Two organizations have separately filed motions in federal court seeking to defend Maui County’s temporary moratorium on genetically engineered crops after expressing doubt as to the county’s commitment to the ordinance.

Maui County voters approved the moratorium on Nov. 4 despite the seed industry raising nearly $8 million to defeat it. The bill calls for a moratorium to be imposed until the county studies the environmental and public health impact of farming genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Sign near house in Kaunakakai, Molokai

A sign protests Monsanto along the main road in Kaunakakai, Molokai on July 4, 2014.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, which both operate on Maui County, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Nov. 13 challenging the ban. The county and the companies subsequently agreed that it won’t go into effect until March 31.

Five Maui County residents — Dr. Lorrin Pang, Mark Sheehan, Lei’ohu Ryder, Bonnie Marsh and Alika Atay — and the SHAKA Movement filed a motion to intervene on Friday, as well as a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

“Given the County’s strong prior opposition and agreement to allow a temporary injunction to delay the implementation of the ordinance, we look forward to the opportunity to express our own position,” the group said in a press release. The SHAKA Movement, which successfully got the bill on the ballot, also has a lawsuit pending in state court seeking to require the county to enforce the moratorium.

A separate coalition of Maui County residents represented by the national nonprofits Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice also filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit to defend Maui County’s moratorium. The nonprofits have also intervened in similar lawsuits on Kauai and the Big Island.

“Maui County’s betrayal of its own people by agreeing to delay the moratorium without a whimper of resistance proves it cannot be trusted to properly defend our clients’ interests,” said Earthjustice managing attorney Paul Achitoff in a press release. “The people of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai have spoken, in the face of enormous industry pressure: They want the spraying and growing to stop until the impacts are properly studied. Since Maui County won’t defend the law, we’ll have to do its job and make the arguments in court.”

Maui County spokesman Rod Antone has previously said that the county will defend the law and has spent months figuring out how to enforce it. But many residents doubt the county’s commitment given that Mayor Alan Arakawa has publicly said he thought the ordinance was impractical.

Read the motions to intervene and their supporting memos below:

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