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Originally published November 26 2014

Maui County residents vote to ban destructive GMO farming

by Jennifer Lilley

(NaturalNews) In a victory over GMO-favoring agriculture companies Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, the residents of Maui County, Hawaii, have won a ballot initiative to temporarily halt genetically engineered crops in the county. The effort against the companies was not only the first of its kind for Maui residents but resulted in Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences spending $7.9 million in an effort to bring down the bill, an amount that made history in Hawaii as the most ever spent on a campaign in the state.(1)

"I think that this is a really strong message to the entire agrochemical industry in the state of Hawaii that we are no longer going to sit idly by and watch them expand their operations without the kinds of regulations that ensure the health and safety of people across Hawaii," said Ashley Lukens, who directs the Hawaii chapter of the Center for Food Safety.(1)

The measure, which narrowly passed 50 percent to 48 percent, means that genetically engineered crops will temporarily be suspended in the county until its impact on the county's environment and resident's health is analyzed.(1) The bill to place a moratorium on the cultivation of genetically engineered organisms states that "The citizens of Maui County have serious concerns as to whether GE Operations and Practices and associated use and testing of Pesticides, occurring in Maui county are causing irreparable harm to the people, Environment, and Public Trust Resources."(2)

Opponents cling to skewed studies, fear economic hardship

Opponents of the measure include Citizens Against the Maui County Farming Ban, which while presented as a citizen's group is -- surprise, surprise -- funded by none other than Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences and political groups with strong ties to biotech companies.(1) Their website urged residents to vote "no" on the moratorium, saying in a video that "Regardless of what you think about GMOs or the seed companies, this deceptive initiative, with its severe penalties and restrictions on family and small and large farms, would badly hurt Maui county."(3)

The harsh tone continues with other videos housed on the site, including anti-moratorium TV spots filled with teary-eyed agriculture workers who fear having to inform family members about job loss and of residents with a long history of agriculture who warn of social and economic consequences that will likely occur. It's not the GMO farming that's destructive, they say, but rather the impact that will take place without it.

Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez, spokesman for Citizens Against the Maui County Ballot Initiative, expressed such concern for citizens while simultaneously thanking supporters of his group. In an email, he wrote, "We are deeply concerned for the 600-plus workers and their families, local businesses, farmers and taxpayers that will be negatively impacted by the passage of this scientifically unjustified, deeply flawed and irresponsible proposal."(1)

Generally, many opponents relentlessly cling tight to studies that hone in on the supposed safety of GMOs, hoping that the findings will reverse negative opinion. However, such studies are often filled with a lack of quality control, skewed data, and incorrect and overlooked variables, all of which are further muddied by power-hungry corporations and their related lobbying efforts.(4)

The importance of maintaining the anti-GMO momentum

The Maui victory comes just after Oregon and Colorado experienced GMO-labeling losses, demonstrating the ebbs and flows of this intensely heated battle between human and environmental health and the interests of biotech companies.

Of the Oregon and Colorado losses, Scott Faber, executive director of the Just Label It national advocacy organization, explains that he refuses to be content with the decision. He remains dedicated to helping all consumers stay on top of their health by knowing whether or not the food that they consume has GMOs, saying that "The fight will shift to the nation's capitol."(5)







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