Maui Business

Coalition Steps in to Defend Maui GMO Initiative

November 24, 2014, 10:54 AM HST
* Updated November 26, 6:32 AM
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Kahului, Maui - Rally against GMOs.  File photo by Rodney Yap.

Kahului, Maui – Rally against GMOs. File photo by Rodney Yap.

By Maui Now Staff

A coalition of Maui and Moloka‘i residents, farmers, and public interest groups, represented by Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice, filed papers in Honolulu federal district court to defend the County of Maui’s recently passed genetically engineered crop safety initiative from a legal challenge by multinational chemical companies.

The ballot initiative prohibits the growth, testing or cultivation of GE crops in Maui County until an environmental and public health study can show that the planting operations are safe for the community.

Over the past year, both CFS and Earthjustice have fought on behalf of local citizen groups to defend the GE crop and pesticides ordinances passed in Kauaʻi and Hawaiʻi counties in 2013.

On November 13, just nine days after the Maui initiative passed, Monsanto, along with Dow-owned Agrigenetics and several industry-friendly groups, sued Maui County, seeking to have the moratorium thrown out. It also asked the court to temporarily delay the measure’s effectiveness by issuing an injunction. Maui County subsequently agreed to an injunction until March 2015.

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In a separate action, initiative backers filed a lawsuit in Second Circuit court seeking “declaratory relief to assure transparency and the proper implementation,” of the newly passed initiative.

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“Like the residents of Kauaʻi county and Hawaiʻi counties before them, the people of Maui County decided they would no longer sit idly by as the State of Hawaiʻi becomes a poisoned paradise of intensive genetically engineered crop production and its intertwined pesticide spraying,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety in a press release statement. “These chemical companies are again trying to trump the democratic process, and again, we stand by the communities and will vigorously defend the law.”

Earthjustice managing attorney Paul Achitoff also commented saying, “Maui County’s betrayal of its own people by agreeing to delay the moratorium without a whimper of resistance proves it cannot be trusted to properly defend our clients’ interests. The people of Maui, Molokaʻi, and Lānaʻi have spoken, in the face of enormous industry pressure: They want the spraying and growing to stop until the impacts are properly studied. Since Maui County won’t defend the law, we’ll have to do its job and make the arguments in court.”

The coalition of groups asking to intervene includes: The Mothers on a Mission Hui, a group of mothers on Molokaʻi, Maui and other islands concerned about the health of their families; Molokaʻi Mahiʻai, a hui of Molokaʻi-based farmers, and Maui farmer Gerry Ross; and CFS, a national group advocating for responsible regulation of genetic engineering and pesticides.

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