Our Islands, Our Future

Members of the Focus Maui Nui Youth Alliance visited Monsanto Co.’s Maui operations recently, getting a close-up look at the company’s high-tech operations to grow seed corn to make a dent in world hunger. Both Racieli Andrada, 16, a junior at Maui High School, and Kaile Stockham, 15, a sophomore at Lahainaluna High School, had heard the negative publicity about Monsanto, such as its work with genetically engineered food. While Andrada came away from the experience impressed, Stockham remained skeptical, but said she was open-minded.

“I learned that Monsanto uses a lot of advanced technology to help keep track of the seeds and to help them grow to their full potential,” Andrada said. She said Monsanto changes the genes within corn seeds “to allow the crop to grow to its full potential without being harmed or disturbed by the environment,” such as pests. Stockham said she “really enjoyed going in the greenhouse, where we got to watch things in action.” “I was baffled by the fact that they are able to electronically track every seed that ever enters their state-of-the-art facilities,” she said. Stockham also said she was intrigued to learn that Monsanto’s technicians shave off a piece of each seed to send to a lab on the Mainland “where they run it through a DNA machine that determines whether or not the seed has the qualities they are looking for.”

Youth Alliance members attend monthly events during the school year to explore and gain a greater understanding of key components in the Maui community. Their gatherings are coordinated by the Maui Economic Development Board, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012. Stockham said she believes that all citizens have a “duty to be well-informed” on all current topics and the tour at Monsanto was an experience toward fulfilling her duty. “I believe the only way for us to make the best decisions for Maui’s future is if everyone on Maui is actively informed and participating in local decisions.”