Posted July 2, 2015
A federal judge ruled that a Maui County ban on the cultivation of genetically engineered (GMO) crops is pre-empted by federal and state law and invalid, according to a Capital Press article available here. Honolulu Civil Beat also published an article available hereand ABC News here.
The county’s ordinance exceeded the county’s authority, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway said in her order.
The county, which is a major center for research on GMO crops, will abide by the decision, spokesman Rod Antone said. Monsanto Co. and Dow Chemical Co. unit Agrigenetics Inc. both have research farms in the county.
Mollway emphasized that the ruling is not a statement on whether genetically modified organisms are beneficial or detrimental, according to Honolulu Civil Beat.
“The court recognizes the importance of questions about whether GE activities and GMOs pose risks to human health, the environment, and the economy, and about how citizens may participate in democratic processes,” she said. “But any court is a reactive body that addresses matters before it rather than reaching out to grab hold of whatever matters may catch a judge’s fancy because the matters are interesting, important, or of great concern to many people.”
Mark Sheehan, one of five citizens who sponsored the ballot initiative, said his group would appeal the order. He expressed disappointment that Mollway ruled on what he called procedural issues instead of addressing the substance of their argument, according to Capital Press.
Monsanto said in a statement after the ruling that it welcomes “the opportunity to continue to have conversations” with the community, according to ABC News.
“We’re listening and we’ve heard the concerns some people have about GMOs and today’s farming practices. Our commitment to ongoing dialogue with our neighbors doesn’t stop today,” said John Purcell, vice president and Monsanto’s lead for business and technology in Hawaii.
There has been little scientific evidence to prove that foods grown from engineered seeds are less safe than their conventional counterparts. But fears persist in Hawaii and elsewhere. In the islands, these concerns are compounded by worries about the companies’ use of pesticides.
For more information on biotechnology, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website here.