Hawaii’s GMO and hybrid seed industry goes through another transition

Hawaii’s GMO and hybrid seed industry is going through another merger-linked transition, with DowDuPont shuttering operations on Molokai and expanding them on Kauai.

DowDuPont fields at Waialua, Oahu. Photo by Joan Conrow

Molokai workers will be guaranteed jobs on that island through the second-quarter 2018, with some ultimately relocating to Kauai or the mainland. The Kauai workforce will expand, as will the company’s footprint.

On Kauai, some $12 million in construction is planned to upgrade administrative facilities and build new shade structures in Kekaha. The company’s agriculture division research and development operations will be consolidated at Waimea.

“New shade houses will allow for a large portion of research operations to be conducted indoors, providing environmental benefits and reducing the need for additional lands,” the company’s news release stated.

Anti-GMO activists have complained that seed company operations are taking up too much agricultural land, even as thousands of acres of farmland remain fallow throughout Hawaii. Moving some operations indoors should also pre-empt activists’ undocumented claims that pesticide drift from field applications is harming people and the environment.

All parent seed operations will be consolidated at the facility in Waialua, Oahu. Field operations at Kunia, Oahu, will end in 2018, with the facilities there scheduled to close in 2019.

The Agriculture Division of DowDuPont was formed by the merger of Dow Chemical and DuPont on Sept. 1. Earlier this year, Syngenta sold its Hawaii operations to Hartung Brothers, a Wisconsin-based family-owned business. Last year, Beck Hybrids, another family-owned company, bought the former BASF seed research facilities on Kauai.

Monsanto, meanwhile, still has operations on Molokai and Maui.

The 50-year-old seed industry is the most valuable sector of Hawaii’s dwindling agricultural economy. The Islands are favored for parent seed production because they provide a year-round growing climate.

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