Tuesday, February 18, 2014

GMO In Hawaii

Last week, our group of 30 farm couples from the Midwest toured the Monsanto seed facility on Maui.  Land is so valuable in Hawaii that any operation there has to generate a lot more income than the mainland to survive.  If it doesn't, that land goes into the hands of the very few who can afford to own it, the government or the very rich.  We are talking prices of $20,000 per acre on up from the few people I talked to.

Their number one source of income is tourism, followed by the military.  There are several different military bases on the islands and every tour goes into detail what happened there before December 7, 1941 and what has happened since.  That is a study in itself and Pearl Harbor has thousands of visitors per day.

Every farm couple on the tour came back with a new appreciation for the GMO topic.  Every seed operation I talked to said that dealing with people was their number one problem.  Agronomy wise they only have to deal with thrips and a couple of plant diseases.  Those are small compared to dealing with the non GMO voice on the islands.

That voice seems to come from people with too much time and money on their hands and not enough information.  The only thing they "know" is that "GMO is an unknown," so it must be bad.  GMO is legal and the all of the trait companies have a presence on the islands.  That seems to be because they can turn 2-4 seed germplasm crops over in one calendar years there, about as good as anywhere in the world.

Somewhere in my luggage I have pages of notes I took last week after touring these seed operations and talking to people who work there or don't work there.  I will try to write more detail about the seed operations as we were able to meet several employees and get their take on the whole situation.

The seed companies generate a lot of revenue for the islands by making a profit on the products they sell to us on the mainland.  Hawaii seems to be a key source of testing and producing germplasm that will be sold here in the states.  The U.S. and world view and understanding of GMO in general seems to be a major problem.

Ed Winkle


  1. That first pic doesn't look like notill....

    1. No till doesn't work very well in Hawaii. The soils compact with even minimal traffic and there is no freeze thaw cycle to break up compaction (think hard concrete).

  2. I didn't see much, Brad. You will find much tillage in volcanic soils like I found in New Zealand. You still find tillage in the United States.

    A cool thing was though they started planting cover crops to make the seed crop better.

    I think you and I are way ahead of our time.


  3. I added a link in my text to an Hawaiian newspaper article I just found.