Kauai GMO crop law ruled invalid

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2014-A federal judge ruled over the weekend that a law approved in Kauai of Hawaii regulating the use of pesticides and genetically modified crops is invalid.

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U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren of the District Court of Hawaii said Kauai County Ordinance 960, which would affect the operations of Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences, and BASF, is preempted by state law.

The Kauai County Council voted to enact the law in November 2013. Although the Kauai mayor vetoed the bill, the council overturned the veto in a 5-2 vote.

In January 2014, Syngenta, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. (owned by DuPont), Agrigenetics, Inc. (owned by Dow Chemical), and BASF Plant Science LP, which collectively farm about 12,000 acres on the island, sued the County, claiming the law is not legally valid. 

The bill's provisions required farms to disclose pesticide use and the presence of genetically modified crops if they use more than five pounds or 15 gallons of restricted-use pesticides per year. The bill also required a 500-foot buffer zone near schools and homes and several other locations.

Penalties in the bill included a potential civil fine of $10,000-$25,000 per day, per violation.

The law's effective date was extended to October, but the judge's ruling stops the county from enforcing the ordinance altogether. 

Earthjustice, the Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network of North America, Ka Makani Ho'opono, and the Surfrider Foundation were defendants in the lawsuit.

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