The group that wrote the language for Maui County’s new GMO-moratorium law has won standing to intervene in the current federal lawsuit challenging the measure.
According to Michael Carroll, an attorney for the group SHAKA Movement (Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the Aina), Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren ruled Monday that the group would be allowed to file its own motions and to respond to motions filed by the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit was filed last month against Maui County by Monsanto Co. and a unit of Dow Chemical Co. after voters in that county passed the law by ballot initiative on November 4. The law bans the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) until scientific studies can be completed on potential health risks that might be involved with the production of such crops. According to the law, the moratorium can be lifted only after a vote by the Maui County Council.
Earlier this year, Kurren struck down a Kauai County law requiring biotech companies like Monsanto and Dow to disclose their pesticide use and creating a buffer zone around schools and hospitals where pesticides cannot be sprayed. The biotech companies filed a similar lawsuit against Kauai County.
Kurren also overturned a Hawaii County law prohibiting genetically engineered farming, with the exception of existing crops such as papayas. In that case, Big Island farmers and flower growers joined the Biotech Industry Organization, a national trade organization representing companies like Monsanto to sue the county.
In both of those cases, Kurren ruled that the state, not the counties, has jurisdiction over the issue.
But shortly after his ruling Monday, Kurren reassigned the Maui case to Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway. The plaintiffs and defendants had agreed earlier to allow a magistrate judge to try the case, but SHAKA Movement did not.