Hawaiian Papaya Smackdown on Twitter

This article was updated at 10:55, PST.

Series:  Biotech in Hawaii, Part two


I was recently in Hawaii and regrettably did not eat a single papaya while I was there. What was I thinking? I guess I was too busy eating mangos, pineapples and to-die-for ahi and octopus poke.

Not even a week after arriving back home, I  came across a succession of tweets about Hawaiian papaya. These tweets were mostly between celebrity Roseanne Barr, who apparently lives on a macadamia nut farm on the big island in Hawaii (see wiki inset below), and Karl Haro von Mogel, noted plant geneticist and one of the moderators of the excellent Biofortified website.  This wasn’t a brief exchange, nor were they ever in agreement.  If I were to give the Miss Congeniality award, I would give it to Karl, hands down.  He was extremely polite in the face of some crude insults hurled his way.

RoseAnnNutsRoseanne's Nuts

The whole exchange comes across to me as a study of how celebrities can be dead wrong, but believed simply because people like them or even just recognize them.  Their credibility is based on being known by the public, not because they know anything.  Why is that?  Roseanne Barr has over 200,000 followers.  This is a topic in and of itself.  But here I will simply focus on the papaya.

A few months back I did a series of posts called The Benevolent Side of GMOs and really, the papaya story should have been included in that series.  My bad that it wasn’t.  Many of my readers already know about the engineered papaya and if not, there are several excellent articles which explain it to perfection cited at the end of this post.  Here is an extremely brief synopsis.

PapayaLinks mentioned above: It’s Not Easy Being Green ~ The Elephant Journal ~ Biofortified

papaya2Hawaiian Farmers Warn Thai Farmers About Genetically Engineered Papaya.  Don’t Do It/Greenpeace

Anti-GMO Activist Roseanne Barr Struggles To Defend Her Claims/Debunking Denialism

Below are a few screen shots from a much longer tweet battle between activist Roseanne Barr and Karl Haro von Mogel.  Biotechnology expert Val Giddings chimes in for a bit as well.



twitter2twitter3If you follow Karl, you’ve probably seen this go on and on.  It’s still going on I believe.

For the real facts, here is a sampling of A-list articles and blog posts on this topic.

Transgenic Papaya in Hawaii and Beyond/AgBioForum/USDA

Virus Coat Protein Transgenic Papaya Provides Practical Control of Papaya Ringspot Virus/USDA

Transgenic Virus-Resistant Papaya:  The Hawaiian ‘Rainbow’ was Rapidly Adopted by Farmers and is of Major Importance in Hawaii Today/APSnet

Transgenic Papaya/Vegan GMO

Genetically Modified Papayas/GMO Compass

Julee K @ Sleuth4health

email:  sleuth4health@gmail.com

Photo Credit/The Elephant Journal

14 responses to “Hawaiian Papaya Smackdown on Twitter”

  1. Meh! She’s a well known crank in many circles. This does not surprise me in the least. I did not know she was in HI. Didn’t she recently run for office in CA?

  2. I just added a wiki inset about her reality show a few years ago called “Roseanne’s Nuts” that focused on her and her macadamia nut farm. She also ran for president on the Green Tea Party ticket, whatever that is…

    • LOL ! Actually, the spacetime rips GMO’s cause help you live forever in infinite causal loops. You get to have your favorite moments over and over again !

  3. The reason papayas in Hawai’i were susceptible to the ringspot virus was because those fields had not been rotated in many many years! Not to mention that the virus does not even affect the fruit, it’s purely cosmetic. Any crop will be susceptible to viruses if it is grown in the same place year after year.

    • I live in Hawaii so I am giving you my first hand experience. Any farmer who knows anything about crop rotation knows that it’s necessary. You cannot keep depleting the soil and expect that adding NPK fertilizer is going to give you long plant health and benefit the microorganisms in the soil. You need to covercrop it so that it puts nutrients back in as well as repelling previous pests. Also, the more organic amendments you have the healthier the soil will be, this is a key part to the health of he plant. They are only now finding how important the tiny microorganisms in the soil are including earthworms. Also, spraying chemicals on plants and field further destroys your soil which leads to more succeptibilities. There is a study that has been done showing that organic farming is more productive and has a higher yield in developing countries than conventional because their fields did not have a long history of overruse/mononcropping and chemical use. In first world countries it was found that for the most part it is opposite because commercial agriculture had for the most part depleted our soils so organic farmers now have to suffer such reprucussions until time will build it up again. Ill post links later, I’m on my phone so it’s quite difficult sorry if there are typos lol

      • Sorry, but there is little to debate regarding organic vs not. The value in each is entirely dependent on the crop, situation, economics, and scale of production. Both can work, both can fail, and neither is truly definable as a single identifiable thing across general agricultural production. I was simply responding to your claims on ring spot which were not true. I never said anything against rotation, soil amendments or cover crops. Whether you’ll believe it or not, the majority of farmers I’ve seen in many years in agriculture do use such techniques for obvious reasons. No matter if you use them or not, these methods and techniques will have minimal, if any, effect on ring spot virus or the spread of its infectious aphids across the landscape. Likewise, spraying pesticides is also known to be minimally effective against these disease vectors. Plant resistance in some form is the best option for dealing with it, no matter what production system you use. And yes, it is a problem. Your claims of such a blissful experience with infected plants is indeed an outlier as this virus and its cousins have caused problems all across the south pacific.

  4. Thanks pdiff. I’m always honored to have an expert chime in and citations put the icing on the cake. I found myself thinking… ok… even if it WERE just cosmetic, which I knew wasn’t true, but if it WERE the case, even THAT would be problematic because the truth is no one buys an ugly fruit.

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