Death Threats After Hawaiian Mayor Vetoes Anti-GMO Legislation

Rainbow papayasIn October, I went “In
Search of Frankencorn in Hawaii
” and reported, among other
things, that the Kauai County council had just passed legislation
placing a number of restrictions on the farms that grow biotech
seed varieties on the island.

Last week, Kauai’s mayor, Bernard Cavalho
the legislation citing a
legal analysis
that found that Kauai did not have the authority
to pass such a bill. All hell has broken loose.

Even before the latest outbreak of activist rage, some
pro-biotech researchers who had testified at Kauai hearings on the
safety of biotech crops had received emails wishing that their
family members would
die of brain cancer

Over at the Genetic Literacy Project, Jon Entine follows up on
the veto with an article, “Kauai
Anti-GMO ‘Witch Trials’ continue, as Mayor Faces Death Threats for
Bill Veto
.” Entine compares the anti-GMO folk’s fears to the
reactions of the anti-Witch campaigners back in 17th century Salem,
Mass. He makes a pretty good case for the comparison:

In the 17th century, women in and around the Massachusetts town
of Salem were arrested, imprisoned and often tried because a
majority of the populace, or an outspoken minority that intimidated
others into remaining quiescent, took the law into their own hands.
There was no empirical evidence that the accused were in fact
witches; people just believed it was true. Emotions ran wild. The
episode marks one of the nation’s most notorious cases of mass hysteria,
and stands as a vivid cautionary tale about the dangers of
isolationism, extremism and false accusations—and the substitution
of emotion for science….

Although some may believe that suggesting parallels with the
fringe elements of the anti-GMO movement in Kaua’i is strained, I
would push back. I faced a barrage of over-the-top anger when I

visited the islands
for a week in August in an attempt to
engage islanders in rational, fact-based discussions about the
issues. I saw no Aloha when it came to discussing GMOs—and all of
the finger pointing and hysteria came from one side and one side
only: those who believed, with religious-like fervor, that GMOs
posed an imminent health and safety danger to them and their
children. The scientific consensus clearly contradicts those
hysterical claims, as heartfelt as they may be….

The mayor now literally fears for his life and anyone who dares
speak out on behalf of science faces public ridicule. If you are a
farmer who grows or supports the growing of genetically modified
crops, such as Rainbow papaya, you face a real possibility that
your farm will be vandalized and your business destroyed.

Sadly, these frequent outbursts of intolerance have become
staples of the anti-biotech movement on Kauai’i and increasingly on
the mainland. Web pages like GMO Free Hawaii and
are repositories of vitriol and hate.

Shame, shame on the ideologues who make their livings from
engendering baseless fears in their fellow citizens of a safe and
highly beneficial technology.

from Hit & Run

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