In an extremely close vote last week, citizens of Maui in Hawaii voted to implement a moratorium on the planting of GM crops in their county. This decision, if enacted, will have an immediate effect on the longstanding, and safe, operations of Monsanto on the island.
The impact though goes far beyond our business and our more than 1,000 employees who live and work in Hawaii. It goes right to the heart of the work that will need to be done to help ensure a sustainable food supply as the earth’s population continues to grow.
This challenge to feed the world is global, and will require a global effort. All kinds of food systems will be necessary – including conventional, organic and biotech. No one system can do this by itself, and we believe that it’s vital to work together for a broad range of solutions. It’s not simply finding a way to ship food that’s wasted; it’s helping farmers in the developing world become self-sufficient and more productive.
We can’t block science from contributing to the problems we face; doing so will guarantee failure, and long before 2050. That’s what this decision in Maui would ultimately do.
For example, our Maui and Molokai farms facilitate remarkable advances in agricultural technology that benefit people all around the world. For Monsanto, the majority of the corn seed we sell to farmers in Argentina, Brazil and the US has originated from Monsanto’s Maui operations. It’s an important landscape because it allows us to provide farmers around the world with the seeds they need and want, year round, to produce the crops and food that feed families worldwide.
In addition, critically important research and breeding work involving traits that confer resistance to multiple types of insects and diseases in seed occurs on our Maui farms. One example is the research we are conducting on anthracnose stalk rot – a disease that can impact about 90 million acres of corn in the US and Brazil with an average harvest loss of 5%. In Maui, we are working to develop seeds resistant to this disease, much in the way that the rainbow papaya seeds are resistant to the ringspot virus that nearly destroyed the papaya industry in 1997. Hawaii’s climate is unique in that we can continue this work year round. A delay in this research would have significant consequences for U.S and Brazil corn farmers in areas affected by the disease.
Some people in Maui will feel the impact of the referendum more directly than others. But beyond Maui’s economy, farmers in countries like Brazil, Argentina, the United States, and even people in developing countries like Africa and Asia, will feel the spider web effects of this flawed measure.
We know that when farmers have a better harvest, a balanced meal is more accessible for families across the country and around the world. The work we do in Maui County is crucial to this goal. This is why Monsanto, along with other local individuals, groups and businesses including the Maui Farm Bureau and Dow AgroSciences, are challenging the legality of this measure.
As a longtime community member, we are proud of our operations and contributions to the islands, and we hope that this measure will be declared legally flawed and will not be enforced. We have full confidence in the merits of our legal claims and that a rational outcome will block the referendum from taking effect.