A federal judge has extended an injunction blocking Maui County’s voter-approved moratorium on genetically engineered farming from going into effect for at least another three months.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Susan Mollway based her decision on two bills introduced in the Legislature this session that sought to block counties from regulating agriculture. Both bills are effectively dead this year but she noted that the issue could still resurface.
“In light of the possibility that legislation may affect this case, even if ultimately through legislative vehicles other than those two bills, this court continues the hearing on the pending motions in this case until the legislative session has concluded, and extends the injunction staying the enactment, implementation, and enforcement of the ordinance at the heart of this case,” Mollway wrote.
Anti-GMO demonstrators hold signs protesting lawsuits by biotech companies during opening day at the Hawaii State Capitol in January.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
The injunction was originally supposed to be lifted on March 31. Mollway pushed back the next hearing on the motions of the case to June 15.
The SHAKA Movement, a community organization that created the ballot initiative and intervened in the case to defend the ordinance, advocated against the extension of the injunction in a 13-page brief.
“At stake is ongoing damage to the environment, potentially serious health problems associated with continuing practices, threats to Native Hawaiian culture and practices, and the integrity of our own election process,” the organization’s attorneys wrote in a brief.
The brief reflected the fears of many Maui County voters who approved the moratorium on genetically modified farming last fall despite biotech companies spending more than $7 million to defeat it. The ordinance calls on the county to conduct a public health and environmental impact study of GMO farming.