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Residents lobby for labeling of genetically modified foods

Several Molokai residents and University of Hawaii students assembled a stone platform with a wooden statue known as a “ki`i” on the grounds of the state Capitol today to bring attention to legislative bills that would require the labeling of genetically modified food in Hawaii stores.

Group spokesman Walter Ritte said they’re lobbying at the state Legislature to pass the bills.

He said the bills are being held in a joint committee that includes the committees on Energy and Environment and on Agriculture.

Ritte said while Sen. Mike Gabbard, chairman of Energy and Environment Committee, is willing to schedule hearings, Agriculture Chairman Clarence Nishihara is not.

Ritte said unless Nishihara agrees to a hearing, the bills won’t have a hearing.

Ritte said his group feels consumers should have a choice on whether to buy genetically modified food.

He said residents are complaining about the dust from areas where genetically modified crops are grown entering their homesteads, the ocean and fishponds.

“Everybody is really angry about what the corporations are doing … ” he said.

Ritte said the ki`i represents the image of the the first man Haloa and his sacred relationship with the taro plant and other food

Ritte said the group believes genetically modified plants represents a threat to human health and the environment. 

The group has a state permit to leave the platform and statue on the Capitol grounds until Feb. 29, according to the state Senate Sgt.-At-Arms Ben Villaflor.

Nishihara was unavailable for comment.

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