Hawaii County Council Bill Banning GMO Gets Closer to Approval

Posted by kahea at Sep 10, 2008 08:18 PM |

From West Hawaii Today:

Hawaii County is a step closer to being able to prevent the introduction of genetically modified taro and coffee.

The County Council Environmental Management Committee unanimously sent a bill to prohibit growing genetically modified versions of those two crops to full council with a positive recommendation. Council Vice Chairman Angel Pilago, North Kona, introduced the bill, which provides for criminal prosecution of anyone bringing in and growing the genetically modified plants. He previously introduced a resolution, which passed, asking the state Legislature to prohibit genetically modified taro and coffee; that measure failed earlier this year.

The bill “protects cultural practices,” as well as protects the taro and coffee industries “via county home rule,” Pilago said.

Under the bill, it will be illegal to “test, propagate, cultivate, raise, plant, grow, introduce or release” genetically engineered taro and coffee.”

County Corporation Counsel and the county prosecutor’s office both reviewed the bill before it was presented to the council, Pilago said.

“We all know if this goes to the state Legislature, they’re not going to do anything as a body,” South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford said.

Hamakua Councilman Dominic Yagong asked a representative of the Corporation Counsel’s office what would happen if state legislators enacted a law to allow genetically modified taro and coffee to be produced in Hawaii. That law might supersede the county’s law, depending on the wording, the deputy corporation counsel said.

Barring that, “it would be legal?” Yagong asked. “It would have jurisdiction over the scientific community and companies, they would be banned from bringing it in?”

Upon hearing an affirmative answer, Yagong noted that he isn’t necessarily opposed to scientists changing genetic makeup of plants, but when farmers ask for it, not when they oppose it.

More than a dozen people testified in support of the bill, while two testified against it.

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