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Monsanto to File Lawsuit Challenging Maui GMO Moratorium

November 5, 2014, 10:36 AM HST · Updated November 5, 2:26 PM
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Monsanto to file lawsuit against newly passed Maui GMO moratorium. Graphics by Wendy Osher.

Monsanto to file lawsuit against newly passed Maui GMO moratorium. Graphics by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

Monsanto Hawaiʻi responded to the passage of a moratorium on genetically modified organisms in Maui County by releasing a statement this morning, and also confirming that a lawsuit will be filed challenging the legality of the initiative.

Monsanto Hawaiʻi Business and Technology Lead vice president John P. Purcell PhD said that with more than 1,000 local employees living and working on Maui, Molokaʻi and Oʻahu, he expressed concern about the passage of the initiative and potential impact on the community and farming in the state.

“While we understand that people of Maui County have concerns about GMOs, we are confident in the safety of our products and our practices that have been reviewed and approved by federal and state agencies,” said Purcell in a statement.

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“To protect our employees and farms, and in support of thousands of local residents who opposed this initiative, Monsanto plans to file a lawsuit challenging the legality of this harmful ban,” said Purcell in an email statement.

The statement comes on the heels of a vote in favor of the Maui GMO initiative that calls for a moratorium on the cultivation of genetically engineered organisms and their associated pesticide use in Maui County.   The initiative calls for the moratorium until industry funded and county administered safety studies are conducted and reviewed.

Mark Sheehan PhD from the Shaka Movement, the group that introduced the citizens’ initiative responded to the statement during an interview with Lisa Kubota of Hawaiʻi News Now this morning, saying that “it is now the responsibility of the county to act on the decision of the people” to protect their health by launching an investigation to determine if chemicals used by GMO companies are detrimental or beneficial to the public’s health.

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Purcell said that as a longtime community member, he is proud of Monsanto’s operations and of its contributions to the islands. “We believe this referendum is invalid and contrary to long established state and federal laws that support both the safety and lawful testing and planting of GMO plants,” he said.

“If effective,” Purcell said, “the referendum will have significant negative consequences for the local economy, Hawaiʻi agriculture and our business on the island. We are committed to ongoing dialogue as we take steps to ask the court to declare that this initiative is legally flawed and cannot be enforced. Monsanto and other allied parties will be joining together in this effort.”

Sheehan commented in the HNN televised interview about the money used to campaign against the moratorium saying despite an $8 million campaign against the initiative, people still voted to approve the law.  “We would ask that the county, the mayor talk to the attorneys and find out how in fact the spirit of this bill and the intent of this bill can be carried out.”

Anti-GMO groups had gathered more than 9,000 valid signatures from the public in support of the moratorium prior to the vote. In an earlier statement the SHAKA group claimed GMO farming operations make up only 1% of the nearly 900 registered farms on Maui, and that no family farmers would be affected by the moratorium.

Similar legislation on the Island of Kauaʻi was deemed invalid by a federal judge earlier this year.  That ruling effectively blocked the county from enforcing an ordinance that would have regulated the use of pesticides and farming of commercial GMO crops on that island.

Purcell said Monsanto remains firm in its commitment to ongoing dialogue.

***Click here for full election results and highlights.

***Click here for voter turnout numbers.

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