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Open Letter to Mayor Kenoi From Syd Singer on Alien Scale Insect

July 13, 2009

Dear Mayor Kenoi:

I am writing you on behalf of thousands of residents who have been opposing efforts of the US Forest Service to release an alien scale insect, Tectococcus ovatus, as a biocontrol for strawberry guava.

We have just discovered that the new environmental assessment, which was expected on May 23, is now indefinitely postponed.

This is a great relief to many residents who enjoy waiawi fruit, which is considered a “super-food” for its nutritional value.  As the current economic recession drags on, more and more people will come to appreciate and rely on our wild foods.  Using our natural resources, like strawberry guava, is what sustainability and food sovereignty is all about.

However, this scale insect is already on the Big Island, being reared in a quarantine facility operated by the US Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Many residents are concerned that the insects may escape, along with other species of plant pests and pathogens that are being researched at that facility. Accidental release of quarantined insects or other pathogens could result in environmental and agricultural devastation.  Fueling the concern was a 2005 article in the Maui News, where the quarantine facility was described as “decrepit” by Dr. Tracy Johnson, who operates the facility.

Upon investigation, we have discovered that
the Volcano facility was not engineered to withstand earthquakes, and does not meet current Federal seismic construction standards.

We also learned the Hawaii Department of Agriculture does not know what other insects or plant pathogens are being reared and researched at that facility, claiming that the US Forest Service is not required to get a State permit to import alien insects, fungi, or other pathogens for research in federal facilities.

The public needs, and has a right, to know what other species are being reared at that quarantine facility. However, the Forest Service is not wanting to give that information.

We have been told by Mr. Mento of the Hawaii County Civil Defense that his department has contacted Boone Kaufman of the Forest Service, who manages the Volcano facility, and Mr. Kaufman is preparing a written response.

Mayor Kenoi, please
help get the Volcano quarantine facility closed down for the safety of our island. A highly active volcanic island is a foolish place to put an insect quarantine facility — unless the entire island is to be regarded as nothing more than a field test site for insect research.

With your attention to this vital issue, we may be able to avert what is otherwise an inevitable earthquake catastrophe.


Sydney Ross Singer
Medical Anthropologist
Director, Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease
P.O. Box 1880, Pahoa, Hawaii 96778

3 Responses

  1. Why would anyone put an insect quarantine facility on the Big Island? Singer is awesome for bringing this issue to the public’s attention. Now let’s see if anyone in the state or county does anything about it, instead of waiting for a disaster to happen.

  2. Guava jelly is great!

    Compromise the native forests for fruits? C’mon!

  3. Dear Mayor Kenoi-
    Singer is a charlatan with a made-up title (“medical anthropologist”) and no expertise in botany or entomology. He’s the same guy who has the Coqui frog “preserve.” Please pay him the attention he deserves, which is to say: none.

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