6 Jul 2009

Researchers in Hawaii say genetic modification aimed at protecting taro crop

10:27 am on 6 July 2009

A bill against modifying taro varieties is being heard in Maui in Hawaii but researchers say they're just trying to protect taro crops from disease.

A number of native Hawaiians and farmers support a bill to ban the propagation of genetically modified taro in Maui County.

The County Council's Economic Development, Agriculture and Recreation Committee has deferred action on the bill pending further review until after the completion of public hearings.

But Andrew Hashimoto, the dean at the University of Hawaii's College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources says one of the goals of altering the genetic makeup of taro is to ensure its survival against diseases.

"In Hawaii there's a real cultural significance for taro or kalo. And the college has indicated that we are very concerned about the long term implications of potential diseases that are prevalent here in Hawaii as well as from other places that may come to Hawaii."

If the bill gets passed Maui will be the second county in the state to approve banning the raising of genetically engineered taro after the Big Island passed a similar bill last year.