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Kauai council delays decision on bill regulating GMOs, pesticides


LIHUE » The Kauai County Council will wait for legal opinions before deciding whether to approve a measure that would require agricultural operations to disclose if they are growing genetically modified crops and their use of pesticides.

The council Monday unanimously deferred a decision until Sept. 9 for the proposal that also would create buffer zones for large farm operations.

The Garden Island reports that testimony before the unanimous vote underscored the divisiveness of the measure. 

"Bill 2491 in its approach is devastating and fracturing our island — it’s unraveling the fabric of our community," said resident Susan Tai Kaneko, a former educator who works for Syngenta, an agribusiness.

"People are insulting and verbally attacking one another, even threatening bodily harm and death," she said.

The council had already conducted a lengthy public hearing on the measure. Attorneys on both sides Monday debated its legality.

Attorney Paul Alston, representing Syngenta, said it was "a given" that the proposal would be challenged in court if it’s approved it its present form.

Alston and attorney John Hoshibata, representing Pioneer, said existing state law would invalidate a county law approved to regulate genetically modified crops or pesticides.

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff disagreed. State law, he said, does not have explicit or implied prohibitions on counties passing such measures and, with certain safeguards, the county could successfully defend it in court.

The county has the authority to declare a "GMO-free zone," Achitoff said, but the measure before the council does not go that far.

Councilwoman Nadine Nakamura said she would make up her mind after seeing legal opinions from the county attorney and the state attorney general. That could take two months, she said.

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