Foreign Policy Blogs

Hawaii’s GMO ban follows in Europe’s footsteps


A plant supervisor discusses conservation at a papaya orchard in Hawaii. (Ron Nichols, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service)

Last December, Hawaii’s Big Island passed a bill prohibiting biotech companies from operating on the island and restricting farmers from growing new genetically modified crops. The island does not currently have any operating biotech companies, but approximately three-quarters of the 30 million pounds of papayas harvested there are genetically modified according to The New York Times. Despite opposition from local farmers, the bill proved to be tremendously popular among Big Island citizens.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been successfully engineered to withstand devastating plant epidemics and to critically enrich diets in malnourished areas. Indeed, they are regarded by many scientists to be the key to combatting the disruptive effects of global warming and ensuring food security in the most vulnerable regions of the world. Nevertheless, GMOs have gained widespread notoriety. Critics have alleged that their benefits have also come with disturbing consequences for human health. The European Union already adopted extremely strict regulations on GMO cultivation several years ago.

In a sure-to-be-controversial article in The New York Times, Amy Harmon has explored, and repudiated, many of the arguments emanating from anti-GMO activists, arguing that much of the antagonism has originated from misinformation. This is certainly a must-read for Great Decisions participants following the “Food Security and Climate Change” topic.



Eugene Steinberg

Eugene graduated Tufts University with degrees in International Relations and Quantitative Economics. He works with the editorial team at the Foreign Policy Association on Great Decisions 2014. He is deeply interested in Eastern European affairs, as well as the intersection of politics, technology, and culture. You can follow him on twitter @EugSteinberg