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Federal Judge Strikes Down Maui County’s GMO Farming Moratorium

A federal judge has invalidated Maui County’s moratorium on genetically engineered crops that voters approved last fall.

Judge Susan Mollway said in a ruling filed Tuesday that the ordinance is “invalid and unenforceable” because it is preempted by state and federal law.

That’s the same reasoning that Judge Barry Kurren used to strike down both Hawaii County’s partial ban on genetically modified farming and Kauai County’s pesticide disclosure law last year.

Mollway emphasized that the ruling is not a statement on whether genetically modified organisms are beneficial or detrimental.

“The court recognizes the importance of questions about whether GE activities and GMOs pose risks to human health, the environment, and the economy, and about how citizens may participate in democratic processes,” she said. “But any court is a reactive body that addresses matters before it rather than reaching out to grab hold of whatever matters may catch a judge’s fancy because the matters are interesting, important, or of great concern to many people.”

Maui County voters approved the ballot initiative last November by a margin of 1,077 votes. Biotech companies, including Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, spent more than $7 million attempting to defeat the measure, making it the most expensive ballot initiative campaign in the state’s history.

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