Monday, February 24, 2014

Our Tour At Monsanto On Maui

A group of 30 farm couples led by John and Jan Roach of Roach Ag Marketing, toured the Monsato seed facility on Maui, Hawaii.  We were met at the gate by the site manager, David Stolfuz.  He was raised on a farm in southeast Iowa and has worked his way up in the company.

We had a 3 part rotation of viewing slides inside their training room facility to going outside to talk to their operations manager and back inside for a talk by a female scientist with a summary and question answer time.

They emphasized the fact that GMO is in high demand.  John had shared with us the fact that we added a billion people to our population in the last 13 years and we expect that happen again in 12 more years.  That is a big thing to comprehend.  It had shared that data with us in a 2 hour session a few days before our trip to Monsanto.  It makes sense to me.

David had a good slide on the change on the islands since I graduated High School.  There was 195,000 acres of sugar cane then and only 20,000 or so acres left today.  Sugar production has went elsewhere.  There were 65,000 acres of pineapple thanks to Thomas Dole but only 7500 acres today.  Seed corn has increased from zero to 7,100 acres my notes say but there seemed to be more than that.  That doesn't sound like much corn but those acres reproduce seed stocks as quick as 20,000 or more acres in Iowa.  The difference is the climate.

Since seed production is so labor intensive, the trait companies are important employers on the islands for the regular people.  Still the streets are full of homeless at night and we heard about the gift of one way flight's for such people from Chicago to Honolulu.  We also heard that Hawaii did the same favor back, all on the tax payer's dollar.

The high tech trait insertion and bar coding never got explained much but the one breeder did say they were using the same technique as they did early on with bacteria like you find in the soil for gene insertion.  That is where some think the flaw is in GMO, the interference of the gene by contamination.

It was a good tour and I learned a lot just watching the group interact and ask questions.  It's clear that anti GMO people are the trait companies main problem.  The fences and security helped point that out.

If you farm and visit the islands, I would recommend you try to visit one or more of the trait companies.  The Monsanto and Pioneer tour was in detail but much different.

Ed Winkle


  1. It seems strange that they grow so much corn in Hawaii on 3 crops a year. Does it mean that corn planted, say in Ohio, comes from Hawaii or has its parents or grand-parents from Hawaii? That means it's not really adapted to the local soil and weather. Does it also mean they stress and fragilize the corn genome by reducing the time between planting and harvest so much? What happens when you plant in a location with a different climate?

    While I know there are no toxicology issues proven so far with corn, the biotech companies still do an awful job at transparency and explaining what they do, this does not lead me to trust their products. If we absolutely must have GMOs, which we might in some dire cases, I'd much rather have "public domain" GMOs from the public-funded ag labs and unis than products from private companies who have shown repeatedly that their agenda is clearly only profit at all cost. Monsanto, please do a better job at explaining what and how you create GMOs. But that's just me.

  2. I would say our visit did not show any distrust from farmers who grow GMO to what they saw in our trip. At best we got to see blocks of breeding material from a distance but they showed enough of that and the science to put two and two together.

    Think of parent seed, foundation seed replicated at a fast pace and grown out in Iowa, Ohio or wherever. Hawaii seemed to be a key piece in the duplication of traits.

    I will show you more with seed chipping in the next day or two.


  3. I'm sure the 7500 figure is low; there must be close to that much on Oahu alone. Seed companies typically only plant about one fourth of their acreage at any one time due to the isolation requirements. Most corn requires 660 feet or thirty days, but some traited varieties require double or more than that, so the open space gets significant.

  4. I think you are correct, I was wondering if that was their operation on Oahu alone. Very good notes you added there, too.