Food is no longer what it used to be.
Over the last two decades, the commercialization of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, has transformed how some of the world’s crops are produced.
From plant cells to your shelves, these changes touch both consumers and producers alike.
They allow farmers to be more efficient, grow sturdier crops and even fight diseases, but they also have raised alarms from people concerned about their potential impact on the ecosystem and, of course, the people eating it.
Despite its geographical isolation, Hawaii has found itself to be a big player in the move toward more transgenic food.
The state is a major location for GMO research and is host to farms of some of the largest biotech companies.
One of the world’s earliest commercialized transgenic crops, the virus-resistant Rainbow papaya, has also been widely adopted on the Big Island, credited by some for saving the industry.
But not all agree that the benefits of GMO justify messing with nature, and the isle has been a home to recent anti-GMO protests and legislation.
Over the next four days, the Tribune-Herald will explore this issue, focusing on Hawaii’s role in transgenic agriculture and educating you, the consumer, on the prevalence of GMO food.
Today, we start with Hawaii’s seed industry, now the most valuable agriculture product the state produces, and a starting point for GMO crops grown on the mainland.
On Monday, we will explore the papaya industry and the lessons learned in the past.
On Tuesday, we will examine an industry hoping to benefit from the GMO boon: anthuriums.
On Wednesday, the series will conclude with a look at the consumer side of the GMO debate, as well as attempts by lawmakers to regulate the use of GMOs.