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Farmers and Ranchers Hold Pro-GMO Rally in Hilo

June 28, 2013, 5:31 PM HST (Updated June 30, 2013, 9:28 AM)
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Public demonstrations against genetically modified organisms have been becoming more common on the Big Island lately as the debate about GMO foods has been growing.

Today, the supply side of the issue took to the streets to make their presence known.

Several dozen people waving signs such as “GMO – Great Miracle Opportunity” held a rally this afternoon in front of the County Building on Aupuni Street.

As the group waved to passing vehicles, a procession of trucks and other vehicles – some pulling cattle trailers – carrying pro-GMO banners drove past, nearly surrounding the block that contains the courthouse and Aupuni Center county offices.

The event was planned also as a protest of Bill 79, a measure currently under consideration by the Hawaii County Council that would prohibit the introduction on the Big Island of new transgenic food sources and place restrictions on the growing of ones already here.

Today's demonstration was also designed to rally support against a bill before the County Council that would place restrictions on transgenic food sources. Photo by Dave Smith.

Today’s demonstration was also designed to rally support against a bill before the County Council that would place restrictions on transgenic food sources. Photo by Dave Smith.

The latter includes the Rainbow papaya, a transgenic variety credited with saving the island’s papaya industry in the 1990s from the devastating effects of the ringspot virus.

Groups represented at today’s rally included the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association, Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association, Big Island Banana Growers Association, Hawaii Dairy and Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council.

The organizations issued a press release stating that they represent approximately 600 local businesses with 2,000 employees, all of which collectively contribute $130 million to the island’s economy.

Organizers said the intent of today’s event was to “convey to the County Council the importance of allowing farmers, nursery growers, ranchers and retail businesses to have free choices in their livelihood.”

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