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Hawaii House considers adopting state microbe

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Hawaii has several official state symbols, including a flower, a song and a flag, but some say that’s not enough.

“Missing from this group of symbols is an official state microbe,” wrote Rep. James Tokioka in a bill proposing to add a microbe to the list.

The measure gained the approval of the House committee on culture last week.House representatives considered the bill today, but they agreed to bring it up again later this session.

University of Hawaii professor Stuart Donachie says Hawaii could be the first state in the nation to adopt an official microbe.

“Hawaii can lead the way,” he wrote in his testimony supporting the bill.

The microscopic organism in question was discovered in Donachie’s lab by Iris Kuo, a student from Iolani High School, with help from Donachie and several other scientists.

The microbe is called Flavobacterium akiainvivens and can be found on a Hawaiian shrub called akia.

Advocates of the proposal say an official state microbe will promote scientific research in the islands and celebrate the uniqueness of Hawaii.

Several educators testified in favor of the bill, saying that an official state microbe would be a helpful tool to get kids interested in science and biology at a young age.

Donachie says embracing a microbe as a state symbol could help diffuse misperceptions that associate the organisms only with disease.

No one has yet submitted testimony opposing the bill.

Tokioka says Hawaii has a total of 16 state symbols. When county symbols are included, the total goes up to 31.

If the House approves the bill, it will go to the Senate for consideration.

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