Maui News

Hawaii Senate Kills GMO Labeling Bill

March 21, 2013, 2:43 PM HST
* Updated March 21, 9:01 PM
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By Nate Gaddis

GMO protestors march along Kamehameha Avenue in Hilo the weekend prior to the bill's hearing in the Senate on 3/21/2013. Photo by Nate Gaddis.

GMO protestors march along Kamehameha Avenue in Hilo the weekend prior to the bill’s hearing in the Senate on 3/21/2013. Photo by Nate Gaddis.

After a packed joint hearing between multiple Senate committees, members voted to kill House Bill 174 in a session today at the state Capitol.

HB 174 would have required labeling for genetically engineered imported foods.

The senators, who were swayed in part by an opinion from the state attorney general calling the bill “unconstitutional” have indicated they will push for a concurrent resolution to study the matter.

Big Island Sen. Josh Green offered a statement of dissent.

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Despite passing the House with only one “no” vote, the Senate had previously refused to hear the measure in committee.

Sen. Clarence Nishihara

Sen. Clarence Nishihara

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Two committee chairpersons have been under fire for accepting donations from the much-maligned Monsanto Corporation, including Senate Agricultural Committee Chairman Clarence Nishihara, and Maui’s Senator Roz Baker, chairwoman of the Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection.

Baker apparently received $2,500 from Monsanto in 2012, while Nishihara received $1,500.

Monsanto has been criticized for running what activists claim are thousands of Hawaii-based field experiments to test GMO crops.

Sen. Josh Green. Courtesy photo.

Sen. Josh Green. Courtesy photo.

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Big Island Sen. Josh Green, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, had repeatedly stated interest in hearing HB 174. Fellow Big Island Sen. Russell Ruderman had also voiced his support for it.

Nishihara had previously declined to hear the measure, telling Honolulu Civil Beat his opposition to it was rooted in science, claiming “studies have not shown any ill effects.”

In a Honolulu Star Advertiser report yesterday, Nishihara was instead quoted as explaining his concerns were legal in nature, pointing to an opinion from the state attorney general that the bill could be found unconstitutional.

Attorney General David Loule had warned lawmakers that the federal government has the final say in food labeling matters, and that the bill could infringe on interstate commerce rules and the First Amendment.

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