Kauai County will be taking law firms up on their offers for free legal help defending an ordinance regulating the use of pesticides and genetically modified crops by large agricultural businesses.
While the bill was going through the process of being passed, several firms offered attorneys to fight legal challenges, county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka said.
The county will be soliciting those pro-bono services now that three biotech companies have filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to block the county from implementing the law when it goes into effect in August.
Environmental lawyers, including Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff, are also providing pro-bono assistance to defend the ordinance, while not directly representing the county.
The lawsuit filed Friday by Syngenta Seeds Inc., Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. and Agrigenetics Inc. says the law is designed to discriminate against genetically modified seed-farming operations on Kauai, which the companies argue present no health, safety or environmental risks. The suit also claims disclosing pesticide use and GMOs would create a risk for “commercial espionage, vandalism and misappropriation of … valuable trade secrets.”
A scheduling conference for the lawsuit is set for April 14 in U.S. District Court in Honolulu.
Meanwhile, a voluntary agreement between the state Department of Agriculture and four seed companies operating on Kauai will continue, Carvalho said.
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