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The biotech and pesticide industry achieved a significant victory in the messy GMO battle in Hawai’i.

HONOLULU —A federal judge has ruled that a Kauai County law requiring companies to disclose their use of pesticides and genetically modified crops is invalid.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren ruled Monday in favor of four seed companies seeking to stop Kauai’s new law from going into effect. The companies argued the local ordinance is invalid and unfairly targets their industry.

Kurren’s ruling says the ordinance is pre-empted by state law.

The law also requires companies to establish buffer zones around sensitive areas, including schools and hospitals.

The law was scheduled to go into effect Aug. 16 but the court extended it to October. However, the judge’s ruling stops the county from enforcing the ordinance.

Attorneys for companies say they’re pleased. Attorneys representing the county couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

WTF News first reported on this story in January when Kaua’i County was seeking pro bono legal help to fight this suit and defend the ordinance targeting toxic pesticides and GMO seed.

The county eventually approved $75,000 for legal fees after struggling to secure enough pro bono labor. This turned out to be inadequate as it eventually requested $50,000 more.

Kauai’s county attorney is asking the county council for more money to defend a new law regulating genetically engineered crops and pesticides.

The Garden Island newspaper reports the county attorney is seeking $50,000 to pay private attorneys defending the county against a lawsuit.

The council in February authorized spending $75,000 to hire attorneys for the case.
The lawsuit was filed by Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer and Agrigenetics Inc., a unit of Dow AgroSciences.

The result is that biotech companies have secured a temporary victory, setting back the public health movement. Some fear that the federal ruling may damage other Hawai’i initiatives such as the one in Maui.

With Kauai’s law meant to restrict the use of GMO seeds and pesticides ruled invalid, many are wondering how that will impact similar efforts on neighboring islands.

Click here to watch the report.

On Maui, a voter initiative set to appear on the Nov. 4 ballot is now in question.

The proposed measure would put a moratorium on cultivating, growing or testing genetically modified crops until agriculture companies complete environmental and health studies. Those studies must prove the companies’ standards and practices are safe.

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa believes the Kauai ruling will provide helpful guidance.

“The court ruling, we’ll be able to look at it and essentially this will be another piece of information that we can deliver to our public that we can say, ‘This is what I allowed under state law. This is what is not allowable under state,'” said Arakawa.


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