By Wendy Osher and Rodney S. Yap
An estimated 1,000 to 2,000 people participated in an anti-GMO march and rally held on Sunday as a deadline nears to obtain signatures for a petition calling for the suspension of genetically engineered operations and practices in Maui County.
The march started an hour late and took about an hour to complete, beginning at War Memorial Stadium in Wailuku and concluding at Hoaloha Park in Kahului.
“Today is a perfect example of how unity works for the community,” said march leader Dustin Barca.
“This is an event to bring the island of Maui together for the future of the keiki, the ʻāina and the water. What’s going on in Hawaiʻi right now is a real dangerous thing for our future. We have the largest chemical corporations in the world using Hawaiʻi as an experimental test site because of our three seasons. What they see as a numbers game, we see as a life game — it’s money versus life,” said Barca.
“And for us here in Hawaiʻi there is no substitute for the future of our kids and their kids. So this is a perfect example of thousands of Maui residents coming together to show their support for a better tomorrow for their ʻāina.”
The proposed temporary moratorium ordinance was crafted by the Shaka Movement  and lawyers from the Center for Food Safety, and was submitted to the county on Feb. 21.
The proposal was submitted by five Maui County residents including: Mark Sheehan Ph.D., Lorrin Pang M.D., Lei’oho Ryder, Alika Atay, and Dr. Bonnie Marsh N.D.
The group needs a total of 8,500 signatures by today’s deadline to have the initiative included on the November ballot.
The petition seeks a temporary moratorium initiative until an Environmental Public Health Impact Statement is provided and reviewed by the Maui County Council.
The document would include analysis of the impacts stemming from genetically-engineered operations and their associated pesticide use.
“I’m just one kanaka who cares,” said anti-GMO protester Keoki Medeiros who tells Maui Now that he has seen the island’s awareness grow from around a dozen locals 2 1/2 years ago to the 2,000-plus who marched in unity Sunday.
“I thought it was good as far as more people attending,” said Medeiros. “When I think back on how we started, from 10 to 15 people in front of Monsanto until now, I would say that it’s become quite a success when you consider the amount of knowledge and information going out more and more about these corporations poisoning our ʻāina.”
Barca said he was impressed by Maui’s enthusiasm and willingness to get involved.
“The turnout was awesome. I guarantee we had more than 2,000 people. It looked bigger than the last one we put on and that one was about 2,000 people, so it was an awesome turnout for an awesome cause. I don’t think there is any better cause in our state than what’s going on with GMO right now,” said Barca.
Mark Sheehan, one of the five citizens bringing forth the initiative issued a statement upon submitting the proposal in February saying, “The citizens of Maui County have serious concerns as to whether the GE seed operations, open-field mixing of pesticide cocktails, and GE crop experimentation occurring in Maui County are causing irreparable harm to the people, the environment, and public trust resources.”
The Hawai’i Constitution states that the Public Trust Resources (including but not limited
to the land, water, and air) “…shall be conserved and protected for current and future
generations,” said Sheehan in a SHAKA Movement press release last month.
The five citizens maintain that, “the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture does not have an adequate regulatory structure in place to monitor GE crops or to aid in the understanding of the impacts of these crops on Maui’s economy, environment, cultural heritage, or public health.”