In a bid to build support for the Islands’ biotech industry, the Hawaii Crop Improvement Assn. is soliciting testimonials from American farmers who have benefitted from genetically engineered crops.

“[T]he greatest risk to the viability of seed operations in Hawaii is an anti-GMO climate of extremism by activists who have a philosophical and religious opposition to the science,” states the HCIA website in urging farmers to submit their essays by Nov. 30.

The activism is endangering “some of the world’s most important research in agricultural biotechnology . . . to address some of the greatest challenges being faced by farmers including drought tolerance, poor soil conditions, and disease,” according to the site.

Authors of the five most compelling stories will win free trips for two to Hawaii. However, they will be expected to speak personally with business leaders, lawmakers and the media during their one-week visits in late-February, according to the HCIA website. The trips are valued at $5,000 each.

The essays will be judged on how well they address such talking points as “reduced pesticide use, increased yield, enhanced environmental stewardship (land, energy, water), and improved economic sustainability (lower production costs),” the website states. Points also will be given for unique stories, and their ability to reach non-farmers.

All the essays will be compiled into a booklet, “Views from the Farm,” that HCIA will use in its outreach efforts.