Hawaii is its own rich ecosystem. By virtue of its geography, many unique plants make their homes there; the fertile volcanic soil and warm, moist climate allows for farming virtually year ‘round.
Last year, two significant Bills were passed in the state, limiting the development and use of genetically modified (GM) crops: Hawaii County on the Big Island of Hawaii passed Ordinance 13-121 (it began as Bill 113), which allows current GM farming to continue but prohibits any expansion.
Kaua’i County Bill 2491 restricts crop cultivation, requiring public disclosure and exclusionary zones; all commercial farmers must disclose their growing genetically modified organisms (GMO) in an annual detailed report.
Further, any farm employing restricted-use pesticides must establish buffer zones of between one hundred and two hundred-fifty feet between crops and certain institutions such as day care centers, residential neighborhoods, and medical facilities, depending on the land use. A hefty fine of $10-25,000 per day is stipulated for violations.
Hawai’ians Have Made Their Voices Clear.
Ordinance 13-121 in Hawai’i County prohibits the knowing open-air farming and testing of GMO, with three exceptions: existing GM papaya is exempt as long as the farm is registered; a grandfather clause that states that any established GM farms may continue as long as they register with the county; and an “emergency exemption” for non-GMO farmers to use restricted chemicals when no other alternative works.
In March, Maui began its own campaign to impose a moratorium on GM crops and seeds.
The Giants Aren’t Sleeping.
Big Ag isn’t taking all this lying down. Regardless of the reasoning behind these laws, “having GE [genetically-engineered] -free zones is critical for the sustainable future of U.S. agriculture, and to protect Hawai’i’s unique ecosystems”, DuPont, Syngenta, Agrigenetics (a division of Dow), and BASF have filed suit to challenge Bill 2491 on Kaua’i. Another group of monstrous biotech companies are now suing Hawai’i County:
”The lawsuit, driven largely by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the world’s largest trade association for the biotech industry representing companies like Monsanto, seeks to dissolve the county’s 2013 ordinance to open the island up for the expansion of genetically engineered crop production. These herbicide resistant crops result in intensive pesticide use, which threatens public health, contaminates water, and harms wildlife and neighboring crops. Most GE crops also threaten transgenic contamination of non-GE crops, which has already caused several billion dollars in damage to growers.”
Earlier this month, local farmers and environmental groups filed a motion with Hawai’i County opposing the lawsuit.
Not only has GM farming taken hold in Hawai’i but–because of its unique isolation–some areas are being used for testing new crops and seeds. This scene is very attractive to the biotech industry. The issue is not just the farming of GE plants themselves but the use of virulent and hazardous chemicals.
Using its political influence and production myths as a shield, Big Ag is a very powerful force, indeed. The “Big 6” now control the majority of the world market for commercially-raised plants: BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto, and Syngenta.
The choice comes down to individuals and local economies to stand up to these giants; the fate of the world’s food supply is in the hands of huge multi-national corporations who obviously couldn’t care any less about health, safety, quality, or honesty.
Evidence mounts of the hazards and failure of GMO to meet its touted promises of superiority, yet governments resist taking action. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.