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Maui Ballot Initiative to Ban GMOS Passes

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

A Maui County ban on genetically modified crops pulled off a stunning turnaround late Tuesday night. After trailing by 19 points in the first two printouts, the ballot initiative took the lead, passing by more than 1000 votes.

The new legislation would put a temporary moratorium on GMO crops, until a study is done to analyze the health and environmental impacts on the county.

Ashley Lukens is the Hawaii program director for the Center for Food Safety, a national organization that supports stronger regulation on GMO’s.

Opponents of the initiative argue it unfairly targets seed companies operating on the islands and could impact the county’s economy. Monsanto alone employs more than 500 people in Maui county. John P. Purcell is the vice president of Monsanto Hawai‘i Business and Technology. He says the company plans to challenge the initiative in court.


The campaign against the bill was one of the most expensive in the state, with companies like Monsanto and Dow Agrosciences spending close to $8 million dollars in their attempt to defeat the ballot measure.


On Wednesday, Monsanto Hawaii emailed the following response from  John P. Purcell, vice president of Monsanto Hawaii Business and Technology:

With more than 1,000 local employees living and working in Maui, Molokai and Oahu, we are concerned about the passage of this initiative and the impact it could have on the community and farming in Hawaii.  While we understand that people of Maui County have concerns about GMOs, we are confident in the safety of our products and our practices that have been reviewed and approved by federal and state agencies. 

As a longtime community member, we are proud of our operations and of our contributions to the islands.  We believe this referendum is invalid and contrary to long established state and federal laws that support both the safety and lawful testing and planting of GMO plants.  If effective, the referendum will have significant negative consequences for the local economy, Hawaii agriculture and our business on the island.  We are committed to ongoing dialogue as we take steps to ask the court to declare that this initiative is legally flawed and cannot be enforced.  Monsanto and other allied parties will be joining together in this effort.

Monsanto remains firm in our commitment to ongoing dialogue with our neighbors, and we will continue to listen to and talk with the members of our community. 

Dow Agrosciences also sent the following statement:

Dow AgroSciences is confident in the safety of our farming operations on Maui County and the safety of our products that have been reviewed and approved by federal and state agencies.  With more than 170 local employees living and working in Molokai and Kauai, we understand the negative impact that this ban would have on the community, the local economy and on agriculture in Hawaii.  As a longtime community member, we are proud of our operations and of our contributions to the islands.  Dow AgroSciences is committed to an ongoing dialogue concerning these issues.  However, we believe that the ban would be illegal, and we intend to protect our legal rights.

Molly Solomon
Molly Solomon joined HPR in May 2012 as an intern for the morning talk show The Conversation. She has since worn a variety of hats around the station, doing everything from board operator to producer.
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