U.S. District Court Judge Susan Oki Mollway specified in a ruling that Maui’s county ban on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops is pre-empted by federal and state law and is invalid. The court used procedural grounds to overturn the voter initiated ban on genetically modified crops.
The ordinance was initially based on Maui voters with 23,082 people voting yes and 22,005 voting no; a margin of victory of a little more than 1,000 votes. The measure imposed a moratorium on the growing of genetically engineered crops until scientific studies are conducted on their safety and benefits. The ordinance would only allow the moratorium to be lifted after a vote by the Maui County Council.
Judge Mollway addressed only the legal question of county authority. “No portion of this ruling says anything about whether GE organisms are good or bad or about whether the court thinks the substance of the ordinance would be beneficial to the county,” she said.
“The decision today 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,” said attorney Michael C. Carroll. “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 Hawaii Constitutional mandate placing obligations and duties on the counties to protect the natural environment.”
“The District Court’s ruling is a big blow to Maui County voters that adopted this ordinance given the dangers involved with GMO operations,” said Mark Sheehan, spokesperson for SHAKA. “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.”