CTAHR to Host Public Forum on Biotechnology in Agriculture

Various experts from UH and around the country to discuss the use of genetically modified crops/organisms at one-day forum in Kona

University of Hawaiʻi
Ania Wieczorek,
Assistant Specialist
Kristen Cabral, (808) 956-5039
Public Information Officer
Posted: Jan 28, 2003

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa‘s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources is hosting an educational forum on the use of biotechnology in agriculture on Saturday, February 8, at the King Kamehameha Hotel in Kona. The forum is free and open to the public, though there is a $10 fee for lunch, and features presentations by experts from Hawaiʻi and across the country on the current state of affairs on the use of genetically modified crops/organisms, also known as GMOs.

Biotechnology is the application of scientific techniques to modify and improve plants, animals, and microorganisms to enhance their value. An organism that has been modified, or transformed, using modern biotechnology techniques of genetic exchange is referred to as a genetically modified organism.

"Although genetically modified organisms in agriculture have been available for only 10 years, their commercial use has expanded rapidly," says Ania Wieczorek, assistant specialist in CTAHR‘s Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences and organizer of the public forum. "Recent estimates are that more than 60-70 percent of food products on store shelves may contain at least a small quantity of crops produced with these new techniques."

The issue will be presented from a variety of perspectives that will enable participants to have a better understanding about this complex issue and to form their own opinions about GMOs in the context of environmental, health and regulatory issues. Three major topics will be addressed in presentations — GMOs and Food Safety, GMOs and Environmental Benefits and Concerns, and GMOs in Hawaiʻi.

Speakers include experts from CTAHR, Hawaiʻi Genetic Engineering Action Network, Hawaiʻi Crop Improvement Association, and the Hawaiʻi Papaya Industry Association, as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U. S. Department of Agriculture, and the International Food Information Council. They will comment on the current state of agricultural biotechnology in Hawaiʻi and current regulations, as well as the benefits and risks associated with agricultural biotechnology.

Some of the benefits promoted by supporters of agricultural biotechnology include increased crop productivity through the introduction of such qualities as disease resistance and increased drought tolerance; enhanced crop protection with the introduction through genetic engineering of proteins that kill certain insects; improved nutritional value, better flavor, and fresher produce; and environmental benefits with reduced pesticide dependence. Possible risks associated with using GMOs in agriculture include such health-related issues as the introduction of allergens and toxins into otherwise safe foods and the possibility that new antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria will emerge. There are also environmental and ecological issues such as the impact on "nontarget" species, potential for insect pests to develop resistance to crop-protection features of GMO crops, and the loss of biodiversity.

Experts and farmers will discuss these and other issues during the one-day forum, beginning at 8:30 a.m. The deadline to register for the forum is Wednesday, February 5. For more information and to register, visit www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/GMO.

For more information, visit: http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/GMO