Opposing views on Maui’s GMO moratorium

Leaders from the two sides of the GMO debate share their thoughts after Maui County voters passed a moratorium on further GMO production yesterday.

Will Caron

For most of the early evening yesterday, it looked like Maui County’s referendum enacting a temporary ban on Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) production would fail. The first printout of the evening showed the “no” votes ahead by almost 20 percent. But as the votes continued to be tallied, the “yes” votes pulled ahead and the measure eventually passed by 1,077 votes, a 2 percent margin of victory.

Opponents of the measure, including chemical companies Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, poured $8 million into the campaign to defeat it, making it the most expensive campaign in Hawaii’s history. By contrast, supporters of the measure spent roughly $92,000, or just over 1 percent.

“Corporations are buying our governments at all levels,” activist and educator Walter Ritte told the Independent. “We went past our elected officials and did a citizen’s initiative. Aloha Aina became our rallying call. It saved Kaho’olawe, and now it will save all of us from the greed that is threatening our health, lands and government. This victory gives us hope that Hawaiian values and grass roots initiatives are alive and well in Hawaii. The coalition in the movement for Hawaii’s independence is growing, as we all begin to recognize the ultimate solution to a better future is an independent Hawaii.”

Bennette Misalucha, Executive Director, Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, which opposed the measure, sent out an official statement that reads:

To the hundreds of volunteers and supporters who worked tirelessly to oppose the Maui County moratorium, a heartfelt ‘Mahalo’ from the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association and its membership.

It is a sad day for Maui County and local agriculture. With the passage of the Maui voter initiative, hundreds of honest, hard-working people stand to lose their jobs. The county faces a loss of $85 million in economic activity and our local communities will be severely crippled.  Additionally, our state’s progress in agricultural innovation and economic diversification will be hampered.

Agricultural biotechnology has enabled farmers to grow more food on less land with fewer resources. It created the rainbow papaya, which saved the papaya industry, and is why we have abundant papaya available for Hawaii and export. This technology has been proven safe, improves crops and meets the increasing food demands of our world’s population in the 21st century.