Biotech companies Monsanto and Agrigenetics, an affiliate of Dow AgroSciences, have filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to throw out Maui County’s recently passed moratorium on genetically modified farming.
Other plaintiffs include Robert Ito Farm in Kula, Maui that grows genetically engineered sweet corn; the Maui County chapter of Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation; the Molokai Chamber of Commerce; Friendly Isle Auto Parts & Supplies on Molokai; Hikiola Cooperative, Molokai’s farming co-op; New Horizon Enterprises, also known as Maakoa Trucking and Services on Molokai; and a group called Concerned Citizens of Molokai and Maui made up of 300 residents.
“Because the ban would cause immediate and irreparable harm, the plaintiffs are also requesting the court to enter a temporary injunction to prevent enforcement of the ordinance until the case is resolved,” said Dow AgroSciences spokeswoman Robyn Heine in an email. “Plaintiffs firmly believe that their farming practices are safe and that the ban violates federal and Hawaii state law.”
Molokai Hikiola farm co-op manager Tina Tamanaha told Civil Beat in July that she was afraid her business would suffer if a moratorium on GMO crops passed. Her co-op is now one of the plaintiffs in a case to invalidate the moratorium.
PF Bentley/Civil Beat
Maui County residents narrowly approved a ballot initiative on Nov. 4 that imposes a temporary moratorium on genetically engineered farming until the county studies the public health and environmental impact of the crops and the County Council agrees that they’re safe.
Monsanto and Agrigenetics, which operates on Molokai as Mycogen Seeds, collectively own or lease about 3,400 acres in Maui County and employ more than 400 people. The majority of their crops are genetically engineered. Before the moratorium passed, the companies raised nearly $8 million to defeat it and warned that it would force them to shut down their operations and lay off workers.
“This ban will cause immediate and traumatic harm to the local economy, and to many individuals who rely on GE crops to support themselves and their families,” the complaint says. “It will also irreparably harm seed companies which rely upon the unique climate on Maui and Molokai and the highly specialized capabilities of their local facilities to breed the highest quality and most suitable seed for U.S. and international agriculture. And, it will render valueless multi-million dollar investments made by seed companies in those facilities.”
The complaint says that the moratorium violates federal, state and county law and that its findings are “directly at odds with decades of settled science and more than one hundred federal agency expert scientific determinations.”
The lawsuit comes a day after five Maui County residents and a nonprofit called the SHAKA Movement sued the county, Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences in state court seeking to ensure that the ban would be enforced.
Maui County spokesman Rod Antone said Wednesday that the county is waiting until the election results are certified to enforce the moratorium, which imposes fines as high as $50,000 per day on violators.
Antone said Thursday that he couldn’t comment on the ongoing lawsuit.
“We’ve been sued by both sides,” he said. “Everything is pending litigation.”