HAIKU, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A series of television commercials say Maui farms and the county's economy will suffer if voters vote "Yes" to a moratorium on cultivating and reproducing genetically engineered organisms in Maui County. The executive director of the Maui County Farm Bureau said that is not an overstatement.
"It could lead to loss of jobs. There is the possibility of ripple effects. It puts farmers at high-risk of remaining in business," Warren Watanabe said.
The citizens group Shaka Movement collected over 9,000 signatures to get the voter initiative onto the general election ballot. Shaka Movement member Bruce Douglas calls the TV ads propaganda.
"They are specifically written to deceive and trick people into thinking that it's a farming ban, into thinking it'll affect family farmers, and into people thinking there will be job loss, all of which are not true," he said.
Maui farmer Darrell Tanaka believes hundreds of jobs are at stake because a GMO ban could lead to other anti-farming measures.
"The same people who back the anti-GMO movement also back the anti-pesticide movement," he said. "What all small farmers don't want to see is a ban on pesticides."
Shaka Movement believes big money seed companies Monsanto and Dow Chemical are behind the commercials.
"Our best estimate is they have $2 million in their coffers to spend," Douglas said.
"Why fixate on where the money is coming from? What is most important is what the message says," Tanaka said.
Some Maui voters think the wording of the ballot question is confusing. Those on either side of the issue explain it this way.
"If you vote 'yes' you're basically voting against farming. If you vote 'no' you're voting for farming," Tanaka said.
"If you vote 'yes' it will cause a temporary suspension of GMO crops in Maui and Molokai until safety studies are conducted," Douglas said.
The advertisements are thirty and sixty seconds long. They are running during news blocks and in prime time.