"Industry will get away with what they can get away with - it's not their responsibility to come and debate," Dr. Lorrin Pang, a Maui-based scientist and World Health Organization consultant, said yesterday of the four seed companies with Kaua'i operations invited to discuss genetically modified crops on KQNG Radio.
Instead, Pang points to the government groups that should be monitoring these companies.
"The people who are falling down are the regulatory agencies," he said last night.
This, then, is the central push behind the legislation that Pang is again fighting for in this legislative session - the same bills that fell by the wayside last year.
Pang, who has worked with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, says he's not averse to genetic modification, just the way its being done right now in agriculture. Also a consultant with GlaxoSmithKline, Pang has actually genetically engineered a vaccine in bacterial vats, but "in a contained lab, not growing wildly," he says.
He's not a typical genetically modified organism opponent - he's more of a regulation proponent.
About GM crops, he says: "Any of the following statements are false: 'It's safe. It's dangerous. It's not dangerous. It's not safe.' The only true statement you can make is: 'It's unknown.'"
Until then, Pang and groups like Hawai'i SEED are backing five bills, three of which deal with restrictions and two that address responsibility.
One bill mandates a moratorium on genetically modified taro for 10 years in fields and labs; another asks for the same five-year halt on coffee in fields. A third would ban biopharmaceutical food crops - like human insulin-producing sugarcane - from labs, and banning both food and non-food biopharm crops from fields.
Another bill requests that the state Department of Health accept liability for all genetically modified crops produced in the state. The final bill, the "back-up bill," as Pang calls it, comes into play only if all the previous bills fail.
"If none of these bills pass, and we have GM taro and GM coffee, somebody has to take the economic and health liability when something happens," he said, referring to statewide regulatory committees or the growers.
Pang will be interviewed by Diana LaBedz of the Kaua'i Surfrider Foundation, following a short talk starting at 11:05 a.m. on GMO chemical runoff by her husband, Dr. Gordon LaBedz.
Disappointed that the seed companies declined to participate, Diana LaBedz hopes that the one-hour show on AM 570 will still be a good opportunity for the public to have some questions answered and issues clarified.
Malia Nob, scheduled to wrap up the hour talking about the cultural impact of GMOs and the events surrounding the Waimea Canyon Elementary School stinkweed episode in November, did not immediately return phone calls yesterday.
Sarah Styan, president of the Hawai'i Crop Improvement Association, a collective of seed companies Dow, Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta, was also not immediately available yesterday.
• Ford Gunter, associate editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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