05/24/2015 20:44 EDT | Updated 05/24/2016 01:12 EDT

Hawaii groups plant coconut trees and engage tourists in protests against Monsanto

HONOLULU, Hawaii - Demonstrators planted coconut trees and waved signs in rallies across the Hawaiian Islands as part of an international day of protests against agriculture business Monsanto.The protesters on Saturday complained about the effects that companies like the Monsanto Company have on the community when they spray fields with chemical pesticides. They say they want agribusiness companies to stop using Hawaii as a testing ground for pesticides and genetically modified foods."Get off the island," said Diane Marshall, a Honolulu teacher. "I would like to see them close up shop."Monsanto issued a statement saying it realizes people have different points of view about food and agriculture, and it's committed to having an open dialogue about the issues.In Waikiki, a man wore a gas mask in front of a statue of beloved surfer Duke Kahanamoku to demonstrate the dangers of pesticides. Others in bikinis talked with tourists about why they don't want genetically modified goods to be grown in Hawaii.On Maui, a group spent the day sowing fields with crops to encourage local farming. An estimated 200 demonstrators planted 2 acres of sweet potatoes, banana starts and more than 100 coconut trees, said Courtney Bruch of GMO Free Maui.The Maui group was joined by Neil Young, who performed a song from his upcoming album.In Las Vegas on Saturday, hundreds of people marched and waved placards downtown against Monsanto. Participants in Saturday's event told KLAS-TV of Las Vegas ( ) they're against the sale of genetically modified foods known as GMOs and they want companies to label foods properly.There has been little scientific evidence showing that foods grown from GMO seeds are less safe than their conventional counterparts, but fears persist in Hawaii and elsewhere.The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a critic of food companies and artificial and unhealthy ingredients in foods, has not opposed genetically modified foods on the basis that there's no evidence they are harmful.

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