Lawsuit filed against Maui biotech ban

Monsanto, DowAgrosciences and local groups sue to delay enforcement of GMO planting ban.

Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences along with local individuals, groups and businesses including the Maui Farm Bureau, filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Honolulu to challenge the recently passed referendum that would ban biotech plantings in Maui County, Hawaii.

Voters narrowly approved the moratorium on biotech crop cultivation, with the vote separated by just 1,077 votes.

The suit seeks to delay any enforcement of the measure and ultimately to have it declared unenforceable, Monsanto said in an email statement to Feedstuffs.

“This local referendum interferes with and conflicts with long established state and federal laws that support both the safety and lawful cultivation of GMO plants. For this reason, we believe it is invalid and should never become law. We have full confidence in the merits of our legal claims and that a rational outcome will block the referendum from taking effect,” Monsanto spokeswoman  Charla Lord said.

Monsanto has more than 1,000 local employees living and working in Maui, Molokai and Oahu. Lord said Monsanto understands “the significant negative consequences this referendum, if enacted, will have on the citizens, local economy, Hawaii agriculture and business on the island.”

Robyn Heine, global public affairs leader at Dow AgroSciences said, because the ban would cause immediate and irreparable harm, the plaintiffs are also requesting the court to enter a temporary injunction to prevent enforcement of the ordinance until the case is resolved. "Plaintiffs firmly believe that their farming practices are safe and that the ban violates federal and Hawaii state law.”

Jim Greenwood, president and chief executive officer of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, added, "The science of genetic engineering led to development of the Rainbow papaya, which is credited with saving Hawaii’s papaya industry. This technology has the potential to help other plants and crops – such as orchids, citrus, strawberries, coffee and bananas – withstand pests and disease. Now, Maui County farmers will be prohibited from using those improvements."

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