Thursday, July 28, 2005

Notes from July meeting: "Should the State Import Invasive Species When It Spends Forty Million Dollars a Year to Eradicate Them?"

Kat Brady and Henry Curtis, representing Na Maka o Hawai`i Nei - The Eyes of Our Hawaii - spoke at our last meeting about the Board of Agriculture's approval of the importation of seven strains of genetically engineered algae to be grown in an unpatented system called 'photobioreactors' at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority on the Kona Coast of Hawaii Island.

On July 8, 2005 Na Maka o Hawai`i Nei filed a request for a contested case hearing to challenge the Board's vote. This fledgling hui of organizations, churches, and caring citizens came together when the Board ignored the concerns of the community and those of many scientists, including Dr. Malcolm Brown who has studied algae in Hawaii over forty years.

Some of the concerns expressed by Na Maka o Hawai`i Nei are:

• these biopharm algae strains have never been introduced outside of a laboratory,
• the lack of information given to the Board to help them make an informed vote
• the lack of information provided to the scientists reviewing the application
• Na Maka o Hawai`i Nei is still waiting to hear if their petition for a contested case hearing has been granted.

Questions from the audience: Why grow this outside, shouldn't it be done in a lab?
Yes, they must.

Mera Pharmaceuticals said they could grow the algae on a rooftop in San Diego without a permit, why don’t they?

It appears the company was invited here. The state wants to make Hawaii a center for biomedical industry.

Postscript: Article in the Star Bulletin, August 3, 2005: GROUPS SUE OVER ALGAE IMPORT PERMIT. "The suit claims the state board granted the permit without conducting an environmental assessment as required for activities on state or county land."