Hawaii Politics

How to Grow Sweet Corn on Maui and End Up in Jail

Bottom View of CornIf you live in Maui County, and you woke up this morning wanting to plant a field of sweet corn, you would likely want to grow a Bt variety that would decrease your insecticide use by around 85% and allow you to use less fuel in your tractor.  You might also want to think twice.

As of November 5, 2014, that Bt sweet corn is now illegal in the County of Maui.  If you choose to grow it anyway, by Friday you could be in jail for the next year and owe almost $100,000 in fines.

This goes for the Rainbow papaya (or any GM crop) as well.  The Rainbow papaya is the fruit developed by Dr. Gonsalves at the University of Hawaii.  Its claim to fame is its ability to fend off the dreaded Papaya Ringspot Virus.  There is no more disease-free papaya allowed in Maui County.

The “Yes” vote, to ban biotechnology, won the initiative with 50.2% of the votes.  A very narrow margin.  Today begins the battle to show the flaws in this piece of legislation (found here).  I don’t have a law degree, but I can see a few distinct problems with this legislation already:

1) Section 2 is a long list of half-truths.  This doesn’t change the legality of the law, but it certainly speaks to the integrity of the authors.  Harold Keyser, Ph.D. did a point by point analysis of this section (found here), and it is fantastic.

2) Section 6.2 reads:

“The passage of any proposed amendment or repeal of the Temporary Moratorium for any such GE Operation or Practice under this Section shall require: (1) County Council and citizens review of the EPHIS as detailed in Section 8.2.a; (2) a public hearing; (3) the affirmative vote of at least two-thirds (2/3) of the council membership;(4) a determination by the County Council that passage of the amendment or repeal pertaining to such GE Operation or Practice does not result in significant harm and will result in significant benefits to the health of present and future generations of Maui citizens…”

Section 8.2.a does not exist.

Plus, growers now have to not only show that their practices are safe, but that they are downright healthy for residents.  Organic farming would not hold up under these requests.  In fact, I don’t know any business that would.

3) Section 7.3 outlines what evaluations need to be done by the grower:

(a) Transgenic Contamination from GE Organisms to non-GE organisms may occur;

(b) GE Organisms released into the environment may effectively be recalled from the environment;

(c) Pesticides associated with GE Operations and Practices used both as single Pesticide and as Pesticide combinations may contaminate the groundwater, surface water, oceans and reefs;

(d) Pesticide laden air and dust from GE Operations and Practices may be harmful to the people and Environment;

(e) Pesticide combinations associated with GE Operations and Practices resulting from two or more Pesticides are applied at the same time or within their period of active life (“Pesticide Cocktails”) have or have not been tested for safety and the extent to which they may be harmful to the people and Environment;

(f) Horizontal Gene Transfer from GE Organisms between organisms of different species may occur; and

(g) there is any correlation between birth defects and the proximity to extensive GE Operations and Practices occurring in Maui County and Kauai County.

Never mind that there is no evidence of any of these things happening right now.  Never mind that regulatory agencies have already approved the use and cultivation of these crops.  Never mind the 2000+ independent scientists already telling us these products are safe.  Facts mean nothing to the authors of this initiative.

Those things aside, the worst part of this section of the law is (g).  Farmers on Maui must prove that GM practices on Kauai are not causing birth defects, even if a farmer has no business operations on Kauai.

4) Section 7.4: “In the second part of the process, the EPHIS shall be conducted by a non-biased professional consultant independent of GE industry ties with oversight by the JFFG…”

On July 1, 2014 (page 104), Mr. Pang (one of the authors of the initiative) was asked by Councilmember Guzman, during testimony, “Where is the ultimate authority to finally say this company is released from the temporary moratorium?”

Mr. Pang responded, “First of all, it would be as far as I understand and which I’d influence, it would be released on a product by product basis. It won’t be a company. They got product X, we’ll release it or not. To call the committee together is not that hard. I can tap onto friends and volunteers who review for the Congressional Delegation, they owe me, I owe them. We have many international people. We would try to keep it fair so they’re not either for or against it and they certainly won’t have financial conflict of interest one way or the other. The five people, as I understand it, can vote to release it or not. It is essentially a de facto EIS.”

People that owe one of the activists involved in this initiative will be conducting this study and releasing companies/products from this moratorium?  Maybe not so “non-biased”.

These are just a few thoughts from a non-lawyer.  Imagine what an expert in the law will see when reviewing this initiative!  Overall, the biggest problem I see is an unfair targeting of farmers using GM technology.  There has been zero proof of harm.  Since when are farmers guilty until proven innocent?

7 thoughts on “How to Grow Sweet Corn on Maui and End Up in Jail

  1. I live on Maui. I would never buy ANYthing I knew was GMO. Buy the way that goes for over 50% of the humans on planet Earth because they do not want to get sick. After living here over 30 years i do not know anyone who would want to plant GMO’s much less want to eat them

    • I live on Maui as well. Right next to Monsanto. It’s great that you are making a choice to eat a certain way. We live in a country where we should have choices. Organic foods allow you to eat the way you choose. I avoid organic food and eat conventional as much as possible. That is our family’s choice. My guess is you have not had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Ito and some of the other farmers on Maui that have been growing GM crops. Do you have any references for your claim that “50% of the humans on planet Earth” would never buy anything GMO?

      • I live on Maui and I know Mr. Ito personally a good friend of mine actually . I try my best to help him in every way possible. I would also like to see all gmo foods be banned from open air experiments . I personally would ban them forever if it were up to me but people have their choices. But what is not fair is gmo pollen spreading to non gmo crops. That is not fair at all and that does not give us a choice like you mentioned above.

      • I am unaware of any GM pollen from the seed companies affecting other farmers. The organic standard of separation between organic and conventional/GM is 25-30 ft. At these distances, there is very little pollen crossover. Corn is mostly pollinated via gravity. If a conventional farmer and organic farmer are neighbors, all they have to do is have a quick conversation about planting dates and make sure they stagger them out. Corn only sheds pollen for about 3 days of its life cycle, and the pollen is only viable for a few hours of each day. To top it off, seed companies don’t want pollen fertilizing the same plant, so they place bags over the tassels to catch the pollen and place it on the proper plant later by hand. Furthermore, the farthest distance on record in the following study for a grain of corn pollen to travel and successfully pollinate was 600 ft. http://ohioline.osu.edu/agf-fact/0153.html I am not aware of any other corn farmers with fields 600 ft from a seed company in Hawaii.

  2. Pingback: Not In MY Backyard | Iowa Meets Maui

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