A federal judge has invalidated Maui County’s moratorium on genetically engineered crops that voters approved last fall.
Judge Susan Mollway said in a ruling filed Tuesday that the ordinance is “invalid and unenforceable” because it is preempted by state and federal law.
That’s similar to the reasoning that Judge Barry Kurren relied upon to strike down both Hawaii County’s partial ban on genetically modified farming and Kauai County’s pesticide disclosure law last year.
Mollway emphasized that the ruling is not a statement on whether genetically modified organisms are beneficial or detrimental.
“The court recognizes the importance of questions about whether GE activities and GMOs pose risks to human health, the environment, and the economy, and about how citizens may participate in democratic processes,” she said. “But any court is a reactive body that addresses matters before it rather than reaching out to grab hold of whatever matters may catch a judge’s fancy because the matters are interesting, important, or of great concern to many people.”
The decision disappointed Autumn Ness, a resident of Kihei, Maui, who canvassed 3,000 homes last year to help get the ballot initiative passed.
Maui County voters approved the bill last November by a margin of 1,077 votes. The biotech industry, including Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, spent more than $7 million attempting to defeat the measure, making it the most expensive political campaign in the state’s history.
Ness said that Mollway’s ruling is painful for people like her who made sacrifices, including quitting her job, to counter the biotech companies’ well-funded campaign and ensure that the initiative was approved.
“It feels like the politicians and the judges are…
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