WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Protesters against genetically-modified organisms, or GMO's, turned out by the hundreds Saturday to state their case in Waikiki.
Organizers said more than a thousand people marched down Kalakaua Avenue to voice their opposition to the seed giant Monsanto. It was actually one of hundreds of rallies that were held in cities around the U.S. and in more than 50 other countries in what was called a Worldwide March Against Monsanto.
"Hawaii is part of it. We're glad to be part of it," said longtime activist Walter Ritte. "We're here in Waikiki to let the tourist industry know that these new chemical companies that are on our land are bad for business."
The loud and vocal march and rally drew several groups, including Mana Ai, Sustainable Coastlines, Babes Against Biotech and more.
"I don't want to eat poison. I don't want children to be poisoned," said Jane Henkel of the Defend Oahu Coalition. "I think we have a right to know if we're eating them or not."
Protesters said that they want GMO foods to be labeled. Some even want an outright ban.
"We're going to do this ourselves," said protester Chris Budge. "We're not going to buy their crap, and we're done with it."
"There's poison in the air now. Papayas are poison, the foods are poison. We're letting people know that we cannot trust the foods that we're putting on our tables any more," said Ritte.
But supporters of genetically-modified foods say the crops have been proven to be safe. "The food is safe and it's healthy," said Alicia Maluafiti, executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association. "It's healthy for you, me, our children, pregnant women, the environment, our animals. It's been around for 20 years."
Maluafiti pointed to the rainbow papaya, developed in Hawaii, as an example. "It's inoculated against the papaya ring spot virus. It devastated Oahu, and actually impacted the Big Island, the Puna region. So without biotechnology, we wouldn't even have papaya here in Hawaii today."
Those who attended the March Against Monsanto rally remain optimistic that despite the failure of similar bills in this year's legislature, a GMO labeling bill will eventually become law.
"This year, big jump from no hearings to passing in the house," said Ritte. "next year, we'll have a labeling bill."