HILO, Hawaii, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Leaders of Hawaii's largest island have made it illegal to grow genetically modified taro and coffee.
The county council on the island of Hawaii, commonly called the Big Island, Friday unanimously voted in favor of the ban in support of organic farmers who said they fear pollen from genetically modified crops could contaminate organic crops and destroy their livelihoods.
It is the state's first such ban, The Honolulu Advertiser reported Saturday.
"With the passing of this bill, you stand up and protect the people," said Lauren Riley-Payne, 16, whose family runs an organic farm in Kapoho.
Organic growers cited examples of organic papaya farms contaminated by pollen from papaya genetically modified to make it resistant to ringspot virus, the Advertiser reported.
Opponents of the ban, who said the virus would have destroyed the papaya industry, said the taro industry could face a similar threat, in which case, only genetically modified taro could save farmers.