UH Manoa will assign taro patents to Native Hawaiian community

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Gary Ostrander, (808) 956-7837
Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education
Posted: Jun 2, 2006

HONOLULU — The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa announced today that it would assign three patents related to development of disease resistant taros to the greater Native Hawaiian community.

The patents in question arose from work conducted by a UH faculty member in the 1990s, at the request of Samoan taro growers, to address the near eradication of their taro crops to a leaf blight. The researcher developed a number of cultivars from crosses of Hawaiian and Palauan taro strains. The latter were obtained specifically for this purpose with the consent (including proper permitting) of Palauan taro growers and Palauan government officials.

Using traditional breeding techniques, the UH researcher produced three strains that were shown to have increased disease resistance. The patents were granted in 2002.

"The University of Hawaiʻi has a strong desire to maintain appropriate respect and sensitivity to the indigenous Hawaiian host culture," said UH Mānoa Vice Chancellor for Research Gary K. Ostrander. "Taro is unique to the Hawaiian people in that it represents the embodiment of their sacred ancestor. As such, it is appropriate to make an exception to our standard policy of holding all patents."

Discussions are under way within the Hawaiian community on the appropriate entity to receive the patents.