Activists Destroy Genetically-Modified Papaya Trees in Hawaii: Awesome or Too Far?

genetically-modified papayas

Public outrage over genetically-modified foods is growing by the day. But is it OK to cross the line into vandalism? Recent actions by anti-GMO activists in Hawaii force us to decide.

A family farm in Puna, Hawaii, suffered from a recent act of eco-activism where over 100 genetically-modified papaya trees were cut down by machete during the night.

“It’s hard to imagine anybody putting that much effort into doing something like that. It means somebody has to have passionate reason,” said Delan Perry, vice president of the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association.

genetically-modified papayas

Genetically-modified (GM) papaya trees were introduced to the region to protect against ringspot virus. In 1992, the virus became widespread, infecting thousand of papaya trees by killing the plants leaves. As a result, the virus cost farmers millions of dollars in losses. The genetically-modified papayas, which are planted on the majority of farms in Puna, Hawaii, are resistant to the dangerous ringspot virus. And it’s estimated that the genetically-modified seed has saved Hawaii’s papaya industry over $11 million.

Puna is the center of Hawaii’s commercial papaya industry, and this incident of eco-activism wasn’t the first of its kind. In 2011, the same farm was attacked, with 3,000 genetically-modified papaya trees cut down over 10 acres. And only a year before 8,500 GM papaya trees were destroyed.

Should Genetically Modified Foods Be Destroyed?

There is a clear divide between consumers who support organic farming and those who support GMOs. Genetically-modified crops often tote reduced pesticide use, but reports show GMOs often require extra chemicals to combat weeds. Even more so, the untested effects of GMOs raise enormous concerns, and consumers are still fighting for the right to know through GMO labeling.

At first, those of us who oppose genetically-modified foods might cheer at this valiant act of civil disobedience. Yet, it quickly becomes apparent that each act of vandalism negatively impacts farmers who are already struggling to hold on to their land. The most recent attack on the genetically-modified papaya farm in Puna cost the family over $3,000 in lost crops.

“These farmers are working really, really hard to support their families,” says regional property owner Peter Houle. “They’ve done nothing wrong and they feel violated.”

If papaya farmers are only protecting planting genetically-modified seeds against the ringspot virus by , should they be punished in this way?

Images: Hawaii News Now

Juliette Donatelli

Working in the field of sustainability for over seven years, Juliette is passionate about its intersection within the fashion industry. Juliette began studying ecological conservation, and led consumer awareness campaigns around the world from water usage in southern California, riparian restoration in South Africa, food distribution in Paris and bison habitat in the Great Plains. She has launched her passion--consumerism and sustainability--into a place where it hits home--fashion. Juliette is the founder and editor-in-chief of, Director of Sustainability at Manufacture NY, and loves to read, dance, swim and enjoy the occasional glass of champagne.