LIHU’E – Kaua’i police are trying to identify the vandals who trampled corn and
chopped down ‘awa, taro, pineapple and papaya plants at two sites earlier this
The vandals signed a press statement as “The Menehune” and claimed
to be anti-biotechnology activists.
The statement was released by Genetix
Alert Press Office, a news service that publishes reports of anti-biotechnology
activists but claims not to be involved in them.
Police said 2,400 corn
plants valued at $4,800 were trampled the night of May 9 at a Novartis Seed
field in Wailua.
Novartis grows both genetically engineered crops and
conventionally bred crops, but company communications manager Tony
Minnischsoffer said he could not confirm if the damaged plants were the result
of genetic engineering.
The next night, between 2,000 and 3,000 ‘awa plants
in a collection of varieties from around the state were damaged or destroyed at
the Agriculture Research Center at Wailua.
Clifton Abe, the farm manager at
the UH facility in Wailua, said the vandalism was “senseless.”
Dela Pena, a agronomist who has been working on creating higher-yield taro
crops, said the vandalism set “my work back a whole year.”
Terry Sekioka said most of the damaged plants were not bio-engineered. The
vandals, however, destroyed a type of taro variety that was grown by ancient
Hawaiians, Dela Pena said.
“We are trying to preserve this variety so that
they don’t disappear,” he said. The incident marked the first time plants have
been vandalized at the UH facility, which opened in the 1960s, Abe said.
Police estimated the loss at $3,600. Since the vandalism, security
measures have been heightened at the farm, Abe said.
The Menehune statement
also claimed the group had destroyed anthuriums and dendrobium orchids. But
Sekioka said those flowers are not researched at the center. He said the group
may have mistaken the tops of taro plants for anthuriums.