Hawai’i council overturns veto, upholds GMO ban

Ikaika M Hussey

After hours of testimony, seven members of the Hawai'i County Council successfully overrode Mayor Harry Kim's veto of a bill which would ban genetic engineering of coffee and kalo on the Big Island.

Bill 361, introduced by councilman Angel Pilago, was unanimously adopted last month. The council's move came amidst overwhelming pressure from food growers on the island, many of whom were galvanized by the state Legislature's failure to pass a similar ban on genetically-modified kalo earlier in the year.

The issue has become increasingly politicized, with multinational biotech firms and University of Hawai'i researchers on one side, and independent kalo farmers, Kona coffee growers, and Native Hawaiian cultural advocates on the other.

Outgoing mayor Harry Kim vetoed the bill on Oct. 31, spurring Council Chair Pete Hoffman to convene a special session to override the veto.

The meeting began at 10 a.m. and continued until the council adjourned at midnight. More than 100 people came to the Council offices today to witness the override of the veto.

Bill 361 will now become an ordinance.