A federal judge will consider arguments March 10 regarding whether to throw out a lawsuit challenging Maui County’s newly approved moratorium on cultivating genetically engineered crops.
The motion to dismiss the lawsuit was filed by the SHAKA Movement, a group of Maui County residents that worked to get the moratorium on the ballot this year. It was approved despite the biotech industry spending $7 million to defeat it.
The lawsuit brought by Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences and numerous Maui County organizations argues that the moratorium would “cause immediate and traumatic harm to the local economy, and to many individuals who rely on GE crops to support themselves and their families.”
A Mycogen Seed field worker pollinates corn on Molokai in July.
PF Bentley/Civil Beat
The moratorium is part of a growing backlash against Hawaii’s $243 million seed industry by residents who are fearful of the public health and environmental impacts of farming genetically modified seeds.
Judge Barry Kurren allowed the SHAKA Movement to intervene in the case to defend the Maui County moratorium in part because Mayor Alan Arakawa had previously derided the bill as a “nightmare.”
The national nonprofit Center for Food Safety and several local groups, including Moms on a Mission Hui, also sought to defend the moratorium but Kurren denied their request.
Once the SHAKA Movement became a party in the lawsuit, the group disagreed with Kurren serving as the judge. Kurren ruled earlier this year that county ordinances regulating GMO and pesticides on Kauai and the Big Island improperly preempted state law.
The case was reassigned to Judge Susan Molloway, who will hear the SHAKA Movement’s motion in March.
In addition to trying to get the case dismissed, the SHAKA Movement is asking if the case can be delayed until the group’s lawsuit in state court against Maui County, Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences is resolved. That suit seeks to require the county to enforce the ordinance and to allow the SHAKA Movement to consult on its implementation.
In its motion to dismiss the case, the SHAKA Movement also seeks to throw out a stipulation between Maui County and biotech companies to hold off on enforcing the moratorium until March 31.
The group’s spokesman, Mark Sheehan, said he wants the moratorium to be enforced so the county can move forward with the required health and environmental studies on genetically engineered farming.
“We had 23,000 people vote for this,” he said. “Do our laws mean nothing?”