Oversight of genetically modified crops in Hawaii remains the state’s kuleana, a federal judge ruled last week when invalidating Hawaii County’s law restricting the use of transgenic plants.
The ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren mirrored another decision he made in August overturning Kauai County’s law on pesticides and modified crops. In both, he found lawmakers intended the state to have broad oversight of agricultural issues in Hawaii.
“In light of the comprehensive statutes and the network designed to address statewide agricultural problems, the court concludes that legislative intent for an exclusive, uniform and comprehensive state statutory scheme on the precise subject matter addressed by Ordinance 13-121 pre-empts the county’s ban on genetically modified organisms,” the ruling said.
The law — adopted by Hawaii County Council a year ago — bans open-air use and testing of GMOs with a few exceptions. Kurren ruled the law was only partially pre-empted by federal law.
Supporters of the law, which went into effect Dec. 5, 2013, said they weren’t surprised given the ruling in the Kauai case.
“We were playing chess with the big boys,” said County Councilwoman Margaret Wille, who spearheaded the anti-GMO legislation. “There’s a lot of power there and you can’t expect that they (biotech companies) don’t have a lot of influence.” Wille, an attorney, said she was hoping for an appeal.
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