Sunday, October 1, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Monsanto Sues to Reverse Hawaii Vote Banning Genetically Engineered Crops

HONOLULU (CN) - Joining a collective of workers, farmers and businesses, Monsanto has taken aim at a ballot initiative that bans new genetically engineered crops within Maui.

The ordinance, which 51.19 percent of voters approved on Nov. 4, is called "A Bill Placing a Moratorium on the Cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms."

Monsanto argues that the "ban will cause immediate and traumatic harm to the local economy," and will "render valueless multi-million dollar investments made by seed companies." It quotes Alan Arakawa, the mayor of Maui, as saying the ban will "probably bankrupt Molokai," a poor region of the county where the biggest industry is seed corn production for companies like Monsanto.

The agro-giant says it operates 784 acres of farmland on Maui and 2,296 acres of farmland on Molokai, employing approximately 365 people in the county.

According to its Nov. 13 federal complaint, the ban conflicts with court precedent that limits regulation of this area to the state and its Department of Agriculture.

"The ordinance even violates the county's own charter and associated state law, by ... appropriating money despite an explicit limitation on using the initiative power for that purpose, providing penalties far beyond what the charter allows, imposing improper constraints on the county council, supplanting the executive power of the mayor and assessing an invalid multimillion dollar tax on agricultural interests," the complaint states.

Other plaintiffs are Robert Ito Farm, which currently grows and sells genetically modified sweet corn; Maui Farm Bureau; Molokai Chamber of Commerce; Agrigenetics, which develops genetically modified seeds, operates close to 420 acres on Molokai and employs about 109 works in the county; Concerned Citizens of Molokai and Maui; Friendly Isle Auto Parts & Supplies, which claims to obtain 35 percent to 40 percent of its sales from companies in the GMO business; Makoa Trucking & Services; and Hikiola Cooperative, which claims Monsanto and Agrigenetics account for nearly half the purchases through the cooperative.

Neither Monsanto nor Agrigenetics have caused any harm in the county, according to the complaint.

"There is no legitimate evidence (cited in the ordinance or otherwise) that plaintiff's seed farming operations have ever harmed any plant, person or the environment," the complaint states. "Indeed, any such harm is implausible in light of the detailed regulatory regime applicable to these operations."

The plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief. They are represented by Margery Bronster of Bronster Hoshibata and Kenneth Robbins of Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing.

Categories / Uncategorized

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.