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Taking Root: A Rising Voice in Hawaii's GMO Politics

For Related Articles and More Information, Please Visit OCA's Genetic Engineering Page, Millions Against Monsanto Page and our Hawaii News Page.

On the 11th floor of the Gold Bond Building, on the edge downtown Honolulu, is the brain trust of Hawaii's anti-GMO movement.

The Center for Food Safety opened a new field office here on April 16, saying it wanted to foster public support to end irresponsible pesticide use and genetic experimentation on seed crops on the islands.

Just two days before, on April 14, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit invited 60 people to the Pig and the Lady restaurant in Chinatown to make the announcement in person.

Attendees included some of Hawaii's most recognizable nonprofits and business leaders as well as officials from the state Department of Health.

Progressive state lawmakers Jessica Wooley, Chris Lee and Russell Ruderman were also in attendance.

Over grilled pork shoulder, pickled small fish and mushroom donuts with manchego foam - all of it locally sourced - the Center for Food Safety's staff introduced themselves as a new voice in Hawaii's food politics.

Ashley Lukens, an adjunct political science professor and co-founder of the Hawaii Food Policy Council, is going to spearhead the nonprofit's efforts in Hawaii. She'll be joined by Kasha Ho, a Kauai-born community organizer who has worked for Kanu Hawaii to help low-income families get access to local produce.

From their uncomfortably small office overlooking Sand Island and Honolulu Harbor, they plan to harness what has become a passionate, if sometimes unwieldy, anti-GMO movement to take on a Hawaii's $250-million-a-year seed industry, a field dominated by Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont Pioneer and other corporate giants that have a grip on much of the U.S. food supply.

"The movement here is vibrant," Lukens said in recent interview. "It's been able to achieve some victories here that elsewhere are impossible."    
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