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[SANET-MG] Hawaii state government plays fast and loose
Freedom to Report Real News
State Uses Illegal Tactics to Push Controversial Biotech Project
Board of Agriculture Redefines Own Rules To Avoid Contested Case Hearing
By Haumea Hanakahi, Henry Curtis and Andrew Kimbrell, 8/16/2005 10:14:21 PM
In a controversial case involving 7 strains of newly created mutated
alga, the Board of Agriculture’s most recent actions, again, seem to
support corporate agenda over the public trust. After the 6/28/05
hearing of which over 120 testimonials were submitted urging the denial
of permit, the Board stunned the crowd with a cavalier quoting of Wanda
Adams, Food Editor of the Honolulu Advertiser "remember when we were all
warned microwaves were dangerous, and now we all use them…" a vote was
called, and the Board approved (6-2) the permit to import, grow, and
export the mutated algae.
In the aftermath of the decision and amid serious concerns for impact
upon agriculture, health and safety, native resources and the
environment, a coalition called Na Maka o Hawaii Nei was spontaneously
formed to protect and nurture our island wealth. On 7/7/2005 the
coalition of over 22 groups and individuals filed an official request
for a contested case hearing with the Board of Agriculture to challenge
the permit granted the financially troubled Mera Pharmaceuticals to grow
the genetically engineered algae at the state’s Natural Energy Lab of
Hawaii Authority (NELHA) on the Kona coast of Hawaii Island.
On 8/15/05, the coalition Na Maka o Hawaii Nei received a letter from
the Dept. of Agriculture stating that only the applicant of a permit can
ask for a contested case hearing. The one-paragraph letter reads
"Neither statute nor constitutional due process require a contested case
hearing in this situation and the Board’s rules do not provide for a
contested case hearing for persons such as the HUI [coalition]."
"The letter contradicts the clear and obvious intent of the Hawaii
Administrative Rules" said Henry Curtis, advocate and party to the
petition. Under the Hawaii Administrative Rules (HAR) 4-1-36(b): "A
person aggrieved by a decision or ruling of the board shall file a
request for hearing within ten calendar days after mailing of written
notice of board action" and HAR 4-1-2 Definitions: "’Person’ means
individuals, partnerships, corporations, associations, or public or
private organizations of any character other than the board [of
agriculture] or the department [of agriculture]."
"The coalition is shocked and outraged that the state has denied the
public’s right to challenge a permit." said Kat Brady of Life of the
Land. "Genetically engineered algae have never been grown at this level
anywhere in the world and the hui [coalition] is concerned that escape
of these algae will cause extensive harm to our fragile ecosystem. This
is a great concern since the state currently spends $47 million a year
on eradication of invasive species."
"We don’t understand why the State is investing in a failing industry
that has losses of over $43 billion." says Haumea Hanakahi of Hui Hoaka,
also a party in the petition. The industry she refers to is
biotechnology. Overall, airlines accumulated a net loss of $5 billion
from 1947 to 2003. Publicly traded biotechnology companies in the U.S.
lost $41 billion from 1990 to 2003, according to Ernst & Young LLC. 
"The State is prostituting our islands. The State gives away massive
amounts of tax credits to the industry for biotech business investment,
research development, net operating loss, exclusions of royalties from
gross income and even tax exemption on stock options. That’s plenty in
lost tax revenues that could help our schools, our kupuna, our
communities. Instead, the irresponsible of these corporations come, take
from Hawaii, make plenty opala, and leave state taxpayers with legal
liability for the irreversible damage and messes they make. Strange,
yeah, Rincon Pharmaceuticals is a new biotech startup and partner in the
project but they’re never named on the permit. Zero liability to them.
Hmmm. It’s just a matter of time when these mutant algae become a new
invasive species contaminating our water, soils, air and agriculture.
Can we afford that? Why is the Board of Agriculture ignoring all the
expert testimony that came in from around the world warning of serious
consequences?" she asks.
The Na Maka o Hawaii Nei coalition also states strong health concerns.
The Board of Agriculture’s decision to allow Mera and Rincon
Pharmaceuticals to import 7 strains of mutated algae without a
comprehensive risk assessment signals profit over people. These
companies hope to cash in on creating drugs from the algae. However,
these laboratory created algae that contain synthetic human-like
antibodies are unlikely to ever be approved for drug manufacture. Andrew
Kimbrell, Executive Director for the Center for Food & Safety, WA DC
stated "the State is illegally permitting a Biotech startup to endanger
Hawaii’s environment and people for a project that is doomed from the
start. The federal government has never given commercial approval of a
drug to be made from genetically modified or engineered plants or
organisms. The chances of success are nil and the risks too great."
In response to Mera and Rincon Pharmaceutical’s assurances that their GE
algae are "safe", Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman, Senior Scientist for the
Center for Food Safety, WA DC and currently serving on the FDA’s
Biotechnology Advisory Subcommittee wrote "those assurances are not
based on safety testing, but on conjecture. For example, proteins such
as those produced in Mera’s algae might cause immune reactions if
ingested or inhaled, as may occur from aerosolized or desiccated algae
if they escape and reproduce in the environment. And such immune
responses can conceivably occur at very low exposures. For example,
several years ago expert allergists and immunologists would not allow
exposure to as little as 20 parts per billion of genetically engineered
StarLink protein after food was contaminated because they could not be
sure that allergy would not occur…Doing the right thing to ensure safety
will pay in the long run with increased citizen confidence."
On 8/2/05 a lawsuit was filed against the Board of Agriculture to comply
with Hawaii’s Environmental Protection Act. "The law requires the State
to fully examine the potential impacts of bringing these alien,
drug-laden algae to our islands," said Earthjustice attorney Isaac
Moriwake. "The government and public need to understand the potential
impacts and available alternatives before this experiment begins."
Dr. R. Malcolm Brown, Jr., Univ. Texas, Professor of Biology wrote "I
have identified both native and indigenous strains of Chlamydomonas. So
much more needs to be studied. The introduced alga has the potential to
hybridize with the native and indigenous strain of this alga. That would
mean genetic alteration of yet another pristine species from Hawaii's
world renown biodiversity. Not only that, but native strains of this
alga are found in air, soils, and fresh and brackish water of Hawaii.
This indicates that once introduced into the native population, the
genetically modified strains could rapidly spread to all parts of
Hawaii. The immense invasive species problem this presents should be
The coalition Na Maka o Hawaii Nei agrees that "We encourage good
business that actually DOES good in Hawaii. We have zero tolerance for
any business that would inflict harm upon Hawaii’s communities." You can
add "zero tolerance for any government behaviors that would inflict harm
upon Hawaii’s communities." Perhaps the Governor needs to hear from her
 For more information on failed biotech industry see "Biotech’s
Dismal Bottom Line: More than $40 Billion in Losses," by David P.
Hamilton, Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2004, and "States, Cities Court
Biotech, But Is It Worth It?," by Paul Elias, AP June 9, 2004.
Na Maka o Hawaii Nei is a coalition protecting and nurturing the
islands' wealth. For more information, contact Haumea Hanakahi, Hui
Hoaka (808-896-9926); Henry Curtis, Life of the Land (808-927-0709);
Andrew Kimbrell, The Center for Food Safety (202-547-9359)
HawaiiReporter.com reports the real news, and prints all editorials
submitted, even if they do not represent the viewpoint of the editors,
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