GMO Moratorium Supporters Plan Public Demonstrations this Week

February 4, 2015, 9:17 AM HST · Updated February 4, 9:19 AM
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SHAKA GMO moratoriumBy Debra Lordan

In response to a recent decision by Maui County attorneys, events will be held this week–including a “litigation teach-in” at UH Maui College and a rally at the Maui County Building–in defense of the GMO Moratorium Initiative that was passed in the November 2014 general election.

Nine days after the Maui initiative passed, Monsanto, Dow-owned Agrigenetics and several related organizations and businesses sued Maui County, seeking to have the moratorium thrown out.

In a court filing on Friday, Jan. 30, Maui County announced that it is taking “no position” on a motion for summary judgment filed by attorneys representing the seed companies, businesses and organizations.

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According to a press release issued by the Center for Food Safety on Friday, “Maui County Fails to Defend the Will of its Citizens; Caves to Pesticide Industry,” the Center for Food Safety, Maui United, Babes Against Biotech, SHAKA Movement, Ocean Defender and the Coalition for a Safer Healthier Maui are outraged over the decision.

“The people of Maui passed this law through the proper ballot initiative power; the county attorneys, as public servants, have a duty to defend it,” said George Kimbrell, attorney with Center for Food Safety. “This is highly unusual and reveals the power the pesticide industry has on the island.”

“The county has assured its citizens that it will protect profits over people and ignore our demand for home rule” said Ashley Lukens, program director of the Hawai‘i Center for Food Safety and head of the Coalition for a Safer, Healthier Maui.

“If we, the people, made a statement through a democratic process and those who are to work for us deny that process to go forward, it begs the question: who do they really work for?” said Alika Atay of SHAKA.

“The people of Maui have spoken through the most democratic and fundamental avenue we have: a vote,” said Autumn Ness of Maui United. “The people want a moratorium on GMO crops and it is the county’s job to defend our position.”

The first event of public demonstration will be a “teach-in” at UH Maui College, Thursday, Feb. 5, at 6 p.m., with speakers from the SHAKA and Center for Food Safety legal teams. The teach-in” will focus on the legal cases surrounding the moratorium, SHAKA’s intervener status, and “how Maui County’s Corporation Counsel is failing to do their job,” the “Defend the Maui GMO Moratorium” Facebook page stated.

The “teach-in” will also offer “Council Testimony 101” in preparation for Friday’s County Council meeting.

The event, sponsored by UH Maui Hawaiian Studies, will be held in Ka Lama 107.

On Friday, Feb. 6, beginning at 7:15 a.m., moratorium supporters will greet elected officials as they come to work, the Facebook post stated.

“If they have forgotten who they work for, we will remind them,” the Facebook post stated. Supporters are asked to meet on the front lawn of the County Building for a peaceful, organized show of unity and resolve.

At 9 a.m., moratorium supported plan to move to County Council Chambers.

“Our Maui County Council will be in session that day, and on the agenda: ‘adoption of resolution approving the appointment of Patrick K. Wong as the Corporation Counsel,'” the post continued. “This is a big chance to voice our disapproval of how our county attorneys are ignoring the will of the people by refusing to defend the moratorium. Testifying to County Council is an important part of the political process.”

“We gave them a position when we voted ‘yes’ in November,” the post read. “Friday, we remind them.”

The ballot initiative prohibiting the growth, testing or cultivation of genetically engineered crops in Maui County until an environmental and public health study can show that the planting operations are safe for the community. The initiative would have suspended all GE operations in the county pending a safety impact review.

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