Categorized | Agriculture

Council passes bill restricting GMO crops

Hawaii 24/7 Staff

The Hawaii County Council has passed Bill 113 — which restricts expansion of transgenic crops on the island by limiting their use to enclosed structures, such as a greenhouse.

The vote, which comes after months of public meetings and vocal input from both sides, was 6-3.

The ‘no’ votes came from Chairman J Yoshimoto and Councilman Dennis Onishi, both of Hilo and Councilman Greggor Ilagan, of Puna.

The bill goes immediately to Mayor Billy Kenoi for his consideration. He can sign it, veto it, or let it go into effect without his signature.

Opponents to GMO crops attended numerous council hearings to voice their concern about food safety, the potential dangers of herbicide-resistant crops and the potential compromise of crops labeled organic.

Conversely, supporters said limiting the GMO options may put the Big Island’s small farmers and growers at a disadvantage, although would not negatively impact big biotech companies. Also, the restriction likely will thwart research and testing.

Five years ago, the council banned transgenic coffee and taro.

Under Bill 113, farmers already growing GMO crops are exempted from the new ban. For example, much of the island’s papaya crop is of a transgenic variety resistant to ringspot virus.

The county Department of Research and Development would be directed to maintain a registry for exempted growers.

Violators would be fined $1,000 a day for each violation.

In her latest community newsletter, Councilwoman Margaret Wille included the following information:

“Bill 113, Draft 3 (MW Bill) Prohibits Open Air Genetically Engineered Crops and Plants.

“Bill 113 Draft 3 is a modest compromise that will act as a starting point for further discussions in the proposed ad hoc committee. Essentially this Bill maintains the status quo – generally grandfathering in all current GMO crop cultivation, but saying no to the introduction of further GMO crops.

“This ‘hold in place’ status means no disruption of current ag practices by anyone, but allows the council to proceed in a cautious manner.

“Clearly, however, these multinational agro-chemical corporations do not like to be held accountable by government at any level, and even a modest step – as represented by Bill 113 – is perceived as unacceptable.”

In her newsletter, Wille also urged Kenoi so sign the bill.

“Given the limited nature of this legislation, and in light of the Council’s commitment to continue this important conversation in an Ad Hoc Council committee that will address the various GMO related facets of ag practices on this Island, including exploring the potential options for co-existence of GMO and non-GMO crops,” she said, “I would hope Mayor Kenoi has the courage to sign this Bill.”

(Video courtesy of Big Island Video News)

One Response to “Council passes bill restricting GMO crops”

  1. willcompton says:

    Hawaii 24/7 usually writes decent articles, but the last paragraph on this one seems to have slipped by the editors.

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