICHes.



    Ouch.

  • Kolohe||

    As someone who used to live in Hawaii, I can tell you there's a serious separatist movement there

    Just as a nitpick, the *soveriegnty* movements are a serious political force. The *seperatists* movements are a no more than a handful of kooks.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Paul | October 16, 2008, 4:20pm | #
    Answered my own question:

    The coffee plant was first brought to Kona in the nineteenth century by Samuel Reverend Ruggles from Brazilian cuttings,[1] although it was not until much later in that century that it became a consistent and worthwhile crop.

    I'm sort of thinking that if we're trying to return Hawaii to it's original, pure state, that we need to eradicate this blight from paradise.

    Purity, always a bogus concept.


    Except ideological purity, of course.

  • MJ||

    "Anyway, cross pollination hardly affects coffee since the bushes must be grown for years, and obviously are going to be purchased from a nursury, not grown from seed."

    Well, except that what's consumed in coffee is the seed. If the substance of the coffee bean is controlled by the genetics of the parent plant, you'd be right. If it's controlled by the genetics of the embryo offspring plant, then it's still a concern, to the extent that it should be a concern at all. I don't know enough about seed developemnt to know the answer to that.

  • ||

    MJ: Not so. The only thing in the seed is the gene. The snippet of DNA. The protein it codes for isn't expressed in the seed. The seed has to be planted and develop into the full grown plant for the gene to express itself in the daughter plant.

    If you think eating DNA is unsafe, though, you can pretty much stop eating.

  • ||

    For anyone interested, I found an excellent site on GMOs here:

    http://www.geo-pie.cornell.edu/gmo.html

    This is not an industry sponsored site. It appears to be an educational outreach created by scientists in the biotech community. (Which is about freaking time).

  • Carl||

    This is a religious thing for Native Hawaiians, since in their native religion, taro is believed to be the ancestor of the people or some such. Thus, it is bad to mess with their DNA, much as human DNA presumably oughtn't be messed with.

  • ||

    I don't think anyone has mentioned a valid concert that the GM crop could contaminate(pollinate?) the organic crop and the GM patent holder could then sue for misappropriation of his product. Such as has happened with Roundup resistant crops.

  • ||

    Bob, you're referring to Percy Schmeiser. You can look up the whole story on the sitel inked above.

    Mr. Schmeiser didn't just accidentally acquire Roundup Ready crops. He selected for them by spraying his feild with Roundup, then deliberately saving seeds from the surviving plants. He knew what he was doing. And every Canadian court up to the supreme court agreed that it was patent infringement.

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