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Hawaii House considers adopting state microbe; state would be first in nation

February 24, 2013
The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii has several official state symbols, including a flower, a song and a flag, but some say that's not enough.

"Missing from this group of symbols is an official state microbe," Rep. James Tokioka wrote in a bill proposing to add a microbe to the list.

Hawaii House members considered the bill Tuesday after it gained the approval of the House committee on culture.

Hawaii could be the first state in the nation to adopt an official microbe, University of Hawaii professor Stuart Donachie said.

"Hawaii can lead the way," he wrote in his testimony supporting the bill.

The microscopic organism in question was discovered in Donachie's lab by Iris Kuo, a student from Iolani High School, with help from Donachie and several other scientists.

The microbe is called Flavobacterium akiainvivens and can be found on a Hawaiian shrub called akia.

Advocates of the proposal say an official state microbe will promote scientific research in the islands and celebrate the uniqueness of Hawaii.

Several educators testified in favor of the bill, saying that an official state microbe would be a helpful tool to get kids interested in science and biology at a young age.

Donachie said that embracing a microbe as a state symbol could help diffuse misperceptions that associate the organisms only with disease. No one has yet submitted testimony opposing the bill.

Hawaii has a total of 16 state symbols. When county symbols are included, the total goes up to 31.

All representatives voted to move the bill forward Tuesday, but Rep. Faye Hanohano voted with reservations. Members will consider the bill again this week for a final vote.



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