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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 10:18 a.m., Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hawaiian activists seek halt to modified taro

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writer


Supporters of legislation that would prevent scientists from genetically modifying the taro plant showed up at the state Capitol today for the opening day of the Legislature.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Several dozen Hawaiian activists are gathered in the Capitol rotunda urging a hearing on a bill that would put a 10-year moratorium on experiments with genetically modified taro.

Genetic engineering of any plant has been controversial, but some native Hawaiians take particular issue with inserting unrelated genes into the culturally significant taro plant.

Experts in taro, plant pathology and genetic engineering, meanwhile, are across the street at the YWCA explaining how research in creating disease-resistant strains of taro could protect against devastating blights and fungi and could provide enough protection for traditional Hawaiian and organic strains of taro.

While the anti-GMO taro group is calling for a hearing on either Senate Bill 958 and House Bill 704, those who oppose the moratorium prefer to have talks that would include native Hawaiians, researchers, the Department of Agriculture and the University of Hawai'i.

Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.