Seed companies and their allies have raised nearly $8 million to defeat a Maui County voter initiative that seeks to temporarily ban GMO farming, according to reports filed with the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission on Monday.
The money raised is along the lines of how much seed companies have been spending to battle GMO-related ballot initiatives across the country, but is unheard-of in Hawaii politics.
“This is historic,” said Tony Baldomero, associate director of the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission. “This is the highest (amount raised) that I have ever seen since I have been here, by any candidate committee, ballot issue committee, non-candidate committee, even super PAC.”
Maui County’s ballot initiative seeks to impose a temporary moratorium on growing genetically engineered seeds until the county conducts a public health and environmental study of its impact.
The bill is the latest county measure seeking to crack down on Hawaii’s $243 million seed industry, which has been the target of growing activism statewide by residents who are worried about the consequences of pesticides sprayed on genetically modified crops.
According to campaign spending data detailing expenditures from Aug. 10 to Oct. 20 this year, a group called Citizens Against the Maui County Farming Ban has spent more than $6.3 million to defeat the Maui County initiative.
That’s nearly 10 percent of the $64.4 million that all Hawaii political candidates have spent on campaigns according to data from the Campaign Spending Commission that covers Nov. 8, 2006 to Aug. 9, 2014.
The group still had $1.5 million available as of Oct. 20.
Although the organization bills itself as a citizens group, the vast majority of its money comes from global seed companies Monsanto and DowAgroSciences, which have businesses on Maui and Molokai that…
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