Report Title:

Genetically Modified Organisms; GMO Papayas; Study


Directs the department of agriculture and DBEDT to study the impacts of genetically engineered papayas on the State's environment and economy.


S.B. NO.












SECTION 1. The environmental and economic impacts of the genetically engineered papaya have never been determined. Much of this lack of understanding is due to inadequate monitoring and evaluation since its introduction. The State has more field testing of GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops than any other state in the nation. The GMO papaya was jointly developed by Cornell University, University of Hawaii, United States Department of Agriculture, and the Monsanto Corporation for resistance to the ringspot virus. It was introduced into the Hilo/Puna district of the island of Hawaii in 1997 with no mechanism for monitoring or evaluating its impact on the State's environment or economy.

The GMO papaya has successfully controlled the ringspot virus epidemic. Proponents of the GMO papaya claim that it saved the State's entire papaya industry. Critics of the GMO papaya disagree, stating that its production costs are greater than traditionally grown fruit, and that important export markets have been lost. Organic farmers claim they can no longer certify their fruit. Environmentalists allege that the growing of GMO papayas has resulted in widespread contamination and increased pesticide use. Generally, proponents of the GMO papaya assert that it is safe and adequately controlled and regulated opponents contend otherwise.

The GMO papaya is one of the oldest genetically modified crops introduced in the State. It is an appropriate subject for investigation of the impact of GMO technology because five years of scientific and historical information is readily available for analysis. A comprehensive evaluation of the environmental and economic impacts of the GMO papaya would benefit everyone in the State. Such a study could provide proponents of the GMO papaya with an objective evaluation of the technology to promote the export of the fruit and GMO technology to developing countries. Papaya farmers may rely on an unbiased analysis of the technology to produce crops that make financial sense. Moreover, the people of Hawaii can properly assess the desirability of allowing or using GMO technology in the State.

The legislature finds that the issues surrounding the introduction of the GMO papaya into the State have not been adequately examined and evaluated. The State's fragile environment should not be subjected to foreign or novel organisms without prudent inquiry and objective analysis into the impact of such actions.

SECTION 2. The department of agriculture and the department of business, economic development, and tourism (DBEDT) shall conduct a joint study on the environmental and economic impacts of the introduction and proliferation of the genetically modified papaya in the State. The research shall be conducted by qualified researchers representing both supporters and critics of GMO technology use in agriculture, provided that no researcher with a direct interest in the GMO papaya shall participate in the study. The research team shall include an agriecologist, an agricultural economist, an environmental economist, and a plant pathologist. The study shall include:

(1) An environmental analysis by the department of agriculture that:

(A) Tests papaya trees and documents the unintentional spread of GMO papayas statewide by geographical district, using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, and identification of the mechanisms for transmitting the spread;

(B) Tests for the percentage of contamination in conventionally cultivated, organically cultivated, and feral papaya trees; and

(C) Documents the pesticide and fungicide loads used in the production of GMO papayas as compared to non-GMO papayas; and

(2) An economic analysis by the DBEDT that includes:

(A) A marketing analysis that incorporates the respective production costs and ascertains the economic profitability of GMO papayas in domestic and foreign markets, and compares it with the profitability of organic and conventional non-GMO papayas in those same markets; and

(B) A cost-benefit analysis of environmental and agricultural factors between GMO and non-GMO papayas for use in addressing disease and pathogen problems.

The departments shall submit their joint report, including findings, conclusions, and recommendations, twenty days prior to the convening of the regular session of 2005.

SECTION 3. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.