On Thursday, the Maui Farm Bureau, Monsanto Co. and a unit of Dow Chemical Co. filed a joint lawsuit against the Hawaiian County of Maui over a voter-backed ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). According to the Associated Press, the companies asserted that both state and federal laws preempt the ban, which was in contradiction of the lawful cultivation of GMOs.
The temporary ban barely passed in Maui County with a 50 to 48 percent vote. It was the first ballot measure in the nation against global agricultural businesses, which spent $8 million attempting to block the initiative, reports RT. Measures in Oregon and Colorado to label GMOs both failed to pass, making the marginal defeat in Hawaii all the more impactful.
John Purcell, Vice President at Monsanto, issued a statement in response to the vote, warning Hawaiians that a ban on the genetically modified crops would serve only to hurt Hawaii’s agriculture and economy, as well as the company’s business. The temporary moratorium in Maui blocks the production and use of GMO seeds in the county until such time as studies on the health effects of open-air pesticides and the genetic modification of crops yield conclusive results.
Dr. Lorrin Pang, a founder of the Hawaiian educational non-profit Shaka Movement that backed the county’s referendum, says that Monsanto and Dow Chemical should have sued before the ban was voted on. There is a general acceptance once a law goes to vote and wins that it is the last word, says Pang. On its website, the Shaka Movement accuses the companies of running deceptive ads prior to the vote to convince Maui citizens that the ban would have an adverse effect on local farmers and their business.
According to the Associated Press, the results of the vote have yet to be certified by officials and the ban would not go into effect until late this month. Mycogen Seeds, a part of the Dow AgroSciences unit of Dow Chemical Co., along with Monsanto research seed development in the warm and forgiving climate on Hawaii’s islands, which allows for multiple crops to be planted year-round. Research on genetically modified crops is also conducted in Kauai and Honolulu counties, where no similar bans exist.
Efforts to enforce labeling of GMO-derivative products in Colorado failed to pass by a 66 to 34 percent margin, reports NPR. Polls in Colorado prior to the election showed Coloradoans largely against the measure. A poll from Suffolk University showed only 29 percent of registered voters in favor of the measure, while 49 percent opposed it. A poll from the Denver Post showed 59 percent of voters were against the measure, and 34 percent were in favor.
In Oregon, a similar labeling measure was opposed by fewer than 51 percent of voters, according to NPR. Campaign spending for and against the measures could afford some insight into the voting percentages in the two states, as the measure’s opposition outspent its backers by millions of dollars in Colorado, while spending considerably less in Oregon.
Opponents in Oregon spent roughly $10.7 million defeating the proposition, while mandatory labeling proponents pooled over $5.5 million. In Colorado, proponents raised just $441,000 versus an $11.2 million campaign from the opposition, according to Reuters. The Shaka Movement remains confident that the ban will not be lifted despite the Monsanto lawsuit, saying the citizens of Maui County have spoken.
By Sree Aatmaa Khalsa