Letters — Uprooted

If you don’t want your papaya trees contaminated by GMO (genetically modified organism) pollen, put bags on them. Thus says our (taxpayer-supported) University. Without saying how much time, energy, and money bagging requires. (“GMO research uprooted?” Hawai’i Tribune-Herald, 6-2-14)

Why don’t GMO growers bag THEIR trees? Or pay to bag organic and non-GMO trees? Or pay organic farmers when their trees are contaminated?

Organic and non-GMO farmers were here first. Who’s being uprooted?

Cory Harden

9 replies
  1. Hawaiino
    Hawaiino says:

    So….prior to being told by the University that cross pollination was possible, and likely to have occurred, how would anyone have known ?

    And my point is….

  2. The Casual Observer
    The Casual Observer says:

    Fortunately, the University has great potential to be a leader in sustainable, tropical agriculture and food production. UNFORTUNATELY, the players (Dean, professors,) are STUCK……I mean, STUCK in an old, traditional, money-driven model of agriculture. Now there is sure room for that also, as not all farmers go in to farmers to save the planet. Most grow crops for money. The problem is, UH Hilo’s Agriculture program — in it’s current state of leadership and staffing — remain resistant to virtually anything that goes against the grain of their current thinking. Needless to say, many good hearted, well-visioned Ag students have switched to other majors rather than deal with these professors who have an obvious power dynamic over them.

  3. Hawaiino
    Hawaiino says:


    You opine, I presume as a “casual observer”, that those in position of authority at the UH are somehow not meeting your expectations. You go on to create two extremes for sustainable, tropical ag and food production, “old, traditional, money-driven model” vs a “save the planet”.

    You don’t allow for any middle ground. Your bias against the mind set exemplified by these “STUCK” individuals in positions of authority leads you to agree with certain, nameless, “good hearted, well-visioned Ag students” who transferred rather than endure a “power dynamic over them”. I have to presume that these students were so disheartened that they lost their passion to “save the world”.

    Well, I started out to save myself in the late ’60’s, landing in Puna in the early ’70’s, and beginning a farm based on Rudolf Steiner’s principles and utilizing French Intensive market gardening techniques (raised beds, green waste compost, etc).

    The best thing to come from this youthful naivete’ was the hard slap that 250″ of rainfall delivers, as the bills rain down as well. I adapted, eventually prospered, without the benefit of an ag school education, or any formal education for that matter except to be well read. I used to go down and talk to those Ag school Profs who were “stuck” at their desks. They were almost always ready to answer my questions about how to do a better job managing my soil, my pests, and my crops. They found it stimulating to address their knowledge to a young farmer who wanted to learn rather than a bunch of students waiting to be taught.

    I never met a single graduate of UH Trop Ag in that time period who started their own farm and figured out how to utilize their education to provide for their own “sustainability”. It wasn’t cause they weren’t being taught the right thing, it was because they didn’t know how to learn the right things. If they want to farm, they will, doesn’t matter who’s at the lectern. They can go study Nietzsche or Kant, they can learn Boolean Algebra or the tuba, if what they really want to do is grow crops they will.

    You know why they won’t? Why most people refuse to farm? Why most who try (a very small subset) fail?
    I’ll tell you the secret…

    You can’t bullshit plants.

  4. Mathew Mercury
    Mathew Mercury says:

    This was published Thursday June 5, in the Hawaii-Tribune Herald

    Clearing the air

    I’d like to clear up a misstatement attributed to me in a recent article covering the impact on agricultural research resulting from the Hawaii County Council’s ban on open-air GMO experimentation.

    In a public workshop in Pahoa last February, I advised participating growers they could minimize exposure to foreign papaya pollen by, among other things, bagging a few flowers on their non-GMO hermaphrodite plants to ensure obtaining self-pollinated seed for the next generation.

    I did NOT say cross-pollination could or should be prevented by “bagging trees during flowering periods.” Enclosing multiple trees in an orchard is an expensive undertaking no one in Hawaii recommends, and the “flowering period” in papaya is continuous, once initiated.

    For more information about the issue of pollen movement between GMO and organic papayas, please see the following publication from the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources: http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/BIO-1.pdf.

    Richard Manshardt

    Topical Plant &Soil Sciences Department, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu

  5. Kit
    Kit says:

    “Uprooted” is right! We bag our small crop of organic Papayas already, but it does seem like the tail is wagging the dog about. I suspect we may be barking up the wrong tree on this issue. Maybe we should address our concerns to the mass lessor to the GMO industry, the Hawaiian Homelands. Pressure should be brought to bear on the people whose business dealings allow pollution of the Hawaiian Islands for money.

  6. The Casual Observer
    The Casual Observer says:

    You make excellent points, but your entire opinion is based 100 percent off of YOU and YOUR experiences only. Your response completely discredits the argument that many AG students at UH have known for years — simply because you want to pontificate about YOUR experiences as a “look at me, I did it” type of farmer. In doing so, you discredit yourself. Kudos to you for your efforts. But understand that this argument (and the world, for that matter) is much larger than you and your selected methods. Despite being a (MONEY MAKING) farmer (Coffee, cattle, proteas, bananas and orchids) for the past 22 1/2 years, I understand that I am not the expert and must always remain open to other lenses and arguments. Even in the most casual of observations.

  7. Hawaiino
    Hawaiino says:


    First. It is not an “opinion” if it is based on experience, it is “knowledge”. There is a difference.

    Second. I can’t “discredit” myself if what I say is based on empirical knowledge.

    Third. The AG students you refer to as having an “argument” with the status quo ARE relying solely upon their opinions, they do not have the means to test their (and yours) hypothesis about whether the UH professors are “stuck”. BTW, “stuck” seems too generalized, too non-specific, to have much meaning. It’s better than “whatever” or “da kine”, but not much. What do you/they mean by “stuck”? Resistant to change would seem an obvious answer… But who then should be the change agent? What specificslly requires change? AG is not a fashion, it doesn’t change with the seasons. Change will always be slow in Ag, either to develop or to then be adopted.

    Fourth. “…this argument…(and) you and your selected methods” I do understand the size of the world, both physically and metaphysically. As I age I also understand the number of layabouts, ner-do-wells, wishful thinkers, soft headed dreamers, and bullshitters there are. Lotsa talk,talk, talk. Not a lot of ” money making farmers” such as you (self described).

    So..I wonder. If you don’t see yourself as an expert at farming, after 22 years of “money making” in farming, then you are either too modest or you started with too much capital. I say that because, with the exception of bananas, all the crops you state have high, or very high, capital requirements as a barrier to entry. After the required investment, and then good management, profitability is based on reaching some critical size/scale in all of those crops. For that you have to specialize and put in the time.

    How do you make a small fortune in farming….start with a large one.

  8. NeighborWatch
    NeighborWatch says:

    Hawaiino….ahem! ah yes, you can “bullshit plants”, in fact they like it very much. I use horseshit myself, but bull works well because I used to raise them too. My only problem is the land is too fertile now and EVERYTHING! grows like crazy. LOL

  9. Rene Siracusa
    Rene Siracusa says:

    One minor technicality that no one has noted: Bagging would have to be done when the tree is in flower, which is when pollination occurs. But pollination is helped along by bees. If you bag your flowers, the bees can’t pollinate them any more than neighboring GMO papaya fields can. Bagging is, therefore, no solution at all.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *