East Hawaii News

Second Lawsuit Filed Against County’s Anti-GMO Law

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A lawsuit was filed in federal court Monday challenging the Hawaii County law restricting the use of genetically engineered crops on the Big Island.

The lawsuit filed by four agricultural organizations, a floral business and four individuals said the law is pre-empted by both state and federal law and also violates the US and Hawaii constitutions.

It asks the court to issue an injunction preventing the county from enforcing the law.

The lawsuit said the plaintiffs represent a broad cross-section of county farmers and related businesses that rely on GE crops, as well as technology companies that develop and test new GE products.


The groups include the Hawaii floriculture and Nursery Association, Hawaii Papaya Industry Corporation, Big Island Banana Growers Association, Hawaii Cattleman’s Council Inc. and the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

The lawsuit describes the BIO as the world’s largest biotechnology trade association which contains more than 1,200 members that include academic institutions, Fortune 500 corporations and related organizations in all fifty states and 33 foreign nations.

Other plaintiffs include Gordon Inouye of the floral nursery company Pacific Floral Exchange, which is also a plaintiff; nurseryman Eric Tanouye; farmer Richard Ha, who is a member of the banana growers group; and Jason Moniz, a member of the cattleman’s council who had plans to feed his cattle Big Island-grown GE corn.


The lawsuit said Tanouye, Inouye and others have been conducting testing of a genetically modified form of anthurium at their nurseries in an attempt to develop a strain resistant to nematodes and bacteria which threaten the anthurium industry.

However, under Bill 113, which became law in December, such research makes them subject to daily fines of $1,000.

The lawsuit said the bill poses similar threats to farmers working to develop transgenic orchids and bananas resistant to a number of diseases and pests.


The lawsuit maintains that GE crops are safe, as certified by a variety of scientific and governmental organizations.

“Bill 113 is backed by no findings or evidence that GE crops are in any way harmful, or in any way endanger the local environment,” it said.

Margery Bronster, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit in March in state court that resulted in a judge issuing a temporary restraining order preventing the enforcement of the portion of the new law requiring existing growers of GE crops from registering with the county.

Bronster is also involved in a lawsuit against Kauai County which restricts GE crops and pesticide use there.

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