A biotech group backed by Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences spent a record-breaking $7 million in its failed attempt to defeat a Maui County voter initiative that will temporarily ban genetically engineered farming — if it survives a legal challenge by the companies.
Citizens Against the Maui County Farming Ban, a political action committee financed overwhelmingly by global seed companies Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, spent more than $7.2 million seeking to convince voters to reject the bill, according to the group’s campaign spending report filed late last week.
That’s more than any other campaign in Hawaii history.
A Monsanto field worker pollinates corn on Molokai last summer.
PF Bentley/Civil Beat
The measure still passed Nov. 4 by a margin of 1,077 votes. It is being challenged in federal court.
According to Tony Baldomero of the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission, former Gov. Linda Lingle previously held the record for the most money spent on any campaign, having shelled out about $6.5 million in 2006 for her re-election.
Citizens Against the Maui County Farming Ban paid $327.95 per “no” vote.
The group’s latest campaign spending report shows that it actually raised more than $8 million for the failed campaign.
It’s not yet clear how the biotech industry’s fundraising and spending compares with anti-GMO advocates because not all of the latter’s campaign spending data was available Friday. Previous campaign spending reports showed supporters of the moratorium had only spent 1.3 percent of what opponents had spent.
Even though the ballot initiative passed, the county has agreed not to enforce the bill until March after Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences and several local organizations sued to block it.
The delay provides time for Judge Barry Kurren to rule on whether the bill is legal. Kurren has already struck down regulations on the seed industry passed in Kauai and the Big Island, ruling that such county measures improperly preempt state law.
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the amount Citizens Against the Maui County Farming Ban paid per vote.
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