Anti-GMO crop, pesticide ballot initiative launched in Hawaii
A citizens’ group on Maui on Monday launched a petition to allow voters to consider temporarily suspending production of genetically modified crops (GMOs) on the Hawaiian island.
The group said its “temporary moratorium initiative” seeks a suspension until the completion of an environmental and public health impact study examining the effects of widespread testing of GMO crops and associated pesticide use.
The step is part of a larger battle brewing in the United States and other countries between critics who say GMO crops and associated pesticides contribute to health and environmental dangers and those who argue the technology is essential to boosting global food production.
In Maui, groundwater is already significantly contaminated with pesticides, the citizens group said in a statement on Monday. The group said they thought rising numbers of birth defects were connected to GMO-related pesticide use.
To put a GMO moratorium before voters in an election scheduled for November, the citizens must submit 8,500 registered voters’ signatures by March 31.
Poll shows majority in favor of safety moratorium
The citizens assert that the growing of genetically engineered seed, other GMO experimentation, and the spraying of pesticides in Maui County differ significantly from the GE food farming occurring elsewhere in the world and pose unique risks that have not been studied and are not adequately monitored by county, state or federal agencies, according to a release Friday.
“The Agro-chemical companies have effectively turned Hawaii into their own outdoor laboratory, which they operate with impunity.” Sheehan said in a release. “On Kauai, for example, a documented correlation has been made between rising levels of pesticide application and rising incidences of birth defects. That throws the safety of the entire GE operation into question, which brings the ‘Precautionary Principle’ to bear.”
In a recent poll, 54 percent of Maui County citizens said they favored a temporary moratorium which would place the burden on Monsanto to prove that their practices and pesticides are safe, according to Sheehan.
“We were surprised,” he said of the numbers. “We were impressed.”
Sheehan added that the moratorium would force Monsanto and the other companies to stop their practices until they publicly share research that scientifically proves what they are doing on Maui is safe.
On Monday, a petition drive kick-off event was held at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center and included a panel discussion and press conference with the five citizens bringing forth the initiative.
“The citizens of Maui County have serious concerns as to whether the GE seed operations, open-field mixing of pesticide cocktails, and GE crop experimentation occurring in Maui County are causing irreparable harm to the people, the environment, and public trust resources,” Sheehan said in the release.