We all know the economics of coffee farming in Hawaii.  We are the only non-third-world country producing coffee. The only place with fair wages, U.S. land prices and operating costs. If some terrible pest or disease should wipe out our heritage crop, GM-coffee could not help us because it would not sell at that high niche price. We cannot survive on a lower price for our coffee.

-Christine Sheppherd, President, Kona Coffee Council, 2002

Coffee tree with ripening beansWhy is it important to keep Hawai’i coffee GMO-free?

  • The coffee-growing industry in Hawaii is one of the most successful agricultural industries in our state and needs protection.
  • The Kona coffee industry has roots that go back 150 years for the residents of Kona and Hawaii. Statewide coffee production is valued at well over $200 million
  • Field trials and commercial plantings of GMO coffee endanger Hawaii’s Coffee industry, exposing it to contamination through cross pollination
  • Bees that pollinate coffee can travel a radius of 3 miles.
  • When GMO field trials occur in a region, GMO contamination often follows. Long Grain rice was contaminated in 6 states in the United States as a result of field trials that were NOT a result of commercial plantings.
  • Contamination can happen as a result of just one field trial.
  • In light of this, the California Rice Advisory Board ruled that GMO rice trials would not be allowed within 400 miles of the rice growing region in California.
  • Field trials in Hawaii would create the immediate perception of GMO contamination.
  • The crucial Japanese and European export markets reject GMOs.
  • GMO contaminated coffee, particularly Kona Coffee, cannot be marketed as a Specialty Coffee.
  • This special status allows it to command one of the highest price points
  • GMO coffee field trials conducted in the open air are imminent. In March of 2007, during the CPC committee hearing in the Hawaii State House, Dr. John Stiles of Integrated Coffee Technologies testified that he will have coffee trees ready for open air field trials within 12-18 months
  • Viable Alternatives to GMO coffee exist.  Here in Hawaii, there already exists a root-not nematode resistant coffee rootstock.   They have also discovered a naturally decaffinated coffee.
  • In 2004, the statewide coffee industry rejected GMO coffee, writing a letter to the Department of Agriculture stating their position that they did not want GMO Coffee commercially grown or field-tested in Hawaii.


GMO Coffee history – Past and pending actions to keep Hawai’i coffee GMO-free

Bill placing moratorium on GMO coffee in Hawai’i State legislature – 2007

In 2007, House Bill 1577, placing a five year moratorium on the outdoor planting and outdoor field trials of GMO coffee in the state of Hawaii, passed both the EEP and CPC committees in the House and passed the House floor vote 45 yes, 4 no, 2 excused. It now has crossed over to the Senate and waits for a joint hearing with ENE/WAH, (Energy and the Environment and Water, Land, Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs) during the 2008 session.
Read the language of the bill.

Statewide coffee industry vetos GMO coffee – 2004
The coffee industry in the state of Hawaii including the Kona Coffee Council, Kona Pacific Farmers’ Co-op, Kona Farmers’ Alliance, Hawaii Coffee Association, and the Hawaii Organic Farmers Association, formed the Coalition to Protect Hawaii Coffee (CPHC), and sent a letter to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture saying that they did not want GE coffee grown in the state of Hawaii. This was an historic event. This was the first time that an entire agricultural industry in a state has unanimously opposed a new GE crop.
Read the statement.

Hawai’i County Council passes resolution restricting GMO coffee – September 2002
The Hawai’i County Council (Hawai’i Island) passed a resolution that banned the planting of GE coffee in the Kona Districts until a regional regulatory protocol could be established.
Read the resolution.

What Can I Do To Help?

  • Educate yourself and share info with others.
  • Write letters to the editor
  • Contact your legislator.
  • Make a donation.
  • Volunteer your time – contact us for volunteer opportunities.
  • Request Action Alerts.