By Wendy Osher
Demonstrators gathered at the intersection of the Mokulele and Piʻilani Highways on Maui in a rally against Monsanto today. The demonstration came following yesterday’s federal ruling that invalidates the Maui GMO initiative  passed by voters in November.
Members of the SHAKA movement have vowed to appeal the case which seeks a temporary moratorium on GMO crops in Maui County. In yesterday’s ruling, Judge Susan Oki Mollway said the ordinance exceeds the county’s authority. County officials said they plan to abide by the judge’s ruling.
An attorney for the SHAKA Movement issued a statement saying the group, “and the individual proponents of the Maui ordinance are deeply saddened by the Hawaiʻi District Court’s ruling… holding that the voter approved initiative placing a temporary moratorium on GMO operations until a safety study is completed cannot be enforced.”
The Federal District Court ruled that the Maui ordinance was preempted by federal law that regulates the importation and movement of noxious weeds and state law that regulates agriculture.
Attorney Michael C. Carroll, legal counsel for SHAKA said the decision, “not only ignores the will of the people, but places at risk all state and local regulations that seek to address the harmful impacts associated with GMO operations. The decision invalidates a local ordinance that sought to protect against serious harms caused by these practices. The decision ignores the harms to Maui county and the Hawaiʻi Constitutional mandate placing obligations and duties on the counties to protect the natural environment.”
In response to a request for comment, Carol Reimann, community affairs manager for Monsanto on Maui tells Maui now that, “As a member of this community for nearly 50 years, we are proud of our operations and of our contributions to the islands. We respect the demonstrators’ right to express their views and we remain firm in our commitment to ongoing dialogue with our neighbors as well as other community members.”
Mark Sheehan, spokesperson for SHAKA also commented saying, “The District Court’s ruling is a big blow to Maui County voters that adopted this ordinance given the dangers involved with GMO operations. We do intend to appeal this decision and are hopeful that the 9th Circuit will recognize the impact that today’s ruling has on the community.”
Legal counsel for the SHAKA group notes that opposition to the initiative spent more than $7.9 million on a campaign saying it was, “The most money that has ever been expended on a local initiative in the State of Hawai‘i.”
Following the initiative’s passage by voters in November, Monsanto and Dow sought an injunction in federal court to stop enforcement of the law. The Federal District Court agreed with the injunction, which is currently on appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court.
“The moratorium has not been implemented based on this injunction, and now the decision on the overall enforceability of the ordinance will be made by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals,” said attorney Carroll.
In a statement issued to Maui Now yesterday, John P. Purcell, PhD Vice President for Monsanto Hawaiʻi Business and Technology said, “We’re proud to be part of Hawaiʻi’s agricultural community, and look forward to continuing to support the communities in Maui, Molokaʻi and Oʻahu where our nearly 1,000 local employees live and work. We’re listening and we’ve heard the concerns some people have about GMOs and today’s farming practices. Our commitment to ongoing dialogue with our neighbors doesn’t stop today. We understand the responsibility we have to farm sustainably and to work collaboratively, and we welcome the opportunity to continue having conversations with members of the community.”