GMO Papaya Trees Cut Down on Big Island

Hawaiian-Papaya29 September, About 100 papaya trees were cut down with machetes overnight on Thursday in the Big Island’s Puna District, according to the Hawaii Police Department.

The papaya trees, which were three to four feet tall and valued at $3,000, were on the J and L Papaya Farm off of Highway 132, according to Capt. Samuel Jelsma.

The incident comes as the Big Island community is considering the future of biotech on the island. Two bills are currently up for debate by the county council that would impose restrictions on biotech. One bill, introduced by Councilwoman Brenda Ford, would require that the island’s GMO papaya fields be cut down. Farmers or landowners growing GMO papaya would face jail and fines.

Almost all of the papaya grown on the Big Island is from seeds that were genetically altered in the 1990s to protect the crop from a devastating ringspot virus.

Jelsma has heard theories that anti-GMO protestors cut down the papaya trees, but said he wasn’t going to speculate. “At this point, we have nothing to show the motives,” he said.

This isn’t the first time that the Puna district’s lush papaya fields have been attacked with machetes.

In 2011, about 10 acres of trees were cut down on three adjoining papaya farms. The year before, some 8,500 papaya trees were cut down.

Some believed the incidents were the work of GMO protestors.

The police department never solved the cases, said Jelsma.