Protesters Rally to Stop Genetically Modified Taro

Walter Ritte
Walter Ritte

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Wednesday marked the opening of the 2008 State Legislative Session.

Hawaiians and farmers took advantage of the opening day festivities to hold a rally, once again, urging lawmakers to ban genetically modified taro.

Oli -- or traditional Hawaiian chant -- led the activist into the State Capitol Rotunda, as they sought a place in the legislative process.

The group called upon Speaker of the House, Calvin Say, to arrange for a public hearing, where they can debate -- what they say -- is the unacceptable practice of genetically altering taro.

''We wanted to be treated fairly in this building. That is why we are hear today," said rally leader Walter Ritte.

These activitsts want to see a ban on the testing - cultivating -- and growing of genetically engineered taro.

Hawaiians, say, it's a cultural issue - that taro -- or kalo -- is sacred and should not be tampered with.

Scientists, are looking to create more durable vegitation through genetics, as the global demand for food, increases.

''I share with you this morning, that I cannot commit myself as far as today if we are going to have a hearing or not," said Say.  "But, I can say this, I have never, along with Cliff Tsuji, said we are not going to have a hearing also."

Lawmakers, put-off a hearing on legislation, last session, that would have imposed a ten-year ban on genetically altering taro.

Leaders of today's rally indicated, this is a good first step.

''Those of you who have come today, maikai," Ritte said.  "Your action is going to speak louder. What you just did is going to speak louder than any of the voices that we can raise today."