The Biotechnology Industry Organization spent nearly $8 million last year lobbying federal officials, making it one of the top 50 spenders on national lobbying, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Now the influential global trade group that includes more than 1,000 biotechnology companies has turned its sights on Hawaii.

The organization joined nine local groups and individuals from the Big Island last week to challenge Hawaii County’s ban on genetically modified farming.

The county passed the law known as Bill 113 last year as part of a broader movement against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) across the state.

A papaya tree on the Big Island. Papayas are exempted from the ban on genetically engineered crops.

Sophie Cocke/Civil Beat

On Kauai, Syngenta Inc. and other agribusinesses are suing the county to overturn a recent law requiring more disclosure about pesticide use and genetic engineering practices. On Maui, local residents are pushing for a voter initiative that would ban GMO farming, which could cripple Monsanto Co. and Dow AgroSciences operations if it passes this fall.

But the Big Island is different. There are no biotechnology companies on the Big Island, and Bill 113 exempted existing genetically engineered crops like papayas. When the debate on Bill 113 unfolded in the county seat last September, few representatives from multinational companies testified in what was largely a fight between local farmers and a growing local anti-GMO movement.

The involvement of the global trade group, which comes just two months after the national anti-GMO advocacy group Center for Food Safety set up shop in Honolulu, is yet another indication of the significance of the Hawaii GMO debate on the national stage.

Karen Batra, spokeswoman for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said that the group joined…

Loading Biotech Trade Group Brings Muscle to Hawaii County GMO Fight

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