Walter Ritte’s efforts to ban the genetic modification of taro continued today on the grounds of the state capitol where a small group of activists erected a wooden statue, or ki’i.
While state legislation to ban GMO (genetically modified organism) taro has failed in the past, Ritte, from Ho’olehua, has shifted his focus on changing the law to require the labeling of food products that contain GMOs.
“That’s why we worked all day putting up the ki’i, building our ahu, to bring people to realize that we need to label our food and we need to know what we are eating, especially if it is GMO’s. And right now, we don’t have that opportunity. We don’t know we are eating,” said Ritte.
Besides labeling, this new bill that Ritte is lobbying for would also require biotech companies to reveal where they’re conducting field trials.
It was more than two years ago that a Maui County bill banned GMO taro. Maui County Bill 09-100, which amended the county code to prohibit genetically engineered and recombinant DNA taro, passed the county council unanimously in September of 2009. With that passage Maui joined Hawaii, Molokai, Lanai and Kaho’olawe as Hawaii islands that ban genetic modification of kalo.
Ritte said the ki`i represents the image of 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 five-hour rally in the Capitol rotunda featured speakers and free organic and non-GMO appetizers and snacks.
Supporters of the GMO food labeling legislation also spoke with lawmakers who can schedule hearings on the bills.
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.