HONOLULU—The Hawaii Papaya Industry Association has increased its reward to $10,000 for anyone who provides a tip that leads to the arrest and prosecution of individuals responsible for chopping down thousands of papaya trees since May 2010.
As reported by the Fox News, many farmers speculate the vandalism is the result of eco-terrorism against the biotechnology used in growing papayas in Hawaii. The majority of papayas grown on 170 farms on Oahu and the Big Island are genetically modified to be resistant to a ring spot virus that destroyed production on Oahu in the 1950s and was detected in the Puna district on the Big Island in the 1990s. The genetically modified fruit was developed by University of Hawaii scientists and is credited with saving Hawaii's $11 million papaya production industry.
"We wouldn't have a papaya industry today if it weren't for the transgenic papaya," said Alicia Maluafiti, executive director of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association. "Without a transgenic papaya restricting the expansion of the virus, that virus would be prevalent today."