Judge invalidates Maui ban on GE crops

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 6, 2014 -- A federal judge has ruled that federal and state law pre-empt a Maui County, Hawaii, ban on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops and that the ban is invalid.

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In November, voters in Maui County approved a moratorium on the testing or cultivation of genetically modified or engineered crops in the county until further health and environmental tests are conducted.

However, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway said the ordinance overreaches the county's authority.

The judge noted that her ruling does not address anything beyond the legal question of the county's authority. “No portion of this ruling says anything about whether GE organisms are good or bad or about whether the court thinks the substance of the ordinance would be beneficial to the county,” she wrote.

Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences run research farms on more than 3,500 acres in the county.

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The Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the Aina Movement (or Shaka Movement), the group behind the Maui initiative, claimed the companies are endangering the region by testing herbicides and genetically modified plants.

Mark Sheehan, a spokesperson for SHAKA, indicated that the group intends to appeal the decision.

In a statement after the ruling, Monsanto noted that it employs more than 700 people in communities on the islands of Maui, Molokai and Oahu. “We are committed to opposing initiatives that may impact the ability for farmers to use these safe and valuable tools,” the company said.

Kauai and Hawaii counties last year adopted different measures regulating GMO crops and pesticides. They were struck down by U.S. District Court Judge Barry Kurren but both measures are under appeal.

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