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NEWS RELEASE | Contact: Christine Sheppard 808-328-7345 | FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, July 12, 2002

KEALAKEKUA, HAWAII - The Kona Coffee Council (KCC) today issued its policy on genetically modified coffee plants to the State and County governments of Hawaii, to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, to the University of Hawaii, and to the Hawaii Coffee Association. The KCC opposes the introduction of GM coffee stock into the Kona regions, and is asking government officials to impose a moratorium to that effect. (Full policy statement below).

"We represent more than 130 coffee farmers who depend on our unique and historically significant Kona coffee for their livelihood", said Christine Sheppard, president of the KCC. "Kona coffee is recognized as one of the worlds two grand cru coffees - introduction of GM plants could debase not only the flavor and quality of our coffee, but would also make it unmarketable in many areas of the world. GM foods are unaccepted in Japan and Europe (where they are known as "Franken-foods"); as Americans become more aware of the untested safety aspects and the absence of any labeling requirement for GM foods, many will reject them also."

Merle Wood, past president of the KCC added "Cross-pollination could contaminate our entire Kona crop if GM plants are allowed here. Although coffee is considered self-fertilizing, scientists admit that cross-pollination does happen. We cannot be put in the same position our papaya farmers are in, where it is impossible to find papaya seed uncontaminated by the genetically modified strain".

GM experimentation on coffee plants is currently being carried out by University of Hawaii scientists on Oahu. One project is researching producing a decaffeinated strain of coffee, another is attempting to find a nematode-resistant root stock.

"We already have the worlds best tasting coffee, and the worlds healthiest coffee trees", stated Sheppard. "According to its' own website the Hawaii Department of Agriculture's Plant Quarantine Program began over a hundred years ago when, in 1888, King David Kalakaua decreed that in order to protect the coffee industry in Hawaii, new coffee plants would not be allowed into the islands. This protection has resulted in us having the only 100 year old trees still producing coffee; all other coffee growing areas are riddled with disease and pests. We would be better served by our scientists continuing to keep invasive pests and diseases out of our islands, than on introducing varieties that put us at risk".

The Kona Coffee Council is a volunteer, non-profit, community-based organization of coffee farmers, processors and others involved in the Kona coffee industry. It began in 1985 with the mission to promote, protect, and educate about Kona Coffee.


The Kona Coffee Council opposes the introduction of genetically modified coffee plants into the North and South Kona regions.

Specifically, we request the following:

1. Impose a moratorium on the release of genetically modified coffee plants into the Kona regions until a regulatory regime has been adopted that includes extensive evaluation of genetic contamination from pollen drift and other environmental consequences and secondary ecological effects.

2. Rule that liability for any external costs to individuals and the environment caused by physical spillover effects, such as genetic contamination from pollen drift, must be borne by the growers, manufacturers and distributors of genetically engineered plants.

3. In conjunction with the establishment of an adequate regulatory regime as outlined in (1), require genetically modified plantings to be explicitly labeled as such, and neighboring properties notified. The costs of such labeling and notification to be borne by the owner or lessee of the planted land.

4. Any coffee produced from genetically modified plants to be explicitly labeled as such at every stage of its production though to sale to provide adequate information to processors and consumers. The costs of such labeling and verification to be borne by the growers and processors of the genetically modified coffee.