GMO Initiative Backers on Maui Seek Intervention in Federal Court Order

November 22, 2014, 12:16 AM HST · Updated November 22, 12:22 AM
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Kahului, Maui - Rally against GMOs. Photo by Rodney Yap.

Kahului, Maui – Rally against GMOs. Photo by Rodney Yap.

By Wendy Osher

Proponents of the recently passed GMO Initiative on Maui are seeking intervention in a federal court lawsuit filed by Monsanto Hawaiʻi after a judge granted a request preventing the referendum from taking effect until the full legal merits of the lawsuit are considered.

Residents Dr. Lorrin Pang, Mark Sheehan, Leiʻohu Ryder, Bonnie Marsh, Alika Atay, and the SHAKA Movement, filed motions on Friday to intervene and to dismiss the federal lawsuit.

Honolulu attorney Michael Carroll, who is representing the plaintiffs said the group is asking the federal court to “abstain from resolving the important state issues that directly impact the county’s ability to protect its natural environment and avoid irreparable harm to public trust resources.”

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On November 4th, Maui voters approved the voter initiative to temporarily suspend the growth, testing, or cultivation of genetically engineered crops in Maui until an environmental and public health study can show that they are safe.

Soon after proponents and opponents alike took the matter to the courts with initiative backers filing a lawsuit in Second Circuit court seeking “declaratory relief to assure transparency and the proper implementation,” of the newly passed initiative; and Monsanto executives filing a federal lawsuit seeking to delay any enforcement of the measure and ultimately to have it declared unenforceable.

Carroll said the newly filed motion “asserts that interests of the majority of Maui County voters who approved the ordinance are not properly represented in the agreement reached between the Maui county officials, and the industry opponents.”

According to Carroll, the second filing asserts that vital constitutional interests are to be properly considered under Hawaiʻi State Law, including the state’s obligation to provide for the “protection and promotion of the public health” as outlined in the Hawaiʻi Constitution.

“We are pleased to finally have our voices heard in the federal lawsuit,” said Mark Sheehan, spokesperson for the citizen group in a press release statement. “Given the county’s strong prior opposition and agreement to allow a temporary injunction to delay the implementation of the ordinance, we look forward to the opportunity to express our own position,” he said.

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