GMO Initiative to Remain on November Ballot
By Wendy Osher
An initiative seeking a moratorium on genetically engineered organisms will remain on the general election ballot in November following a ruling on Monday.
Judge Rhonda Loo issued the order dissolving a request made by the Citizens Against the Maui County Farming Ban and other GMO supporters seeking a temporary restraining order to remove the initiative from the ballot.
The suit claimed that wording of the initiative was misleading, confusing and deceptive toward voters.
Pro-GMO groups have claimed the initiative would jeopardize agricultural jobs and the livelihood of others who do business with Hawaii seed companies. Anti-GMO groups had gathered more than 9,000 valid signatures from the public in support of the moratorium.
The group SHAKA Movement said it is pleased that Judge Loo sided with the Maui County Clerk, and the thousands of Maui County residents who signed the petition.
“The judge clearly understands that Maui’s first-ever successful citizens’ initiative should not be blocked by a well-funded corporate campaign designed to thwart the democratic process,” SHAKA representatives said in a press release.
The statement went on to say, “The lawsuit’s exaggerated claims are part of the same strategy as their misleading television commercial and print campaigns.” SHAKA representatives asked the corporations that are claiming safe practices why they won’t “simply cooperate” with Maui citizens who signed the petition and conduct the Environmental and Public Health Impacts Study, “rather than spending millions of dollars to lobby and file legal suits against the moratorium.”
The SHAKA group claims GMO farming operations make up only 1% of the nearly 900 registered farms on Maui, and that no family farmers will be affected by the moratorium.
During court proceedings this week, Judge Loo heard the county’s motion to dissolve the TRO, and in addition to granting the motion, she also granted a motion for SHAKA to intervene. This allows SHAKA to argue at a hearing scheduled to take place at a later date.
In addition to the pro-GMO TRO, SHAKA filed a TRO of their own seeking injunctive relief and a change in the ballot language.
In a press release statement, the group Citizens Against the Maui County Farming Ban said, “in their (SHAKA’s) complaint filed on Sept. 14, 2014, the proponents are attempting to rewrite the ballot title, but this entirely contradicts their own accompanying brief in which they claim the ballot title could not be any clearer.”
Representatives with the Citizens Against the Maui County Farming Ban say the TRO filed against them was dissolved, with a hearing scheduled on Oct. 10. The group said they filed a motion to intervene in the matter.
As currently written, the ballot question reads as follows:
- Maui: Voter Initiative, Genetically Engineered Organisms: Should the proposed initiative prohibiting the cultivation or reproduction of genetically engineered organisms within the County of Maui, which may be amended or repealed as to a specific person or entity when required environmental and public health impact studies, public hearings, a two thirds vote and a determination by the County Council that such operation or practice meets certain standards, and which establishes civil and criminal penalties, be adopted for Maui County?