Voters to decide on Maui GMO debate in one month

Voters to decide on Maui GMO debate in one month
Published: Oct. 7, 2014 at 11:17 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The food fight over GMO's in Maui County will be put to an historic vote in one month.

Ashley Lukens, Hawaii Center for Food Safety Director, explained the significance, saying "Never in Maui's history have citizens been able to collect enough signatures to get an initiative on the ballot."

9,000 people signed a petition calling for a halt to seed production, while chemical companies conduct a health and environmental impact study.

Lukens said, "Hawaii hosts more genetic engineering test sites than any other state. We had 1,124 field tests last year. California had 184."

UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Horiculturist Richard Manshardt gave his take. Ranshardt said, "In fact, all crops, including organic ones use pesticides to control problems that growers of all kinds have. These problems, many of which are cited in the initiative aren't unique to GMO crops."

The Citizens Against the Maui County Farming ban initiative say it's 'anti-farming' and would cost the county 600 jobs.

Manshardt added, "Trying to restrict what the growers can use is not a wise choice for Maui."

Former State Attorney General Michael Lilly said of the proposed moratorium, "The law is very poorly written."

Lilly is featured in ads warning about legal consequences.

As he explains it, "Any citizen of Maui county that grows 3 papaya plants could be fined 85 thousand dollars and go to prison for a year."

Lukens counters, by saying "The language of the moratorium says you have to be knowingly propagating genetically engineered crops to be fined."

Lukens added, "The fact that it's being misrepresented in the media and that there's millions of dollars fueling that mischaracterization, I think is a reflection of the community's power."

The Hawaii Center for Food Safety just launched the "Coalition for Safer, Healthier Maui" to continue a grass roots fight, win or lose in November. Lukens said of the battle, "We don't have the kind of financial resources that Dow Chemical or Monsanto have, but we do have people power."

Some people on Maui are making their intentions known with graffiti around the island, with the historic GMO vote exactly one month away.

You can read the entire 11 page public notice about the proposed GMO moratorium at this link.

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